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


6 sanity saving items & places I can’t live without

Life is hectic. It’s also expensive. Here are some items & places that have made my life a little bit more manageable as I try to balance work, a budget, and life on the go with toddler.

  1. Who has time to prepare elaborate meals? Not this working Mom. I absolutely love my slow cooker. My family can have a delicious, nutritious meal (without me feeling guilty) any day of the week. It makes for great leftovers as lunch or dinner the next day. We’ll throw in ingredients for a stew or roast in the morning, hit the button, and come home to a mouth-watering aroma as soon as we enter the house. Throw on some water to boil for pasta or add rice to the rice cooker and if you’ve got dinner, with veggies and all, in 15 minutes tops -Yes!
  2. Ditch the diaper bag and opt for a sturdy backpack instead. Why didn’t I think of this from the beginning? I only recently realized how much more convenient it is to carry a backpack around when a toddler’s in tow because it keeps both my arms and hands free! With the diaper bag it kept sliding off my shoulder and causing strain on one side of my body. They’re also expensive, and not very versatile. We use our backpack to store diapers, wipes, clothes, snacks (you can find one with a stay cool pocket, I’m sure) and other necessary items. It’s great for day or out of town trips, picnics, hiking and everything in between.
  3. When picking out strollers, opt for one with an aluminum frame. The first stroller we owned was a beast. If I could go back I would skip purchasing the travel system (waste of money) that comes with a monstrous sized stroller, and opt for a lighter, portable stroller instead. Plus it doesn’t take up all that space in my trunk and it comes with a travel bag, since it’s light enough to carry.
  4. I always bring my sneakers with me wherever I go. I can put them on anytime of day and any day of the week to get free exercise. There’s no more excuse not to exercise. Who needs to pay monthly membership fees that go unused when you can exercise for free? I love to take a walk during my lunch break. It gives me a chance to stretch, get some fresh air and clear my head any time of year.  When you’re ready you can graduate to jogging to really build up your energy and stamina, and tone those muscles.
  5. I’m at the library at least one time each week. We’ve saved so much money by borrowing books instead of buying them. The library book sales are fantastic. We’ve managed to snag some great reads so cheaply. $5 is all it takes to get a big bag full of good reads. We also use the library to sign out passes that give us reduced or free admission to many fun local attractions.
  6. Our state parks have been a lifesaver this summer. We purchased a season pass for $35 and have been discovering and exploring conservation land all around Massachusetts. There are so many amazing areas to explore right in your own state. This summer we’re saving money and time by staying close to home and acting like tourists in our own state.  Who knew there was so much to do right in our own backyard?

I’d love to hear from you. What are your sanity saving items and places?