Did you see my post on Facebook about how I inadvertently grabbed my foam roller instead of my yoga mat as I was heading out the door to yoga class? Oops! Lucky for me – I realized it before I got too far. As I ran back upstairs to grab my yoga mat my first thought was, “hey lady – that’s not like you – that’s probably a sign you need to slow down.” And my second thought was – “Hmm … maybe I can write a blog post about this.”
If you’re not a forgetful person and suddenly find yourself forgetting things or making little mistakes like grabbing the wrong shoes for your workout or almost putting cumin in your coffee instead of cinnamon – it’s usually a sign you need to pause and regroup. Not only is this an important life skill, but it’s also crucial for optimal performance because when you’re distracted:
1. You are not bringing hundred 100% of yourself to your performance.
2. You are more likely to get injured.
When you’ve been operating for a long period of time in this “fast-forward mode” – it can be hard to break out of it. You become used to operating at a heightened state of stress. It’s attractive and addicting. You find yourself engaging in conversations and trying to one up each other about how crazy your life is and how busy things have been. “Hey look at me! I’m important! I have lots of stuff going on!” I have fallen prey to it too. And we need to switch our thinking from feeling like we’ve fallen prey – to admitting that we’ve been active participants in it. We sometimes mistake this fast-forward living for a feeling of self-worth and importance, but really it’s just getting in the way of our ability to utilize the true energy, passion, and power we have.
When you recognize that you are moving too fast and things are starting to slip through the cracks – ask yourself these questions:
- What is causing me to be distracted right now?
- Am I really busy or am I acting busy?
- Is my busy-ness allowing me to avoid something I need to address?
- Is the way I’m behaving reflective of the person I really want to be?
Don’t just read these questions here and nod your head. You need to ask and answer them in a moment when you’ve recognized you’re moving too fast. Write them down on a sticky note and put them on your desk, type them in your notes on your phone, memorize them; do whatever you need to do to have them accessible.
However, sometimes you are in fact busy or needing to perform under pressure and need to keep yourself grounded and alert while things are moving quickly around you. You need to cultivate the skill of slowing your mind down even when things around you are moving fast. In addition to reflecting on these important questions, here are three specific mental skills you can use to train your brain to slow your mind down and bring yourself back to the present moment:
Take it slow
When you do have a lot going on and you are feeling rushed you have a tendency to move quickly through your physical space. One of the things that you can do to help slow your mind down is to literally slow your pace down. Consciously walk at a slower pace, breathe at a slower pace – literally slow yourself down.
5-minute daily mindfulness meditation
For this mindfulness meditation simply set a timer (I recommend using the timer on the Insight Timer app) for five minutes and practice observing the thoughts that come into your mind and then letting them go. When you notice a thought pop into your head you can practice letting it go by bringing your focus back to the sound of your breath. Or you can light a candle before you begin meditating and let go of the thought as you focus on the flickering flame. The idea is to practice allowing thoughts to come and go so that you can be an observer of them versus being attached to them.
Take a sharp breath in and then slowly exhale as you count from 1 to 5. Then look around and notice five things you see in your environment. Pause on each one and take in a full breath (inhale and exhale) as you take in what you are seeing and label it (e.g. I see a small black and white polka dot gift bag, I see the leaves of the tree blowing in the wind outside of my window, I see the letter Q on my keyboard, etc.) Then shift your focus and label five things you are physically in contact with. Allow yourself to pause again and breathe with each one (e.g. I can feel my elbow in contact with my desk, I can feel the contact of my headphone on my left ear, I can feel the place where my left leg is in contact with the edge of my chair, etc.).
Even though it’s pretty obvious that (almost) no one wants to get injured, you don’t usually think about proactive injury prevention from a mental standpoint. And although it sucks to walk away from a performance knowing you could have done better, you don’t often think about being proactive and setting yourself up for success by making sure 100% of you is there in the first place. If you’ve been feeling frazzled, rushed, and overwhelmed and it’s starting to have the consequence of distraction – it’s time to get centered and get grounded again.