I was going to focus on the formal practices of Mindfulness that help reduce stress and anxiety, but before getting into that, I wanted to focus on another key to helping to reduce stress and anxiety – that of movement. Now, my CHEK training taught me that movement is not just of the body, but of the mind, of experiences, of digestion etc and so it's important that we are mindful of our thoughts, food that we eat and the type of movement that can bring us additional stress in our lives.
For example, if someone is suffering from Adrenal Fatigue through stress, they probably don't want to be going for a 10-mile run as this will just cause physical stress – gentle walking would be better but it all comes down to listening to and being Mindful of what your body is telling you. In the past year or so I threw myself into a ton of yoga…I thought, no way could I overdo yoga…it's relaxing right? However, from basically coming from an almost standing start with my yoga experience, it proved too much for me and I ended up knackering myself out. Not just that, but certain types of yoga poses aggravated an existing back injury and I just shouldn't have been doing them, that is the danger of the ego! It taught me to always be mindful of what your body needs at each moment in time – you cannot manage time, but you can learn to manage your energy.
Similarly, you also want to avoid stressful thinking. As my friend Sandy pointed out today at our Mindfulness Meetup, worrying about what might have happened to you in the past or what you could have done better, is a waste of energy. It's been and gone and acceptance is vital in this instance and bringing yourself back to the present moment. The future is also unknown and although we can set goals and look forward to something, worrying about it doesn't help either – how often have you worried about something and it's never been as bad as you thought it might be – loads of times I would imagine.
I have installed a chin-up bar in my door-frame – my partner Justine claims it's not aesthetically pleasing but I think it looks great. The habit of pulling a few chins on the way in and way out of the bedroom is about building a consistent strength habit and is an easy way to get some bodyweight training in. Mindfulness is similar, in terms of the habit-forming – the more you practice, the better you get at it. Exercise has been proven to be extremely beneficial at reducing stress and yet so many people don't find the exercise that is best for them. Running or pumping iron in the gym may not be your thing. I practice squats and planks as part of my morning routine, alongside meditation as it's simple, easy to do and gets me out of bed, ensuring I am moving first thing. I also practice 2 Tai Chi movements that I picked up on my recent CHEK training called Zen Swing and Chi Stick – Tai Chi is a wonderful practice to help bring calm and energize yourself. Movement, like most things, is about balance – learn to recognise when you need to expend energy and when you need to bring that energy back into your body
PUT YOURSELF FIRST
Yoga is also excellent but it's important to find the right type for you. Today, I had my first Japanese yoga session of the year with the wonderful Leigh and it has struck me that I feel drawn to the rather unique and less common forms of yoga. After very little movement over the festive period it was a little tough at some points today but it's always worth the challenge and you feel great afterwards – not only is it fantastic for flexibility but also builds strength in the back and spine and helps the various glands around the body – it leaves you feeling invigorated and calm in the mind which also helps battle stress and anxiety. It also really helps being around inspirational teachers like Leigh who have a real focus on health, wellbeing and a calm nature – not to mention wanting to share that with other people, which I think is a fantastic trait to have.
After my yoga I hosted a Mindfulness meetup group which I also love. Sharing the practice of meditation and mindfulness brings me tremendous joy, thinking that I can equip people with tools they can use to bring more calm and less stress into their lives. It also ensures I maintain a consistent habit with my own meditation and get to practice lots of different scripts and meet some lovely, interesting people.
After that I decided to take some more time to chill out so I had booked into a wonderful sanctuary of calm and peace in Glasgow called 6 Rooms for a deep-tissue massage from a wonderful massage therapist called Cristina. She has magic hands and I caught the beginning of a snore at times as I dozed off. I then had a go on this amazing vibrational chair and then 30 minutes in the infrared sauna. It's an awesome wee place and, bonus points, literally 5 minutes walk from where I live and the Movement Studio. Going to places and events that are in close proximity to where you live, removes a lot of the ‘stress' of travel. Shanti Yoga is a decent 20 minutes walk which means I get some cardio in before and after class and Kundalini yoga is 2 mins across the road at the Movement Studio where I also provide Mindfulness courses.
The point is to do the things that you enjoy doing and always put yourself first, whether it is drawing, painting, gardening or other creative pursuits. It's also worth trying new things as often as possible, take a new route to work, try a different healthy breakfast or smoothie recipe. When we get stuck in routine this can get us stuck in the same repetitive thought patterns so mix things up a bit. You can literally rewire your brain by trying new experiences and it helps massively in reducing stress and anxiety. Also, leave room in your days for ‘you' time. I call it Self-Care Saturday or Self-Care Sunday depending on which day I have something organised. Sometimes, I will just spend a whole weekend without doing too much at all – just reading, writing, going to a movie. We can be so busy in our jobs and day-to-day lives, that it's important to create space for ourselves to simply breathe and relax.