Importance of Being Present: Physically, Emotionally and Mentally

In this chaotic world where our minds are constantly multi-tasking, how often do we really mentally live in the present? We are surrounded by cellphones, hectic schedules, media, meetings and so much more, it is so easy for our minds to slip in and out of the present. For instance, how many times during a work meeting or a class do you find your mind wandering? I know a boring situation, but what if you had been fully mentally present? Would you of had a new idea, a different perspective, a better understanding of an ongoing project?

What does being present mean? It is more than just being physically there it is also being connected emotionally and mentally to your surroundings. Knowing what is going on around you and what you are doing right now.

A lot of performers are calling for cellphones to be banned from their shows. They want to encourage people to interact and live in the moment, create a concert experience the way it was twenty years ago before technology. They put a lot of effort planning and rehearsing tours, only to be greeted with a sea of cellphones recording their shows. It has become such an issue that they have had to create cellphone lock cases for concerts.  

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A company called Yondr has created lock cases for phones during concerts. They can only be unlocked upon exiting a venue.

 Can you think of the last time you were completely present? Completely emerged in the situation around you. Can you recall small details of that event? How it made you feel? Who did you meet? Why were you there? What did you learn?


Why should you make an effort to be present?

When you are mentally engaged in a situation you remember details, learn more, and feel more of a connection to what is happening around you. Being present gives you:

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Appreciation: How often do you walk by flowers and not smell them? When you are living in the moment, you notice the smaller things in life, things that make you happy, sad or full of emotions. Being present allows you to observe the world around you with a fresh view on life, like a child discovering things for the first time, you find yourself rediscovering many things.

When you appreciate the world around you, you often stop over-analyzing and labelling thing/people things that don’t matter. You put less effort into judging others and being upset over stuff that doesn’t matter.

OT1C850Boost Creativity: Be inspired by the details, you often overlook, this will spark imagination and ignite your creativity. When you are on your way to work, you can drive the same route every day, but notice something new each time. That new store or mural you saw may provoke the thought you needed to finish a project or start a new one.

Social skills: We are unintentionally hiding behind social media, most of the time planning, typing and re-typing what we want to say. When you’re present there are no rehearsals this is you, and this is happening now. Confidence and conversation start to flow more naturally and being shy starts to become a thing of the past. You start to notice things you have in common with people, making conversation and connecting easier.

Reduces Stress: Knowing what is going on around you can reduce stress. When you mentally present in a lecture you remember more and can better prepare yourself for an exam. Also, if you are thinking in the moment you are not focusing on events in the future or past that could be making you nervous, like job interviews or exams.

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Emotional Connections: When you go through an experience with someone it creates a bond. You may not be friends, it could be a stranger, but you have lived through an experience that only you and those people could share.

A great example of creating emotional connections is by going to a concert, how did you feel when they played your favourite song? Did you cry, laugh, sing along? Who was there with you? Did you meet someone new?

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Mental Health: Feeling connected to others creates a sense of belonging, community and confidence. When you are thinking about the present, you don’t dwell on past mistakes or embracing encounters your mind is free and in the now. Being mentally present can do wonders for your mental health, you put less pressure on yourself, judge yourself and others less. It helps you discover who you are as a person and can give you new confidence in your abilities.


Small Changes to Help be More Present

 

Ditch the phone: As amazing as technology is when it comes to socializing and being present it can make it harder for us to leave our shells. Awkward situations may have you reaching for your phone resist the urge and make the best out of the moment. People survived awkward encounters before cell phones you can too!

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In an experiment called “The iPhone Effect” 200 hundred people were asked to have conversations, meaningful or casual with and without a phone present. Any time a phone was visible the quality of the conversation was rated as less fulfilling than when the phone was removed from the scenario.

Why was this? Did the phone possibly act as a distraction even though it was not being used? Likely, the person was probably thinking about checking their phone and not giving their full attention to the conversation.

When you are trying to be fully aware of your surroundings and mentally present, place you somewhere out of site. It may seem weird at first, but you will feel more relaxed and at the moment once you are used to it.

Talk to people: Talk to the people around you and listen! Everyone can learn something from anyone. It can be pretty easy to spot someone else that is “present” talk to them. This could lead to interesting conversations, friendship or even a job the possibilities are endless. 

Breathing is key: Are you feeling nervous about your surroundings? Start to keep track of your breathing. Try to have strong deep breaths think about where you are right now and how you are feeling? Notice your body, where are your hands placed, are you hot or cold?

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Sometimes we become lost in our minds because we are in an uncomfortable situation. Like a large crowd or a workplace meeting, and our minds are trying to calm us down by not thinking about anything but the present. Think of these situations as challenges. We don’t personally evolve unless we are put into situations we aren’t familiar with. Breathing will ground you, release stress and give you the little boost you need to get through and grow in the moment.

Yoga is a great practice to help you become more present and intuned with your body and your environment. Also, yoga can be done anywhere, Gaiam is a great website for beginners who want to start yoga at home. 

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Helping Children Cope with Stress

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s physical, emotional and chemical reaction to a situation that requires changing or adapting.  Stress is a normal part of life and is necessary for survival. A certain amount of stress is healthy as it helps motivate us to adapt and improve, but too much stress can be toxic to our mental health and bodies.

Over the past few decades, childhood stress in Canada has increased by over 45%. How can that be? It may be easy to overlook what a child could be stressed about. They do not have bills to pay, mouths to feed or a job to stress over. What could be the problem? Well, there are many sources of stress in a child’s life. They can come from external or internal sources.

External sources of stress are factors that come from social interactions. It could be family issues, bullies, homework, social media, and even over-packed schedules.

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Internal stressors come from within, the pressure to achieve personal goals, and setting unrealistic expectations.

Is my child stressed?

It can be hard to identify if your child is stressed out. Many signs of being stressed can be interpreted as an illness or phase they are going through. To figure out if your child is stressed you need to be aware, talk and listen to your child.

Watch for changes in behaviour. Mood swings, clinginess or a short temper. Stress can make you very irritable and sometimes this is how they express themselves.

Stomach aches and headaches. When someone is stressed it can turn into being physically stressed. Stomach aches and headaches are common signs as well as rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating, chest pain and fatigue.

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 Develop nervous habits. Pulling hair, biting their thumbs, picking their noses, issues eating, and bedwetting are all common nervous habits children develop when stressed.

Sleeping problems. Even adults experience this when you try to sleep but your mind runs away.

There are three types of stress responses in children

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Positive stress response: is a normal and essential part of healthy development, characterized by brief increases in heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels. Some situations that might trigger a positive stress response are the first day with a new caregiver or receiving an injected immunization.

Tolerable stress response: activates the body’s alert systems to a greater degree as a result of more severe, longer-lasting difficulties, such as the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a frightening injury. If the activation is time-limited and buffered by relationships with adults who help the child adapt, the brain and other organs recover from what might otherwise be damaging effects.

Toxic stress response: can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years. ( Center of the Developing Child Harvard University)

Six ways to help your child with stress

Learning to cope with stress is a skill everyone should adopt, it applies to everyone from all walks of life. Teaching children ways to cope with stress is a skill they will use their whole life. Here are six ways to help your child learn to cope and respond to stress.

Talk to your child

Let your child know stress is normal, it is a part of life and that all things will pass. What they are stressed about now may not be a big deal in the future. Ask them how things are going and try to have an open conversation about how they are feeling.

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Cut back on the schedule

Leave room in your schedule to relax and do nothing. There is no need to have after school activities every day.  Having free time to be bored allows your child to use their imagination, learn about themselves and most importantly relax and be a child.

Make sleep a priority 

Getting a good nights sleep has many benefits such as minimizing stress, boosting mood to improving school performance. The body needs a good nights rest to repair itself. Sleep promotes healthy brain function, emotional well being and physical health.

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Go for a walk. 

Fresh air and exercise help to clear your head, induce creativity and helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Walking yields so many more benefits too! Such as lowering your risk of cancers, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Limit screen time

Due to the large role social media plays in our lives, children now are facings new stressors and issues. There has never before been a time where our lives are so publicly online, many children reaching school age now have many of their baby photographs online, how embarrassing. They are going through a time of change, growing up trying to find themselves all while being on a public stage. That can be very stressful!

Plan ahead

A good way to avoid stress is by planning ahead, setting SMART goals and achieving them.

Specific – What do you want to achieve?

Measurable- Can you track your progress?

Attainable- Is it realistic?

Relevant- Is it important to you?

Time- When do you want this to be completed?

Setting goals and accomplishing them gives a child a sense of pride and boost there self-esteem. Children and adults often feel stressed out and discouraged by unattainable goals they’ve set for themselves. Setting SMART goals can help you set realistic, measurable goals to achieve. Learn more about SMART goals.

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Stress reducing activities for the whole family 

Game night

Painting & Colouring

Puzzling

Music (Listen to/ Make)

Cooking/ Baking

Walks/ Geocaching

Yoga Meditation

Video Game nights

Camping or Cottage

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If you feel you or someone you know needs help do not hesitate to reach out to someone. Everyone goes through some sort of stress in their lives, sometimes just talking to someone will help clear your mind.

Here is a great list of international help phone numbers

Together We Are Strong Helpline