By Karol Ward, LCSW
When was the last time you had a moment to check in with yourself, meaning pause to take stock and notice what you need in body, mind, and spirit? With an ongoing pandemic, I imagine the answer is “not often”.
We are all under a tremendous amount of stress these days balancing work, relationships, finances, and everyday life. You may feel wiped out, disorganized, or have trouble concentrating. These are all normal reactions to the pressures we have experienced in the past two years.
One particular way we are impacted by stress is our decision-making. Though we may want to make healthier choices around food, exercise, or sleep, our ability to do so becomes compromised due to overwhelm. We get distracted or feel rushed throughout the day and then our plan to make good choices goes off track. This doesn’t happen because we want it to; it’s just a consequence of living stressful lives.
At times like this, taking a moment to contemplate what’s out of balance is helpful. First think in broad terms such as sleep, emotional support, good nutrition, childcare, or moving your body, etc. Once you understand what needs your attention, your next step will be to create and take one small action in that area.
I call these actions, micro intentions, which I define as smaller goals within a bigger goal. A micro intention helps you move towards your goals by breaking them into smaller steps. An example of this might be choosing to take a break from your computer when you eat lunch so you can make more nutritious food choices. If you are struggling with sleep, a micro intention might be to stop and take breaks throughout your day so that your nervous system isn’t always in high gear. (I will be talking more about the hidden factors that contribute to sleep issues in a webinar on January 19th).
How do you discover a micro intention? My suggestion is to tap into the innate knowledge of your body and mind. Here’s an exercise to get you started.
1. Find some time in your day when you can sit quietly for 5 or 10 minutes. (This might be a micro intention in itself!).
2. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. As you breathe in and out through your nose, use your powers of observation. If there is a place in your body that feels more tense than others? Make a conscious effort to inhale deeply through your nose, focus on that part of your body and then exhale. Do this three or four times and then let your breathing return to normal
3. With your eyes closed, ask yourself what is the one thing you need today or this week to help you feel more balanced and supported?
Don’t worry if you don’t get an immediate answer. Just see what floats up to your mind. You may even get a few answers or images. If this happens, just choose one for now.
4. Take a few more slow, deep breaths and then open your eyes.
During the upcoming week, do the one thing that came to mind while doing this exercise. Notice how that makes you feel. Don’t be surprised if momentum is created for more small actions.
Remember, your micro intentions are personal to you. Some of you may realize you need to be more active while others may need to slow down. By letting your body-mind connection guide you, you can create a personal plan that reflects your best interests.
If you are looking for a way to calm your body and mind, click here for your free five-minute audio download, Stress Relief.
Karol Ward, LCSW is a confidence-coach, psychotherapist, TEDx Speaker, and author.