Can You Be Mindful With a Full Mind?!

As a current graduate student working towards becoming a licensed mental health counselor, I hear a lot from my professors and colleagues about self care. It is important in any job or lifestyle to set aside time for you and your needs. Making sure to eat well, spend time with family and friends, exercise and relax. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But wait a minute, that last word, relax… um… when do I have time for that? Between two jobs, class time, homework, going to the gym, running errands, grocery shopping, and playing with the dog, I barely have enough hours in the day to squeeze in time with my boyfriend, friends and family. I’m sure you can relate to this feeling. Whether it be kids, long hours at work, volunteering, or being involved in the the community, it’s more common than not that the average adult does not have time to just relax.

My professors like to stress the importance of taking time to relax, I am stressing out even more because I can’t fit that into my schedule. And for those of you thinking about it, no, those 6-8 hours of sleep you hopefully get each night does not count as relaxation (good try though). So I raise the question in class, “when do I have time?” The answer is always that I should be practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness, it’s a great and wonderful theory and technique that I suggest everyone should practice. But, what is mindfulness? Google tells us that mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Seems pretty nice and simple enough so why am I not practicing mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a hot topic, I have written about it on several social media posts and I stand behind it and suggest it to others. However, when it comes down to it, I know what the concept of mindfulness is but I don’t actually know what to do to be mindful. I know I am supposed to be more aware and accept things as they come but how do I do that? Be present in the moment? But I have to-do lists to make and tasks I have to be preoccupied with in the moment! Now here I am again, becoming more stressed because I don’t know how to do the tasks that are supposed to calm my stress!!

Last week after I had been up since 5 am, worked for 10 hours, went to class for 3, went to the gym and then came home to pay bills and make dinner I was feeling more than overwhelmed. “Mindfulness, Mindfulness, Mindfulness” is what I kept thinking as I noticed the tension headache come on. But again this predicament of knowing I should practice mindfulness but what do I actually do? I feel like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Knights while giving his first tv interview “I don’t really know what to do with my hands right now”, as he awkwardly holds his hands in the air. And then a lightbulb goes off in my head. Pinterest.

Pinterest has the answers to everything, I swear it saves lives for various reasons. That day, it saved my brain from overload. I searched simple mindfulness practice and came across this gem (see the image below). Hmmm, well only two more minutes until my Ramen is done, I guess I’ll try savoring my meal first. Two and a half minutes later I sit down at the dining table to savor my freshly prepared meal of cheap noodles. Normally I would have plopped down on the couch in front of the tv to glaze over whatever was currently being talked about on SportsCenter but I thought maybe I could be more mindful not staring at a screen. It was too hot to eat right away so I decided to sip the broth. Tastes exactly like I thought it would. Ok Adrienne, really pay attention, what does that pin say again? Focus on the smell, texture and taste. So I ignored everything else going on around me, yes even Lila with those adorable puppy eyes patiently waiting for me to drop something. I’m not going to waste your time explaining in depth my first few bites of my Ramen that night but I will tell you it was the best Ramen I’ve ever had! If you ever have to eat a lot of the same thing and start to get sick of it, I would highly recommend this mindfulness tip. I think I’ll have to try this next time I decide to start my diet again. Once I was done the other important thing I noticed was that for a few minutes, I thought of nothing other than every detail of my Ramen. I was not eating while trying to search Pinterest on how to organize my life. I was not thinking about what I needed to do before the start of my day tomorrow or how I will manage to get my homework for the week done before tomorrow’s class. I simply enjoyed what I was currently doing. I had a few minutes of a completely stress free life and that was more than what I could ask for.

Of course I did not have time to do all four, I thought two of the four would suffice. After my delicious soup, I finished what I needed to do for the night and decided to try just breathing. All electronics were silenced, and I tried my best to focus on my breathing and how my body moved with each breath. Next thing I knew, my alarm was going off. The sun was still down so I assumed I had just fallen asleep for awhile. Nope. It was yet another early morning for me and I had beaten the sun to waking up once again. It was so peace….darn it, I have to go.