DSC_3624-1One of the most challenging things to do is to be with ourselves, without judgment or distraction. Sitting in our own skin, acknowledging our feelings, paying attention to our desires and recognizing our hurts, can just be too much, too intense and too unknown.

For example, to avoid myself, I end up piling on commitments, saying, “yes” to anything and everything and starting more projects that I cannot manage to finish. I am constantly wavering between confidence and ambivalence, thinking I can do all things and then becoming so overwhelmed by them that I just shut down, burn out and give up. You’d think by this point in my life and career this would be mastered – or more like I’d hope it would be!

My problem becomes having so many ideas, feeling invigorated by the possibilities of greatness, that I miss what could be right in front of me. Once realized, I’m overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated and mad at myself.

Inevitably I come to terms with the fact that I just can’t do it all and there is good reason for it. It’s not that I am incapable or unworthy, it’s the fact that my focus is pulled in so many directions that I am unable to accomplish anything with great success. It’s not about my abilities, it’s about sticking with something long enough to see it through.

Shifting my perspective allows my passions to be renewed. Then I’m refocused and finally understand more of what I want and how to get there. I feel balanced, happy and focused for a time… Until, there it goes again, I’m back to overloading my schedule, my mind and my relationships with more than I can give my all to (and the cycle ensues…)

The path to a new, healthier way of being can feel overwhelming and daunting. Once you start the process of understanding what you are going through, why it is a negative in your life and what you want to change, you are then able to identify a path of least resistance that supports the most favorable outcome.

What I have found to be the most consistent variable in my life when I’m frantic, chaotic and overloaded with tasks, commitments and ideas, is that I am often avoiding something.

My avoidance manifests itself through business and overloading my schedule to, at all costs, push away what I ultimately need to face. Again, I know this. I understand it logically and can rationalize why I continue to put myself in these situations, however, it isn’t until I connect with my avoidance emotionally that I am able to make the changes necessary in my life. I have to dig deep, face myself and feel the possible hurtful feelings that might be attached.

Mindfulness is an important part of this process for me. Practicing being in the moment, with myself without judgment or shame, guilt or regret, I am allowing myself the space to travel to the depths of my emotional self and acknowledge, accept and hear what needs to be expressed. For most of us that will be feelings of disappointment, fear, shame, loss or pain. Memories might be there that stir up intense reactions; we might be grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship or missed opportunity and unable to face the feelings of loneliness and vulnerability.

Honestly, who wants to feel these things? No one. That’s why we avoid, stay busy and have difficulty recognizing what we truly want, desire and deserve in this life.

DSC_3550 copyMindfulness is the practice of acceptance of oneself. It means to maintain a moment-to-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment (site). We acknowledge without judging who we are, what we feel and what we believe; there is no “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad.”

The use of mindfulness techniques have been cited in thousands of research studies since the 70’s and have been practiced since ancient times. Utilizing different strategies of mindfulness will in fact change the chemistry of the brain, open up new neuro pathways of experience and increase the density of the grey matter in regions of our brain that deal with memory, emotional regulation, learning and empathy. It has been shown to boost our immune system and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. The benefits are astounding and continue beyond these few that I’ve mentioned.

The single most important aspect of practicing mindfulness (in my opinion) is the acceptance of self that occurs. Without this, I would continue to avoid and neglect my inner thoughts, feelings and emotions and remain disconnected from who I am and what matters most. My cycle of balance and chaos will likely ensue but my ability to recognize my patterns and make changes sooner, rather than later will continue to get stronger the more I practice my “stay in the moment” attitude and work on just being.

Take Action! 

Here are a few of my personal strategies to remain mindful:

Spend time Writing – It doesn’t matter where I start or what I write about, practicing expressing my thoughts on paper gets them outside of my head and allows me to be more objective with myself. Try it out–write about what you feel or what is going on in your life if you feel stuck, restless or anxious. Read back through it and you’ll have a greater understanding of what the problem might be and will have more clarity to find a solution.

Spend time in Nature – There is something about being in nature, without distractions on a beautiful day that really speaks to my heart. I can literally disengage from my to-dos and exercise creativity, clarity and mental freedom. This could be on my back patio or a trip to the beach. Make time to enjoy the beautiful weather while we have it or plan a “daycation” to get away from the business of the city and connect with yourself through the greatness of nature.

Spend time in Savasana – After a hard work out laying in Savasna is meditative for me. Allow yourself to just be. Take the time to quiet your mind, breathe and rejuvenate. Often times we’re more concerned with the working out that we fail to give ourselves and our body the proper time to relax and repair. The next time you’re in class, be mindful of your ability to relax at the end of class and make it a point to fully surrender even if you feel rushed, stressed or anxious. It will only add to your ability to relax in stressful situations and help train the mind to slow down, accept and let go.

JessicasHeadshots001DEFINE’s Emotional Wellness ExpertJessica Pass, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Instructor at DEFINE body&mind. She has a private practice in Houston, Texas, specializing with children, adolescents, individuals, couples and parents. Jessica’s approach incorporates mind-body integration, education and practical strategies to improve emotional wellness, emphasizing all aspects of who we are to live fully and thrive in our relationships.

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Pictured at top-left DEFINE instructor: Ashley Barber, middle-left  DEFINE instructor: Noe Smith

Photos By: Christi Minter