Adapting to the “new normal”
To live in the world is to adapt constantly.
Adapting to the “new normal” however that looks like for each of us is a key skill to develop if we want to not just survive but thrive in an ever-changing and challenging world.
The practice of mindfulness can help us walk the tightrope of life a little more gracefully.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be present to what is, without getting sucked into a spiral of emotions that lead to burnout, insomnia, overwhelm, anxiety, and lethargy.
A mindfulness technique that really makes a difference for my clients is the technique of letting go.
When strong emotions are triggered like anger, fear, or resentment, most of us react one of two ways: we mindlessly express or suppress our emotions.
Though they may provide temporary relief, these emotional reactions are unhealthy.
When we mindlessly express our emotions or suppress them we can cause damage to ourselves and others.
Expressing your frustration by shouting at someone or suppressing it by eating a pint of ice cream may feel good in the moment, but it won’t help you resolve your frustration in the long term.
The best response is to allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling without projecting it on someone or something else outside of you.
First Step to Letting Go: Setting the stage
The first step is to allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling without judgment and without the story. In other words, we don’t go into the narrative of the situation.
Here’s how you do that.
Sit in a comfortable sitting position or lay down. Take three deep breaths and with each breath in, imagine inhaling peace and relaxation. With each exhalation, allow your body to settle a little more fully into its position.
At the end of the third exhalation, let your breath return to a natural and uncontrolled state. Mentally scan your body, and become aware of the parts of the body that are tight and tense. Each time you exhale, consciously relax every part of your body, letting go of any remaining tightness and tension.
Once you’ve scanned your whole body, from the tips of your toes to your fingertips to the top of your head, focus your attention on your natural breath. For a moment, be aware of every inhale and every exhale, and be aware of the subtle movement of your breath in the stillness of your body.
Now, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling; every emotion and sensation that arises is perfectly fine. As best you can, stay away from judgment and from hooking onto any story associated with what you’re feeling.
What you are feeling is not wrong… and it is not you… it is a kind of energy clawing at your insides, a kind of energetic pain. Can you feel it moving or changing? Is it increasing or decreasing? Is it moving in a different area in your body? Does it feel like a wave expanding and then easing?
Second Step to Letting Go: Ask The Letting Go Questions
Each time you feel your emotional waves easing ask yourself these three questions:
1- Could I let it go? This question helps you realize that you always have a choice to either hold on to the emotion or not. And it’s simply asking you to make a decision.
By the way, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are both valid answers and if you can’t let it go, then allow yourself to keep holding onto what you’re feeling.
2- Would I let it go? If you could let that go, would you be willing to?
Again here ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are both valid answers.
You know what’s not a valid answer? “I don’t know”. This answer is just another way of saying ‘no’.
In order to make it easier for you to be willing to let go of a strong emotion that’s affecting your ability to manage your daily life, you could add “just for now” to the question so it doesn’t feel final.
3- When? The only answer to this question is ‘NOW’. Because there’s really only right now!
Then once again, allow yourself to feel the emotion without getting into judgment or the story. Notice what has changed if anything. And when you feel an easing of the emotion again ask yourself the three basic Releasing questions.
You can do this until you feel lighter, more centered, and at peace. That’s how easy mindfulness can be!
The Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice
Research shows that mindfulness supports overall well-being.
When we practice the mindfulness practice of letting go, we bring ourselves back into the present moment. In doing so, we empower ourselves and are no longer the victim of our circumstances. When we practice this, we are better able to respond to any situation that arises and we are truly free.
Mindfulness improves physical health.
Mindfulness helps relieve stress, treat heart disease, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, improves sleeps and alleviates gut health issues.
And mindfulness improves mental health.
The field of psychotherapy has turned to mindfulness techniques as an important element in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and burnout.
Peeling the Layers
Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Each time you practice this mindfulness technique, you’re peeling one layer of emotional distress.