Last Thanksgiving I traveled to Florida for a work trip. After my work responsibilities were completed I drove down the coast to visit with family for a couple of days. The weather was beautiful and work was slow due to the holiday. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to take a much needed break.
On Thanksgiving morning, I went for a barefoot run next to the crashing waves at my favorite beach. Sweaty, tired and grateful that I was at the ocean in November, I decided to cool down and take in the scenery. I found a soft spot on the sand, sat down and laid on my back. Immediately, wild thoughts about upcoming deadlines and money woes zipped across the synapses of my brain, filled and clouded my mind. I felt my blood pressure rise. After all, I should be working, trying to get ahead of things, not lying on a beach without my cell phone, laptop and notebook. Right?
The truth was I hadn’t taken a break in a very long time and this was beginning to wear on me mentally and physically. I couldn’t even recollect the last time my iPhone was not glued to my palm. I remember feeling that I needed to step away, relax and reset. I reminded myself that a little time unplugged would be beneficial, even if it was for a few minutes. I then inhaled a deep breath through my nose and exhaled out my mouth, and repeated a few times. As I did so, I acknowledged those invading thoughts, but pushed them aside and directed my focus to my breath and to the new surge of oxygen that was pumping through my body. I listened to the ocean roaring in front of me and watched the clouds as they moved and distorted in the sky above me. I felt my body decompress for the first time in weeks. Such a simple act, yet profound at the same time.
As I practiced mindfulness and stillness, I became aware of how good it felt to relax and how rarely I gave myself permission to stop what I was doing and live in the present without fretting, stressing, moving, or thinking about the billion things I ought to be taking care of at that particular time. I have come to learn that it is not until I become still and when I fully surrender to life’s demands and deadlines… that I am reminded of what it is like to experience freedom… freedom in the sense that I, for a brief moment in time, am given carte blanche to shelve all stresses of my life, decompress, and enjoy the present moment. This uncomplicated effort is revitalizing.
As I looked up at the blue ceiling above me, I did not keep track of the time, but I do know it was long enough to identify a pancreas, a rooster, and a squirrel drifting and morphing in the clouds high in the sky. What a comical succession of cloud formations! In all honesty, I do wonder what the juxtaposition of a glandular organ, a foul and a large rodent would mean to a therapist. Would anyone with a psychology background like to help me out with that one? 😉
I remember trying to think back to the last time I had taken a mind and body break from the world. I could not recall when that was. As a personal trainer and lifestyle coach, I was mortified that I was not truly practicing the stress management techniques I was teaching to my clients. In the hustle of opening my fitness studio, I lost perspective of what I needed to stay balanced – and taking a break was one of those important items. This experience has caused me to put forth a directed effort to push “cloud gazing” higher on my “life’s priority list” and I today I can report to you that I have been very diligent about stepping away from the flurry of life on a more consistent basis, and it feels great! I encourage you to do the same.
Unplugging from career and family stresses for a few minutes each day can produce dramatic results for your wellbeing and can help you live a more mindful and optimal life.
- How about you? Do you scheduled time for stillness? If so, how do you accomplish this?
- Do you find it challenging to add relaxation time to your busy life?
- Please share your comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!
Wishing you health and happiness!
When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.