7 Ways to Nurture Yourself When Times Are Tough

As a teen therapist, I often work with my clients on practicing coping skills --ways to manage overwhelming emotions without making the situation worse.  But, the thing is… coping skills aren’t designed to make you feel good as much as they are intended to be a planned and temporary break from distress.  There’s an additional step involved to take the journey from coping to happy.  And it’s often the missing ingredient in many people’s lives.

Mindfulness:  The Missing Ingredient

Mindfulness is the key to slowing down, finding peace and truly living with joy in everyday life.  It opens the door to acceptance by helping us feel connected to ourselves, each other and the world.  

Mindfulness can be really helpful to lessen pain and emotional suffering because it helps to decrease the amount of time you spend with your emotions overwhelming you.  Mindfulness has been proven to reduce tension and stress, and even improve your health!

7 Ways to Nurture Yourself with Mindfulness…

Pay attention to the little things

Stop throughout your day and notice the small details of the world around you.  Set an alarm on your phone that goes off at a certain time of day to remind you to take a moment to pause.  Practice gratitude for small wins and seemingly insignificant events.  Small wins accumulate into big successes, so remember to soak in the good in each moment.

Focus on your senses.  

Use your five senses to notice what’s happening in your life.  If you typically walk through a building “on autopilot,” become a sensory detective instead.  Notice the smell of coffee wafting through the air.  Bring your awareness to the sounds of stifled laughter and quiet conversations.  Feel the cool breeze of a gentle wind caressing your skin.  The world can be a beautiful place when you use your senses to allow the mundane to become the amazing.

Return to your breath.

When all else fails, refocus your attention to your breathing.  Place a hand on your belly to notice the way your body rises and falls with your inhales and exhales.  Feel the refreshing rush of cool air enter your nostrils and the tickle of warm breath that you exhale.  Use counting as a way to measure inhales and exhales, or repeat a comforting mantra to yourself on each breath.

Protect the quiet moments.

In a chaotic world where busy is often glorified as a measure of success, remember to protect your downtime which is essential to self-care.  Give yourself permission to do nothing for an hour, or schedule in a nurturing activity like a bubble bath, massage or walk through a quiet bookstore.

Find beauty in the arts.

Listen to your favorite song and notice how each part works together to create an auditory experience.  Look at photographs or visit an art museum and notice how your body responds to colors, shapes and lines in different ways.  Allow art to be a whole body experience that involves all of your senses.

Find delight in the details.

Commit to observing your surroundings and looking for five to ten details you may not have otherwise noticed.  Spend a minute observing something you use everyday (like your cell phone) and look for intricacies that you have yet to discover.

Hold your feelings with compassion.

Recognize when stress, sadness and anxiety come up for you in your thoughts, body sensations and actions and practice holding them like you would a baby animal (with a gentle and loving protection.)  Validate that it’s ok to feel your feelings when times are tough and offer yourself the same compassion that you would a child or good friend if they were going through the same experience.

If you’ve fallen on tough times, or are feeling the stress of world changes, mindfulness can certainly help you reframe difficult thoughts and refocus on what IS working so that you find more balance in your life.