Whether we want to admit it or not, we all experience stress—as women, we probably experience stress the most. Sometimes I have those thoughts like, “I’m too tired to do this” or “Today is going to be a bad day” and before I realize it, my thoughts are affecting my energy, my mood, and my behavior. I become even more stressed out when I think of all the future work that has to be done, events that I have to attend, bills that I have to pay, etc. I am honest enough to admit that “adulting” can be hard, and being a single, black female, addicted to retail, doesn’t make it any less harder.
Let’s not forget the fact that I have a ton of goals, and being an ambitious woman isn’t necessarily a walk-in-the-park (in other words, it isn’t easy). What I’ve noticed about myself and other goal oriented women, regardless of how big or small the goal(s), is that we tend to play the Superwoman role—we put our hair in a bun, throw on our capes, and we handle all responsibilities which is what makes us so amazing..but we sometimes forget about self-care and attending to the stress we put our bodies through. The feeling of accomplishment can be an addictive feeling, hence we stay up until 3AM handling business… that feeling when your work is complete is incomparable, right?! While we may be satisfying our minds because we’ve completed our tasks, we’re doing the opposite to our bodies. Mix the many late nights with the habitual thinking of our future and we have a recipe for stress and anxiety.
While it’s great for all working women to plan for the future, it’s best to keep our minds present, to focus on the here and now. A lot of the stress women undergo, especially girl bosses, is due to our thoughts. “I have to hurry and finish this project”, “I have a deadline to meet but I’m running out of time”, “I want to make X amount of money in 2 years but I don’t know if I can do it”, does any of those thoughts seem familiar? These type of thoughts lead to stress and anxiety, and can lead to unproductiveness. The key is to silence these thoughts, and practicing mindfulness can help us achieve this goal.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation, and though I’m free-spirited, you don’t have to be a nature-loving, tree-hugging, free-spirited hippy to practice mindfulness, nor does this interfere with any religious beliefs. Those are very vague ideas surrounding meditation, so it’s best to clear that up. Mindfulness is actually a therapeutic technique that licensed therapists and clinicians use.
Derived from the teaching of the Buddha, mindfulness meditation focuses on awareness of the present. The purpose of mindfulness is to learn that thoughts are just thoughts, and we can ignore them, or be aware of them without stimulating any emotional reaction.
Obviously, it’s a challenging concept to grasp immediately and it’s not something that you will become an expert at without training. But you don’t have to be an expert to do the mindfulness exercises, and if done the right way, they can really help to reduce stress, anxiety, and mild depression or high disappointment. I’ve recently learned about mindfulness so I’m a “newbie” in the meditation realm, yet I’ve found a few ways to incorporate it in my daily routine and it works wonders for ridding negative thoughts and anxiety…allowing me to just BE. Here’s 2 ways I include it in my daily routine:
1. The Body Scan- This is supposed to be a 45 minute exercise, but I feel good after doing it for only 3 minutes, even 1 minute. Sit down, posture straight, eyes closed, and bring awareness to different parts of your body while taking breaths. There’s a video clip (click here!) that can get you started with the body scan, and after that you can literally do this anywhere, any time, any place. I do it in my uber, in class, even in the bathtub. This really helps to bring attention to areas of your body that may be tight due to stress, and it helps release the tightness as well as ease your mind and thoughts.
2. The Breathing Exercise- I do this when I’m feeling restless, anxious, and experiencing a lot of mind-clutter! This exercise helps bring awareness to the many thoughts that go on in my head, and while focusing on my breath, I can ignore these thoughts and/or compartmentalize them; if it’s a good thought, keep it. If it’s a bad thought, throw it out! I do this while running, walking, cooking, or whenever I’m idle (rarely ever). I also do this after an experience that has irritated me, like talking to a bad customer service representative. Because I don’t have to sit down to do this, I can include this in my routine whenever I feel the need to. I’ve included a link to a mindfulness breathing exercise (click here!), it should help tremendously in reducing anxiety and mind-clutter.
Another great thing about mindfulness is that it teaches us to be kind to ourselves. Sometimes I forget that I’m human, and while I strive to stay positive, sometimes a negative thought may arise. I’ve learned that as long as these thoughts don’t control or consume me, that having a bad thought doesn’t make me a negative person…it makes me a human. I think it’s important to remember that even though the “ go-getter” woman can play the Superwoman role very well, underneath the cape she’s still a human. So ladies, take the time to add stress reducing activities to your daily schedule; take care of your mind and your body will thank you!
Written By: Kahina Ray