It happens more often that you’d care to admit. You’re only half-way through your day and you’re drained. You’re exhausted but there’s no way you can stop now. It seems like the rest of the world is racing by and you are stuck in mud. You grab another cup of coffee or green tea – maybe an energy drink.
Slugging it down, you never thought you’d be taking something designed for kids at a late-night club.
The worst part? It only lasts for about 15 minutes until you’re back at the mud pit, grabbing the latest supplement catalog looking for something, “a little stronger,” and wondering if there’s any coffee left in the pot.
While there are certainly numerous medical conditions that could cause this fatigue – cancer, low potassium and iron to name a few – there’s one thing that gets overlooked way too often and that’s stress. It can engulf your joy with a cumulative effect that makes you want to just sleep in all day, every day.
What’s Mood Got to Do With It?
Actually, your mood has more to do with your energy levels than you realize. Its how our ancestors started out. They meandered through jungles, wishing someone would invent roads and would invariably come across some threatening beast. Realizing cages hadn’t been invented yet, they freaked out. They then channeled all of that adrenaline into a plan of attack or flight with different possible outcomes.
If they attacked and won they were elated! Let’s EAT!
If they ran and survived, they celebrated! Let’s find some berries!
If they attacked and lost or if they ran and lost… oops. Bummer.
In each case, their mood was affected by decisions regarding how to react to an external stressor (eat dinner or be dinner) as well as the consequences of their decisions. As our civilization has evolved, the rules regarding how we physically react to stressors have changed, but we still make decisions and our mood follows the results of those decisions accordingly.
Here’s a not-so-secret fact: Unless we have some chemical imbalance in our brains, we can actually choose how we react to stress. It’s true. You don’t have to be a slave to your moods. You don’t have to let that jerk that cut you off in traffic steal your joy. You have more power over them than you realize. That’s what mindful thinking is all about.
Mindfulness In Plain English
Practicing Mindfulness exercises or Mindfulness Meditation is training your brain to live in the present moment and is becoming an integral part of complementary medical care. You aren’t creating little (or big) scenarios of an argument you’re going to have with your son. Your co-worker that makes snide remarks on how she should have been promoted instead of you isn’t going to get to you today because you’re enjoying a delicious cup of tea and don’t even think about her at all anymore.
I have a cousin who is great at arguing. She wins every argument. Why? Because she only argues with herself. She will verbalize scenarios where someone does something she doesn’t agree with and she proceeds to convincingly put them in their place. Of course, she is convincing absolutely no one at all. No one is asking, “What if…?” No one is asking anything. She’s predicting the future, simulating a confrontation, and pushing for an advantageous result. She’s like a lawyer without a courtroom (or license).
More often than not, she completely over blows the entire episode, no confrontation ever takes place, and my cousin wasted her time, imagining contentious moments that exist only in her mind. That’s my ninja cousin – winning every argument that never happened. Unfortunately, this exaggerated experience was lived as a real argument within her subconscious mind. That means that all of her feelings and anger were experienced as real conflicts.
What hurts more – swinging and missing or swinging and connecting? Can you imagine what all of those hypothetical arguments have done to her physiology and psyche over the years? Hypertension, chronic fatigue, diabetes – it’s all possible with continual stressful thinking and it ain’t pretty.
You can’t control the past. You can’t control the future. You can control how you react to the past, how you live in the moment, and how you’ll face your future. The present is your castle and dream. You choose how to live in it, how to be grateful in it, and how to have hope that you will have even better moments to enjoy in the future.
Being aware of, and being grateful for, right now is the essence of mindful thinking.
Mindfulness for Warding Off Vampires
Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of a relationship that, no matter what you do, seems to suck the life right out of you. From the minute you wake up to the time you crawl back into bed, nothing seems to go right between you and this person.
It could be a partner, a child, a co-worker, a boss. It could be someone you thought was a friend but now you’ve come to realize they are always bottom-feeding in the Negativity Pool.
Let’s face it. We personalize grumpiness in others. We take offense to their behavior. Someone could be giving them a hard time and they make it worse by taking it out on us, or they could be negative people and we have to bear the brunt of their attitude.
Heck, they could be so bad that they embarrass themselves with public displays of crassness. We feel embarrassed by their behavior. Others look at us with pity or are incredulous that we stay with them… or worse – we’re suddenly the stupid adult that can’t control their own kids.
That’s enough to suck the life right out of you.
Quite often though, these are people you care about. You want to help but the first thing out of your mouth is more along the lines of, “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!” which not only won’t help matters, it could escalate the situation as it has now isolated them. You, their True Believer, no longer believes in them. How awful.
Unfortunately, keeping a tight lip usually doesn’t help either. You’ll be put on the defensive with accusations of, “YOU JUST DON’T CARE!” and when they put it like that, you can shut off your energy just so you don’t get into it with them which could, in fact, train yourself not to care and push your mind right out of the relationship.
This is where mindfulness comes in handy. It means stepping back from a situation and calming your breath. Pretend you’re the audience, watching a play. What are the circumstances creating the current situation?
As an observer, you can think more clearly and the first thing you should ask yourself is, “What can I do to help this person?” Maybe the answer is nothing but whatever you do, don’t feed into their drama. That’s where you will always lose your energy.
Remember the idea that swinging and missing hurts more than swinging and connecting? You have to slow down the scene to focus on what’s really happening in order to make better decisions, ask better questions, and offer better help.
Mindful thinking will help you feel more grounded and confident in your responses to anger. You won’t be wasting energy putting up defenses about things that are beyond your control. You will also feel more confident if you have to admit you were wrong and offer an apology. People feed off of and gravitate towards that kind of calming energy. The vampires will disappear as you show them the sunlight.
Mindfulness Versus Zombie Dieting
There will be no lectures about eating the, “right foods,” here. I mean, unless you live in a penthouse where only Domino’s and the local Chinese restaurant delivers, you probably have a decent idea of what to eat. The real issue isn’t knowing what to eat. It’s why we decide to eat the wrong things when we know we should and could be making better decisions.
I know a lady who hates sugar. She has Type 2 diabetes that she could never get under control until she cut out all sugar from her diet. Now, she’s an anti-sugar zealot, preaching the evils of sugar and Monsanto to anyone who’ll listen.
She’s so pushy that most people I know have unfollowed her on Facebook. The sad part of this story is that even though she is evened out her blood sugar to an extent, she hasn’t lost any weight. Why? Turns out that she eats healthy foods from the time she wakes up until she goes to bed at night. Her sister-in-law calculated that she still consumed about 4200 calories a day. For a lady that’s only 5-foot 2-inches tall and doesn’t exercise regularly, that’s a lot of calories. Now, she’s thinking about going Paleo.
It’s never occurred to her that she overeats. She thinks it’s all about her nutrition and the government turning us into sugar addicts.
Training yourself to by mindful about your eating is more than picking the right diet. It’s about being conscious of everything you put in your mouth and knowing when to stop.
Don’t be a food zombie, shuffling into the kitchen every 10 minutes, looking for an apple or chips or a leftover brain to munch on during the game. Make deliberate choices, enjoy what you choose, and (here’s one for you lunch-slammers) CHEW your food. It takes some time for the brain to get the message that the stomach is full. Wait about 20 minutes before deciding if you really need that extra slice of liver to feel satiated.
Mindfulness Against Overwhelming Odds
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to accomplish?
Does a bear….
Sometimes, the task at hand just stops us in our tracks. It can be emotionally exhausting to take on big projects or even little projects that are repulsive and must be dealt with on a daily basis.
The emotional output we use to face these tasks will eventually manifest itself physically. Now, I’m not talking about the, “biggies,” here. Physical exhaustion can lead to colds before it leads to chronic illness. Unfortunately, it can also lead to depression.
Here’s another tough truth – while mindfulness works, it’s a jolt to the system and you might find yourself emotionally fighting the process. If you’re big on multitasking, that can be a drain unto itself and mindfulness – focusing on a single task at a time – can feel like the real enemy, but you’ll change your mind as your energy increases and subsequently, your mood improves.
It’s also very helpful to start journaling. This doesn’t have to be a hearts and flowers, “dear diary,” sort of thing. As a matter of fact, it might be helpful to use one journal to document specific tasks – identifying obstacles and options for overcoming them, and keeping a second journal to document your emotions and well-being. While some people advocating writing down 100 things you’re grateful for or whatever, I feel that this can be a hindrance at first, especially if you’re trying to declutter your thinking to declutter your day – it would feel like it was one more overwhelming task.
The point is to try and focus on one thing at a time. Not only will you finish projects faster, you’ll stop worrying about what’s to come and start welcoming the flow of concentrating on and completing the next thing in front of you. This teaches you how to monitor your moods and the physical changes associated with it. As you become more adept at this, you’ll find you can choose how much energy you want to spend on a project or task, leaving you with plenty of fuel in the tank to spend on the things that truly give you joy.