Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor
There are presents to wrap. Holiday cards to mail. And for the life of you, you can’t remember why you thought it’d be a good idea back in September to commit to baking 500 cookies for your child’s fifth grade class to sell at their holiday bake sale. But wait. You check the calendar for next week. Nestled between the cookies and your holiday block party is a dentist appointment. An appointment you’ve been waiting to have for months. An appointment that’s clear across town and right in the middle of your daughter’s winter dance recital. Your heart begins to race as you curse anyone and everyone unlucky enough to be in eyesight. You ask yourself(ignoring the voicemail that you’ve been too busy to check for the last two weeks) what’s wrong with this dentist, don’t they give courtesy calls like every other dentist in town? You snap at your husband when he calls to see if he needs to pick up dinner on the way home from work. Hurt, he hangs up, worried he’s done something wrong.
You haven’t realized it yet, but your heart rate and blood pressure are up as your body has launched into fight-or-flight mode. You’re more likely to grab an unhealthy sugary drink or snack in a drive-thru to calm yourself. And it’s likely that your body will be unable to calm itself in time for you to get a good night’s sleep, even though you desperately need it if you’re going to be able to deliver that sales pitch to that potential client tomorrow morning.
Now let’s rewind. Instead of reacting, take a moment to be mindful of your situation and your body’s response to it. It doesn’t have to be long. Take a breath. Count to ten. Now exhale and, rather than immediately jumping to despair, think rationally. Sure, your appointment has been booked for months, but it’s still a week away. Rather than assuming no other slots will be available, call the office. Explain calmly what has happened. I’m willing to bet the person on the other end is willing to help and, given the time of year, there are probably a few cancellations. When your husband calls, thank him for being so considerate and let him pick up dinner. The casserole you’d been planning can wait. Instead of cooking, take that jog or hot bath you’ve been wanting to get in for weeks.
In the second scenario, you encountered the same challenge. But the outcome is very different, all because of your reaction. By practicing mindfulness, the art of focusing on one thing in the moment, you’re able to step back from the situation causing stress and find a healthy solution. What situations have you encountered lately where you could have practiced mindfulness?