My life before discovering mindfulness…
In April 2016 I had a little embarrassing accident. I was on the bus on my way to work. I was so engrossed ordering something on my phone, that when the bus driver slammed on the breaks I smashed my head on the windscreen. A quick ambulance trip to the A&E and some glue later, I had to stop and reflect on what happened.
I wasn’t living in the present moment…
My to-do list was so overwhelmingly big all the time that I constantly felt like I was chasing my tail. I felt rushed and frazzled. Always. At work and at home with my children. Something had to change. I wasn’t sure how yet, but it felt like that something had to give.
A couple of months later I had the chance to have a one-off sessions with a Life Coach. He had never seen me before, but it only took him 40 minutes to figure me out. He told me I reminded him of a pinball machine. And that I was the opposite of a Buddhist monk practicing mindfulness all day (whatever that was). I don’t know how he knew, but he was right.
Not long after that day I made the decision to leave work…
But while working my notice period, my state of mind hadn’t changed. I was still obsessed with getting things done and putting unnecessary pressure on myself. The bus accident was a warning. The Life Coach spelled it out for me.
But I wasn’t changing my ways…
So The Universe made a decision for me. In September I fell down the stairs and broke my leg. Five days later I left the hospital with a bit more metal inside my body than when I went in, and my 2 crutches would become my only way of (badly) moving around (the house) for the following 14 weeks.
The Universe had stopped me.
I got the memo. Now something really had to change. So I started to turn my life around. Behavioural change and creating new habits take time though, so it’s still work-in-progress. But here’s how mindfulness has been helping me.
Mindfulness kept me mentally sane, aided my recovery and is helping with anxiety
Breaking your leg and being unable to work when you’re still expected to commute to work, walk your children to school and drive them to several after-school and weekend activities isn’t great. Being on crutches and house-bound (or confined to the ground floor, more like) doesn’t help with the smooth running of a household either.
Things were quite hard at first.
And people warned me: “You may feel down or depressed. Your mental state is important. Don’t underestimate it.”
Knowing it’d take at least 5 months for things to go back to normal was too scary and overwhelming. So I started to focus on the present instead. I couldn’t change the past. And the future I was looking forward to was distant – too distant. So I tried not to think about it. All I had was today. How I felt today. How I felt better than yesterday. How my leg was less bruised. How I went through a whole day without painkillers. How lovely it was to be able to be at home and spend time with my 2 year old and my mum.
And one day at the time, I got to my 5 months. And over. And discovered that when your physical injury is better you have anxieties to deal with. And practicing mindfulness is helping me with that too.
One day at the time.
Mindfulness made me a better parent
Because I’m more in tune with how I feel and a lot less worried about my to-do list, I know when I’m getting stressed. I can feel it. And I’m in a much better position to make a choice – to respond to a situation rather than react to it.
I’m not perfect, and I don’t do it all of the time, but I’m getting better at it. Mindfulness meditation practice is making me more self-aware, calmer and a little bit more patient. It’s also helping me to make better choices for myself and my family. I can prioritise better – if something isn’t that important, it can be left behind. I’ll pick it up when I get to it.
I learnt it the hard way – time isn’t the only limited resource. Health is too. Fretting over the small thing can actually hurt you mentally too. We shouldn’t forget to look after our minds!
Mindfulness is helping me sleep better
I used to spend hours every night either awake or in a state of restless sleep. I’d wake up at 2am (often because of one of my children) and would be fully awake for an hour or two, worrying about things. And the next day I was on a spiralling cycle. Stressed, tired, frazzled, and overwhelmed. Since practicing mindfulness meditation my sleep has improved dramatically.
My life now…
A year after my bus accident, I’m in a much better place. I’m a different person – everything is different. I feel better and a lot happier. Living more mindfully has been helping greatly to achieve this. And hopefully I can look back a year from now and say I’ve settled in a great meditation routine that will have made my life even better.
What about you? Do you practice mindfulness meditation? Would you like to?