I continued to make eye contact, nodding occasionally as if I was actually attentive to the words being spoken. I “listened” for several minutes before I realized I had not actually heard a single word coming out of their mouth.
I started concentrating on their words, but in my head I was silently chastising myself for being so inattentive, which just continued the cycle of not hearing the words. Focus, I told myself. I couldn’t. And I’m sure the other person could tell I wasn’t actually comprehending their words, which I’m sure made them feel anything but valued. Everyone should have the right to be heard, and I was perpetuating the cycle of no one cares enough to listen.
It isn’t that I didn’t want to listen. I did – really, truly, I desperately wanted to hear their words. But my mind was so clouded, so over stimulated, so muddied by the 400 things I had going on in that moment, that I found myself unable to concentrate on anything, making me completely useless. Absolutely useless.
Have you ever been so distracted by everything going on in your life, that you can’t focus on anything?
Throughout this last month, the concept of Mindfulness has surfaced over and over and over. Perhaps it is time I start listening to it.
Sometimes we are so busy taking care of the people around us, our responsibilities, and surviving life, that we forget how to be kind to ourselves.
How often do we talk about putting our health before our chores, or our sanity and relationships before our work? How often do we casually mention how we need to take care of ourselves, and then we continue with our vicious cycle of overworking in order to “get everything done.”
How much of your day do you spend focusing on living in the moment? How much of your day do you intentionally spend fostering important relationships in your life?
How much of your day do you spend cleaning, cooking, working, and taking care of other people?
All of those things are necessary, don’t get me wrong. We have to work – it would be irresponsible not to. But sometimes we get into such a rut of surviving the grind, that we forget about ourselves. We forget about ourselves, and we get into survival mode and go through the motions over and over and over again, until we find ourselves empty and unsure of how to be anything otherwise.
I just don’t have time.
That’s what I tell myself. A lot. Days are so full of this, that, and the other – all things that are “necessary” and cannot be put aside. The result is an overstimulated mind that can’t focus on anything because it is trying to focus on five hundred things all at the same time. I convince myself I can maintain this level of crazy, but really, I end up doing a lot of things poorly rather than a few things well. But then I can’t figure out how to cut back on anything, because everything I’m doing really has become a “necessity.” I spend the present focusing on what I need to do in the future, which means I miss out on everything that is happening around me. I suffer, and the people around me suffer.
How do we take care of ourselves, when there really is simply no time? How do we balance this with being a responsible human being who isn’t just blowing off our responsibilities?
Putting our own selves at the top of our priority list may seem selfish. However, if you can’t take care of yourself, how could you ever successfully take care of others?
There are two very, very simple strategies you can use in order to begin to treat your own mental health and wellbeing as a priority.
Take 10 minutes a day to do something you enjoy.
Take 10 minutes out of your day. If you are that convinced that you can’t find ten minutes, get up ten minutes early or go to bed ten minutes later. It really is possible. Or put your phone down for 10 minutes. Spend that 10 minutes doing something you really enjoy, and try not to let it involve a screen:
- Drink a cup of coffee in peace without worrying about anything else
- Draw a picture
- Color aimlessly
- Go for a walk
- Lay down and just breathe
These are just a few examples of things I might do for enjoyment, but the options are endless. Do what brings you joy. Ten minutes may not seem worth your time, but it is – I promise.
I often times find myself wanting to do something mindless. Something that will distract me from everything clouding my mind, so I don’t have to think about anything. This usually results in Netflix. It is a mindless distraction that provides momentary mental respite. In moderation, I don’t think that is a bad thing, however I am also not convinced it is a helpful thing. Avoidance is not the answer and it sure doesn’t do anything to help me concentrate when I need to.
So rather than seeking out mindless things, why not seek out mindful things?
What does it mean to be mindful?
Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts and emotions in the moment.
A great way to help yourself clear your mind so that you are able to be mindful, is to take a moment to focus on your sense:
- Observe 5 things you can hear around you
- Observe 4 things you can see around you
- Touch 3 things around you
- Observe 2 things you can smell around you
- Observe 1 thing you can taste in the moment
Once you are able to be present in the moment, it allows your mind to be able to ask questions such as, “how do I feel right now?” and “why do I feel this way?” which in turn allows you to find clarity rather than live in a constant state of overload.
As you begin to get into the habit of understanding your thoughts and emotions in the moment, you will soon begin to understand why you feel the way you feel, which will in turn allow you to develop a plan of how to be able to handle the emotions and thoughts that you battle with each day.
Being aware and conscientious of your thoughts and emotions is the first step towards not letting life cloud our minds and inhibit us from being present in the important moments.
Being present allows us to become more aware of ourselves, which allows us to become healthier individuals. As we become healthier, we are better able to be present in the lives of others as well. As we become more present with others, we are better able to foster the relationships of those around us.
If we can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others. And if we can’t take care of others, what are we even doing?
Being present in the moment is something that Ayden taught us time and time again. The time we had with her was too precious to risk taking for granted. She taught us more about how precious our time is, how precious each person is, and how quickly your entire life can change in a split second, than I ever cared to know. She taught us what truly matters, how to let the little things go, and focus all our intention on being the best possible versions of ourselves, so that we can be capable of showing love and kindness to those around us.
Picking Poppies is dedicated to choosing love and kindness, and living with intention. For this month’s Picking Poppies, I hope you choose to be kind to yourself. I hope you choose to make yourself a priority, to practice living in the moment, and to practice mindfulness.
Additional resources on Mindfulness: