This is a podcast recording as part of a five-part podcast series done in collaboration with Apex hotels and their WarmerWelcome campaign.
Hello, and welcome back. I’m Celynn Morin, well-being expert, and this is the Rejuvenate, Focus and Relax podcast series with Apex Hotels, helping you to get the most out of your body and mind while you’re on the go. Today, we’re going to take a look at the theme of focusing, and how you can use techniques like mindfulness and breathing to help you focus.
Why is this ability to focus so important? Well we know today we’re so stressed and it’s so tough to get everything done, and we live in a very, very distracted world. We live in a time, never before in the history of mankind, where we are so connected to everyone and everything, and we have 24/7 connectivity to the internet. Which makes it really difficult to switch off, to disconnect, and to relax. Actually, in a connected world we are losing connection with ourselves.
We also live in a time where there seems to be such a fast pace of change, and perhaps it leaves some of us feeling like we’re not good enough, that we’re not wealthy enough, that we’re not healthy enough, that we’re not relevant enough, that we’re not safe enough, and so we keep trying to do more and more and more. What tends to happen, certainly as I’ve noticed, is that exhaustion has become a bit of a status symbol, and some of us attach our sense of self-worth to our productivity. That just keeps us wanting to go on, never stopping, not wanting to miss a post or to miss an email.
Sadly, a lot of the clients I work with, the people I meet, my friends, my colleagues, we wake up in the morning and even before our feet hit the ground we think, “Oh, I didn’t get enough sleep.” Then as we go to bed at night we lie down and put our head on the pillow and think, “I didn’t get enough done today.” There’s a lot of stress.
In short bursts, stress can be great. It can help us to focus, because it releases hormones like adrenaline. But in the long-term if we don’t manage stress, if we don’t allow ourselves time out and the ability to disconnect, chronic stress can become a real issue, because it cause havoc with our health and our bodies. So how can you actually get more done and focus?
The one thing you can do is allow yourself the gift of disconnection, even if it is just for 10 minutes a day. In her latest book, one of her books, The Joy Diet, by Martha Beck, she speaks about creating a life of joy and productivity. One of the keys to getting that right is to actually do nothing, so to sit still, to sit quietly and to just breathe, to perhaps allow your thoughts to just pass through in your mind, to just watch them, to visualize them more as just words or clouds, and to allow yourself not to connect with your phone or your laptop or with somebody else.
What helps perhaps to do this is to engage in a repetitive mindless activity. I know what works for me is to just go for a slow run or a walk, where I can just disconnect from digital media, from people, and do something that’s mindless like just walking or running. What also helps is to find a place where you can sit and watch some nature. If you can watch water that works well, or maybe a fire, or maybe you can actually do some meditation. Meditation and mindfulness are not these woo-woo things, or an activity that you can only do if you go off on a silent retreat to, I don’t know, someplace in India, but actually in the comfort of your home, in your hotel room, even in your office chair, you can be mindful and you can get the benefits of meditation.
What happens when you slow down, when you focus on your breath, as we so often do when we are mindful or do some meditation, is that you engage your nervous system that’s called the parasympathetic nervous system, and basically what that does is put on the brake rather than the accelerator. It helps to reduce that sense of fight, flight or freeze, which is the stress response.
This makes me think of a quote that I really, really find valuable by Viktor Frankl. You might have read or heard it before. The quote says that “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space we can choose our response, and in our response and in that choice lies our freedom and power.” What that means for me is when I have a stimulus, maybe it’s an email, a phone call, maybe it’s a comment by a colleague, before I respond I can choose on how to respond. What helps me is to just take a deep breath. Even one breath strategically timed can help me to react and respond as a better person.
Now imagine that you take 5 or 10 breaths, imagine that you sit still and allow yourself to just relax and take three or four or five minutes of deep breaths. In fact, why don’t we do this right now, as you’re listening to this podcast, is to focus on your breath, to try and breathe really deeply, down into your belly. What happens when we’re stressed, with stress and anxiety we often take shorter, more shallow breaths, and that can actually increase your sense of anxiety or feeling rushed or the sense of chaos that a lot of us feel. Slow down your breath, take a deeper inhale, and then control and slow your exhale as you breathe out, perhaps for the count of five. Take a deep breath in, breathe in over the count of five, four, three, two, one. Then as you exhale, try and lengthen that to the count of eight, so exhale over eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Let’s do another one, deep breath in for five. Breathe deep down into your belly, inhale deeply, and then control your exhale over eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.
Now what I do when I try and focus, if I’m feeling quite distracted and anxious or stressed, is I’ll sit back from my laptop, close my eyes and do maybe five rounds or five minutes of deep breathing and just focus on my breath. You might have heard of the term ‘monkey mind.’ Our mind likes to jump around, and one way to control the monkey is not by giving it a banana, but by giving it something to focus on. Focusing on your breath as you breathe in and breathe out is a very powerful way in order to calm the chaos that we sometimes feel in our minds. After just a few deep breaths, even one deep breath, it can help you to refocus, to manage how you respond, and to potentially more done in less time.
If you enjoyed this podcast and found this information useful, let us know. Please rate and review the podcast and feel free to share this with friends, with a colleague, with anybody that you feel could benefit from the information. If you would like to reach me, I’m available on Twitter using my first name @celynn, that is spelled C-E-L-Y-N-N, or on Instagram using @resilientenergy. I look really forward to connecting with you at the next podcast where we’re going to take a look at how we can benefit from getting more and better quality sleep. See you there.