5 Ways to STOP, Look Down & Find your Feet
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
Here we are, at the end of October (at the time I’m writing this) trying to “find our feet” after a month that had exactly 12 working days in it, here in Israel with all the holidays. I’m also just back from a two week overseas trip, trying to climb back on the wheel. A few of my clients have used the same term in the past week or so – “struggling to find their feet”. It got me thinking: What is it we can do to “find our feet”? As usual, the brainwave hit late last night as I was trying to fall asleep. We can’t find our feet if we keep running around looking for them. To find them, we have to STOP and simply look down.
I heard a great anecdote the other day – we are worthy even when we are not doing something productive. After all, we are called human beings, not human doings. It’s OK to just “be” some of the time. One of those times is when we feel like we can’t catch up with life. Women with ADHD in particular often feel like they have a million balls in the air and they have to just keep on juggling. They fear that stopping would lead to dropping all the balls. Ironically it's the pausing, the stopping to try for a while, that can help us look down and find our feet.
Here are 5 thing I do to help me to stop spinning and to regroup:
1. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
This is basically secular meditation, where you train your mind to focus on something, releasing all distracting thoughts as if they were apps on your phone that you’re closing. (You know how you swipe up to close all your open apps? That's how you're supposed to treat the distracting thoughts as they come up. Don't them. Just notice and then release /"delete" them.) Mindfulness is a very popular buzzword these days. Mindfulness meditation is a little different to traditional meditation. It doesn’t have to be staring into a flame, repeating a mantra (a lot of prayer is repetitive and has mantra-like qualities) or sitting still with eyes closed.
Although people with ADHD can find the thought of sitting still with their thoughts very challenging, mindfulness meditation strengthens your ability to control your attention and it trains you to bring your wandering mind back into the moment when you get distracted. Research shows that mindfulness can be very helpful in relieving the ADHD symptom of distraction. There's even a website (Mindfully ADD) dedicated to mindfulness meditation for people with ADHD.
With all the noise in my head, I need find that a guided meditation is helpful - listening to someone speaking while you meditate. I follow this free eight-week evidence-based program that teaches secular mindfulness training to attack stress, anxiety, depression and pain. My favorite guided meditation is the Body Scan. It only takes 20 minutes and while it can take a few minutes to settle my thoughts at first, I mostly come out of it rejuvenated. Don’t give up after the first try. It’s not called a practice for nothing!
2. Swim, Sauna, Jacuzzi...
...Anywhere I can’t take my phone. It gives me a forced opportunity to go offline and connect with myself. On that note, a very wise therapist suggested I get a second SIM card, for private use. I’ve just ordered it (cost is minimal) and I plan to share the number with close family and friends and leave my “work phone” in my office after 7 pm or when I should be taking a break. I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.
3. Deep Breathing
Taking a few deep breaths counters the effects of stress by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Basically it triggers our relaxation response, the opposite of our fight or flight instinct. Like yoga or any physical activity that takes motor concentration, it demands focus, which takes your mind off your worries. My favorite is the Breathe Bubble from the Calm App.
4. Walking Outside
I used to feel I had to listen to music or a podcast when I went for a walk, until I heard the concept “dead time” by Yael Man-Shahar. “This is a kind of boredom that we hardly ever experience anymore, thanks to mobile devices and other technological gadgets. But it turns out that this time is of critical importance for …imagination, creativity, decision making and more.” It’s why we always seem to get our best ideas in the shower. and the like. The greenery we see while walking in the fresh air also aids creativity.
5. Hot Drinks
I’ve always wondered what the attraction was for me of a hot drink. Coffee isn’t particularly tasty and I can get my sugar fix in other ways than a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate. However, I always associate drinking a hot drink with downtime. I think it’s because holding and drinking it forces us to slow the *#$% down! You can’t keep spinning like a whirling dervish with a hot cuppa something in your hand.
To sum up, if you remember nothing else here, remember the word STOP – take a breathing space in this day and age of endless online connection, interruptions, decisions, work and demands. When you find yourself spiraling out of control or reacting in an automatic way, just follow the letters in the word STOP –
T- take a breath
O- observe what is going on around you and within you and then...
P – proceed once you have touched base with yourself.
So there you have it. It’s only once we STOP for a few minutes and look down, that we can find our feet.
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