Fitmark Ambassador Victoria Adelus gives advice on how to mindfulness can help alleviate the stresses of life
As I reflect upon the challenges I’ve faced, I think about what has consistently enabled me to break through barriers. My life is an ongoing balancing act, and I can honestly say mindfulness remains a constant force that leads me through even the toughest days. As a professional athlete, it’s critical for me to have a high level of awareness. I consciously make an effort to be mindful of what I consume, the rhythm of my daily routine, and even the feeling of specific muscle fibers contracting as I lift. Mindfulness helps me find balance and maintain a healthy perspective. Without it, my competitive career, work life, and personal relationships would probably spin into a black hole of chaos. Sounds dramatic, but I truly believe mindfulness can go a long way when it comes to stress management and overall well-being.
So, what is mindfulness, and how do you practice it? Mindfulness stems from Buddhist tradition, but you don’t have to follow any one religion to participate in its benefits. In fact, Western psychologists have embraced the term, as it seems it may alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. It has even shown to aid in the prevention of drug addiction relapse. Mindfulness can be applied to almost anything in life. If you’ve never practiced it before, here are a couple of ways you can incorporate it into your healthy lifestyle.
No matter what your fitness goals are, mindful exercise is important if you want to experience an effective workout. Many people try to tune-out during training because it can feel uncomfortable. They distract themselves, when those are the moments when they should be trying to tune-in. Instead, notice your heart rate, and how it feels as your heart pumps blood throughout your body. Watch your chest rise and fall. If you are lifting weights, focus on feeling every muscle contraction and release. If you are having trouble connecting your mind to your body, slow down. You’ve heard people say, “feel the burn”; well, I want you to do just that. Acknowledging that uncomfortable burn (not injury pain) and safely pushing past it instead of stopping when it starts will help your body change. You will also want to be conscious of your joints and any muscle pain. Do your knees pop or shoulders crackle? Be mindful of these things during exercise and you will get more out of your workouts while preventing serious injury.
If you’ve got a demanding job, it’s easy to work up until the very moment you’ve got to go to sleep. I admit, I’m guilty of this too. You then hop into bed, and your mind won’t stop ticking. You try to drink tea, maybe take a bath or whatever it may be, but still can’t seem to fall asleep. This is where mindful rest can be very helpful. You don’t have to practice this before bed; you can do it at any time during the day for stress relief. First, lie on your bed or even on the ground and close your eyes. Allow yourself to feel the surface underneath you, and let your body sink into its supportive embrace. If you’ve got a lot on your mind, visualize all of that stress leaving your body through your limbs and out of your fingertips and toes. Listen to your breath. Pay close attention to your inhale and exhale, and allow your weight to sink deeper into the floor. Continue these steps for at least 15 to 20 minutes or until you fall asleep.
Remember, mindfulness needs to be practiced regularly to experience its true benefits. It will require you to make some extra time for yourself, and at first you might find it challenging to not allow your mind to drift off. Simply re-focus on engaging in the present, and you might be surprised by how much better you will feel mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Fitmark Ambassador 2013