Some amount of stress in life is inevitable. We all go through seasons of life where our day-to-day experience is very difficult. The stress of parenting young children (or school-age kids…or teenagers…), caring for an ill parent, coping with a loss, dealing with our own health issues, or having an overloaded schedule are some examples of chronic stressors. When we are under chronic stress we often go into survival mode, which typically translates to less self-care and more physical stress reactivity. We can feel worn down, on edge, and exhausted. All of this makes life even harder, which leads to less self-care, and more stress…you see where this is going. In the strategies to ease the day posts we will talk about simple strategies to build some self-care into your routine, ease your day, and resource yourself (even when you have NO TIME to take care of yourself).
Today’s Strategy: Turn a task into an experience.
One helpful-and even calming- thing to do at night when the house is quiet is to take care of some little task like washing dishes, prepping food for tomorrow, or tidying up a room. There is intrinsic satisfaction in getting these things done, but bringing mindful awareness to these activities can make them very pleasant. Mindfulness can turn a chore into self-care. Peeling carrots can be therapeutic. The key is, only do that one thing you are doing. Just peel carrots. Just make the bed. No multitasking, talking on the phone, or watching TV while you engage in the activity. Those things can be enjoyable too, but if you are going to turn a task into an experience, you really need to pay attention to what is there to experience. Notice what it really feels like to peel a carrot. Let the repetitive motion soothe you. Tune into the sensation of your hands smoothing clean sheets as you make a bed. Maybe spend a few moments feeling your breath as you engage in the activity. Taking a shower with mindful awareness of all of your senses can be just as stress-relieving as a spa appointment. Thich Naht Hanh provides wonderful examples of this type of practice in his book Peace is Every Step. He says this about the simple (and sometimes dreaded) activity of washing dishes:
“…the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you are not doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with the each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living….Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred….Washing dishes is at the same time a means and an end—that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them.”
At the very least, try the mindful showering thing. It is pretty fantastic.