This blog series has showcased inspiring, moving, and convincing content regarding the importance of mindfulness. My own posts have illuminated the ways in which mindfulness, as an approach and practice, has been critical to helping me act rather than react and reflect on how and where feminine and masculine energy are present within me.
What has not yet been discussed in this blog series is how tiring mindfulness practices can be. From meditation and intention-setting to reflection and journaling to active listening and humble inquiry, my mindfulness practices have the potential to take up valuable time and energy I need. Each day’s seemingly endless number of tasks and errands can leave me feeling pretty depleted. There are times when I feel exhausted before it’s even noon, which can make it hard to stay mindful throughout the rest of the day. Maybe you’ve felt similarly?
Below has been my process to renew my mindful energy reserves throughout the day:
Map out my schedule for the week, instead of just the day.As part of my evening routine, I used to look at my schedule for the next day to get a sense of things like meal times, breaks, and tasks. It has been more helpful to map out my entire week. Not only does this help me establish and maintain routines (e.g., meditation, gym workouts, lunches, grocery shopping, laundry), it also allows me anticipate those days when I won’t have the same kind of time for mindfulness as I usually have. This reduces some of the anxiety and guilt I feel about not getting in “enough” mindfulness time.
Take smaller breaks more often. Rather than taking one long break in the middle of my day, I’ve discovered that taking smaller breaks more often is more effective for maintaining mindfulness. As Chase Jarvis and Tony Schwartz point out, taking smaller breaks more often and reducing long stretches of work actually boost our energy levels as well as our productivity. Of course, this is not always possible, especially on days when I have back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. But I still take a few moments—even 30 seconds—before entering a meeting or event to engage in rhythmic breathing and remind myself of my intentions for the meeting/day/week. About one or two times per week, I also manage to fit in 10- or 15-minute “quiet times” during my hour-long lunch breaks. I set a timer, close my eyes, and just meditate, and will often briefly fall asleep—what some might call a power nap.
Engage in rhythmic breathing throughout the day. I begin and end each day with rhythmic breathing and stretching of my legs, arms, and back. The stretching component has been helpful as a tennis player and also for my ongoing back and shoulder tension. I’ve found that adding more rhythmic breathing times into my schedule has helped me be more mindful and attentive at work. As a result, I feel less tired, more focused, and better able to manage simultaneous projects and tasks. During those smaller breaks I take at work, I will engage in rhythmic breathing while going for a brief walk or sitting quietly at my desk. Even when I’m not taking a break, I use rhythmic breathing to focus during large group meetings, washing dishes at home, and working out.
I incorporate these practices into my schedule most days. But, as mentioned earlier, sometimes I don’t or am not able to—and I’m really good at making myself feel bad about it. This is a typical and often harmful pattern I have: to judge myself for not getting something 100% “right.” What has been important to my process of renewal is self-forgiveness, which, for me, requires that I recognize this negative self-talk, take a few, deep, rhythmic breaths, and remind myself that this is a process, after all. Because, ultimately, in my mindfulness journey, it is more about the process than it is about the outcome. It has also not just been about the process, but also about breaking the process down into scheduled, smaller, and integrative baby steps that don’t add to, but relieve the pressure and pace of my day.
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