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How to find stillness when you’re too busy to stop

Does your daily life feel like a whirlwind?

You know the drill:

Working, commuting, creating, cooking, cleaning, meetings, shopping, ferrying the kids to-and-fro, socialising, walking the dog…

Phew! (And that’s all before 9am on any given weekday!)

Deep down, you know you need to stop and take a breath – to recalibrate body, mind and soul – but seriously, who’s got the time?

Truth-bomb: we all do.

You’ve heard it before – each of us get the same 24 hours every day. (Yes, especially Beyonce – thank you tirade of social media memes!)

I’m 100% with you –  it is challenging to find time to simply ‘be’ when your to-do list is longer than a rainy day in school holidays. Not only that, in a society that celebrates ‘busy’, taking a break can feel downright indulgent.

Stillness = wellness
The thing is, finding moments of stillness every day is essential for optimal physical, mental and emotional health. Doing nothing does wonders – even science agrees.
The human nervous system, which guides almost every action of the body and mind, consists of 2 branches – the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system.
Cut the chase
The sympathetic nervous system is a real go-getter. This is the ‘flight or fight’ branch which gets our muscles firing, breath pumping and heart boom-booming when we need to get a move on.

Back in the day, we relied on this branch to deliver the energy, strength and nous to outrun predators, like lions or sabre tooth tigers.

While the threat of fierce creatures has long gone, many of us are still running – from a long list of modern-day pressures. Think unrealistic deadlines, over-stuffed schedules, financial pressures, and grinding traffic, to name a few.  Even though these threats may not be life-threatening, the nervous system still insists we ‘fight or flee’ with the same intensity as escaping a perilous encounter.

Turns out, the body is not designed to be on high-alert all the time. When such stressors cause the sympathetic nervous system to switch ‘on’ too often and for too long, problems can arise, including stress, anxiety, moodiness and adrenal fatigue.

This is where the role of other main branch of the nervous system, the parasympathetic mode, is essential. Responsible for rest, digest and deep healing, it requires stillness, time, and quiet to best do its job.

More than sleep
Sure, there’s sleep, but to optimally soothe and heal body and mind, extra and regular moments of quiet stillness are crucial. When the parasympathetic nervous system gets in the driver’s seat, heart rate and breathing slow down, the whole body and mind can soften, relax and recharge. (Ahhhh… sounds better than racing around like a headless chicken, doesn’t it?)

Lost now found
So where so can you find opportunities to switch your natural ‘rest and digest’ mechanism on, even on your most hectic days?

I’ve got 4 suggestions for you here. Once you’ve identified them in your day, discover how to best use this time for a little mind/body reset.

4 ways to find stillness everyday

  1. Between beginnings and endings
    Pay attention to the moments between your daily activities. Rather than rushing on to what’s next on the schedule, take a moment to consciously finish up doing and thinking about one activity, and take a quick break before starting the next.For example, say to yourself, ‘OK, my meeting is now finished. Next, I can begin my research.’Acknowledging the end of one event before embarking on the next helps prevent the day turning into a blur of exhausting activities, and leaves a little gap, prefect for a moment of stillness.
  2. Infuse everyday activities with mindfulness
    Choose a short, easy and routine task that you do each day, such as brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea or switching on the computer.  When you perform this activity, do so with 100% attention to every minute detail. For example, when making a cuppa, give your full attention to every step of the process, from filling the jug with water, to tasting the very last drop of your tea.Filling the mind with a real-time task provides a welcome break from distracting thoughts that skip forward to the future, or rehash the past.
  3. Set anchor for deep calm
    Choose a few tangible reminders to slow down and be still. Make a pledge to take 3 deep breaths at every red light on your commute, get up and stretch whenever the dog barks, or pepper your workstation with post-it note reminders to slow down, for example.
  4. Pause the movement, pause the thoughts
    When the body is at rest, the mind follows. (Although it often needs a good few minutes to catch up!)Wherever possible, punctuate your day with physical stillness. Simply stand still, sit, or even lie down for a few moments (or longer if you can manage it!) Notice your breath, the smells, sounds, sights and sensations around you.If you find it tricky to settle, try closing your eyes or placing the weight of a blanket or yoga sandbag over you to help the body ground.

Make stillness sacred
When you start to notice little opportunities to be still, it can be tempting to revert to old habits, filling the space with activity, or allowing one frantic activity bleed into the next.

But when you honour yourself with multiple moments of stillness throughout the day, you’ll be rewarded with a long-lasting sense of calm and balance.

Best of all, this stillness is easily accessible and available to tap into, anytime it’s needed.

Be still, my friend.

Bronni Page

Bronni Page

Bronni Page is nuts about living a life full of fun, adventure and connection. She’s quite the "word nerd" and uses this super-power as a health and wellness writer, crafting engaging articles to inspire everyday people be their healthiest, most wonderful selves.

She’s also a qualified yoga instructor, specialising in restorative yoga (the super-relaxing, snoozy, cruisy style).

When she’s not writing for clients or embarrassing her three kids with hilarious mum jokes, you’ll find Bronni searching out the best almond cappuccino in her hometown of Newcastle, Australia.

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