Managing stress with mindful eating

Mindful Break @ Muffin House Cafe, Medway, MA
Photo: ~Sofia Reddy

Quote of the Day:

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”

~ rashaski · Zen Proverb

Reflection:

One of our major struggles in modern day life is trying to do too much in a short amount of time. Often what is sacrificed is the purely enjoyable experience of a eating a meal slowly, intentionally – with our full attention and awareness. One area that eating becomes another chore on the to do list is at work. When I facilitate self-care workshops I often hear employees saying, “I don’t have time to eat lunch,” “I often run out the door in the morning with a cup of coffee but skip breakfast,” or “my lunch is interrupted by phone calls and colleagues stopping by to make requests.”

Sound familiar?

The problem with skipping meals or rushing through them is that we tend to either under or overeat. Ultimately we are not getting the nutrients we need to maintain our energy levels and our productivity is more drastically compromised. If we give ourselves permission to take 10-15 minutes to enjoy our meal, not only do we end up feeling more satisfied, we have the energy needed to stay focused and accomplish our goals for the day.

Today’s practice:

Today, try eating a mindful breakfast, lunch and dinner, alone or with family, a friend or colleague. For breakfast, get up 10 minutes earlier so you have time to eat something with your full attention and awareness. Savor each bite of your favorite fruit, cereal or other morning meal preference. I can’t leave the house without eggs for breakfast. They pack protein and keep me full throughout the morning. Often we boil eggs and keep them refrigerated, which is a quick meal that is healthy and tasty.

For lunch, turn off the computer and telephone ringer and set your timer for at least 10 minutes. Clear the desk. Or better yet if it’s a nice day out take lunch to a picnic table or bench. Smell the aroma of the food you are about to enjoy. Notice its texture, taste, smell and really savor it. Allow your senses to experience every aspect of this meal.

At dinner, turn off the tv or other electronics. If you live with family make it a rule to turn off electronics and the telephone during dinner. Spend at least 30 minutes together enjoying each other’s company and the meal. Look at each other. Talk to each other. Spend some time in silence too. If you feel moved perhaps say a prayer (or meditate) about feeling thankful to have this food to eat and reflect on how the food got to the table. Think of all the people and processes involved to bring this food here. Savor every minute.

How did your practice go? What did you notice? 

Were there any difficulties, and if so how did you manage them? Do you have any other ideas or questions about this practice? 

Would love to hear from you! Share with us by commenting below or through my Facebook page @Sofiasanctuary

Today’s Book Recommendations:

 

Please note: Sofia Reddy (sofias-sanctuary.com) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Thank you for your support!

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Managing stress with mindful connections

A trip to NH to connect with family and nature ~Photo by Sofia Reddy

“Have you offered your presence to the person you love? Are you so busy that you cannot be there for that person? If you are a father or a mother, or a partner, generate your own presence, because that is the most precious gift you can offer.
When the other person realizes that his or her presence has been recognized and confirmed, he or she will blossom like a flower.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay),
you are here, Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

Thay’s words ring so true. Even when we are present in body, are we truly present in mind? Often we get so caught up in the tasks we need to accomplish for the day, or the emails we have to respond to, or the phone calls we have to make…and we forget to fully connect with those around us. One day I was typing an email back and forth with a colleague who was down the hall. “This is ridiculous,” I thought, “I should get up and go talk to her in person.” Having a ten-minute discussion with her drastically reduced the amount of time and energy it would have taken to email back and forth. We ended up also connecting on a personal level by giving each other support around being sleep deprived working moms. All in all, I left the conversation feeling a bit lighter than I had before, and even got some exercise from getting up from my desk and walking.

We have an opportunity to truly connect with others in our personal lives as well. For example, there are days I go home feeling completely drained and can’t understand why I don’t have any energy left to be present to my family. Mindfulness practice has helped me notice when negative thoughts are impacting my relationships. For example, I notice that when I’m tired and stressed, time with my kids starts to feel like another chore to complete on the to do list. On my commute home I’ll notice my busy mind running through all the tasks that need to be done once I get there:

“we have to prepare dinner, clean up, get the kids washed up, brush their teeth, get my stuff together for tomorrow…Oh, and I have to enter my work time sheets, check emails and throw in a load of laundry too. Mark (my hubby) needs a break too!”

I realized that this train of thought left me feeling exhausted by the time I got home. Mindfulness practice helps us focus on being in the present moment and not constantly anticipating what’s next. Through mindfulness, we can pay attention to the beautiful scenery as the sun sets over the horizon and the vibrant colors bounce off the trees and clouds. I find the best nights are when I practice a mindful commute home. I then feel energized enough to play with my kids, mindfully connect with my husband or to have a heart to heart conversation with a good friend.

Today’s Practice:

Today take time to notice what’s around you using your five senses. Be mindful of the types of thoughts you are having. Are they inspiring you or draining you? Are they helping you connect with loved ones in meaningful ways? Notice the scenery on your commute home. Sing and dance with your kids after dinner. Go on a mindful walk. Turn off the TV and play instead. Kick the ball around in the yard. Catch fireflies. Enjoy every lick of the ice cream cone with your favorite toppings. Make eye contact with your loved ones. Be present. Be there mentally as well as physically, because after all, “that is the most precious gift you can offer.”

How did your practice go? Were there any difficulties, and if so how did you manage them?

We would love to hear from you! Share with us by commenting below or through my Facebook page @Sofiasanctuary

Additional book recommendations:

 

Please note: Sofia Reddy (sofias-sanctuary.com) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Thank you for your support!

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When stress levels go up, take a mindful breath

Beach Day at the Cape, MA ~Photo by Sofia Reddy
When I feel my stress levels start to creep up I imagine this beautiful day at the beach and look forward to my next escape. 

I’ve been listening to a guided meditation about relieving stress on the Meditation Oasis podcast by Mary Maddux. In it she reminds us that “things can be accomplished in a calm and relaxed way.” It doesn’t always seem like that is the case though, especially when we are faced with daily care-giving responsibilities at work and at home. However, we can use the moments in between the busyness to practice mindful self-care. We can take a moment or 2 to close our eyes and breathe or stretch, or we can give ourselves the gift of using our lunch break to take a brief walk or eat a healthy snack.

When we take mindful breaks we are able to replenish our energy by cueing our bodies to trigger our built in relaxation response. When we tame our stress levels it helps our minds think more clearly to tackle the challenging tasks competing for our attention. Many of my clients and students have shared that “there is no time for self-care, I have so much to do.” Maybe you can relate. However, I find myself being more productive and less irritable and prone to health issues when I practice regular self-care. I find that my energy levels increase, and that my mood and health improve and then I’m able to accomplish even more.

Recently, when my computer was being slow, I noticed my heart rate increase and breath become shallow, as thoughts of anger and frustration raced through my mind. Instead of reacting in the old way and fueling the frustration by lashing out, I chose to respond with mindful self-care. Instead, I closed my eyes and listened to calming piano music while remembering to breathe slowly and deeply. I noticed my stress levels and irritation steadily go down. When I opened my eyes the email message I was trying to send had gone through. Hooray!

Let’s take time this summer to practice awareness of when our stress levels increase so we can then take healthy action – mindfully.

Take a moment now to reflect on these questions:

  • When your stress goes from moderate to severe, where do you feel it in your body? Do you notice your chest tighten or your jaw clench? Maybe you start to breathe more rapidly or get headaches. Notice where you feel stress in your body. Remember, not all stress is bad because at mild-moderate levels it helps motivate us to take action when needed. However, chronic severe stress can turn toxic and wreak havoc on our bodies when it’s not well-managed.
  • What can you do in the moment to stop and allow your nervous system to calm itself down? What helps you the most? Is it meditation, walking, breathing, stretching, or praying? Think of ways you can clam your mind and body down both at work and at home.
  • Do you need some time off? When was the last time you took a mental health or self-care day? Sometimes just a day off to do whatever you want can be restorative. Think about what you need in the short and long term and make a plan for it. Talk about it with healthy supports and take action!

What did you try for self-care? How did it work for you? Share with us by commenting below or through my Facebook page @Sofiasanctuary

Resources: Below are a few recommendations of audio programs that I have found helpful for mindfulness, meditation and relaxation.

You can also browse Self-Care Books for more ideas.

Please note: Sofia Reddy (sofias-sanctuary.com) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thank you for your support!

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