The Speed Bumps of Life
It’s important to remember that mindfulness is not a goal that has an endpoint. There isn’t a place we are striving to get to or a set of skills that we can check off of a list. We don’t wake up one day and decide that we’re mindful enough and we should just stop.
Mindfulness gives us tools that can help us be more present. We can learn ways to manage stress, build resilience and enjoy more of life's moments.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been practicing, sometimes life gets in the way. Challenges and obstacles try to derail us.
That’s just how life works. Up and down. Again and again.
What happens when we hit one of life’s speed bumps?
We need to remind ourselves that it’s practice not perfection.
In the last month I’ve experienced a lot of new stress as I started a new job. The new challenges have felt like a mountain I was struggling to climb. It has seemed like every step forward landed me five steps back.
I thought my self care and foundational practices were strong and solid. Despite the routine of embodied movement and mindfulness, things hit me hard. My deeply rooted trauma responses reared their ugly head and I began to spiral.
As Bessel van der Kolk wrote, my body really did keep the score.
The slip towards sympathetic nervous system overload was real and the stress began to percolate inside of me and ooze into my body.
I had ruminating thoughts and difficulty sleeping. My body felt stiff and weak. I craved bad food.
I felt like I was falling apart, just like I had the start of my trauma healing journey.
My amygdala, the smoke detector of the brain, was mistakenly sending out cues of danger. The deeply rooted trauma responses of my reptilian brain started to take over, leaving me reactive and feeling unwell.
I had to remind myself that it’s practice not perfection.
I came back to the basics of mindfulness.
Bringing my attention to these unhealthy habits was the first step. It gave me space to stop in my tracks and notice what was happening.
Starting something new can feel uncomfortable. Reminding myself to be gentle as I learn new skills and find my way was an important step. I began accepting the things that are in my control and those that are not. There were many aspects that I didn’t particularly like, but I realized I didn’t have to. Accepting the reality of now is powerful.
My self care took a dive as I threw myself into my new role. That’s what started the cascade that felt so awful and I knew I had to come back to me again. I added more self care practices, more time to play and more breaks. Despite the added stress, this was an important step towards stopping the spiral.
When life hands you speed bumps, remember these three A’s of mindfulness.
Take time to stop, breathe and tell yourself it’s practice not perfection.
Take care and be well.