Mindfulness- The benefits of a RAFT during stressful times

In the space of a day we can all become overwhelmed or anxious about where we are, where we need to be, or events happening around us that we cannot control. Most people label this as stress. We forget that we may not be able to control others or events, but we can control our reaction to these situations.

There is certainly no single answer that fits every person's unique situation and how they deal with stress.

You may have heard stress described as "waves of emotions" or "trouble waters". Using these analogies, I am encouraged both personally and professionally by the ability that we all have to navigate these waters.

If you are like me, not a very strong strong swimmer, then this analogy will be that much more meaningful. Personally, when I am in or around open water, my first desire is to look for a flotation device-like a raft.

As we near the peak of the wave of stress which we label as anxiety, sadness, schedules, deadlines, personal expectations or shouldering the weight of being a caregiver for others, the feeling of being all alone or looking around for help is REAL.

I encourage you to think about a RAFT the next time you experience these sensations and feel as if you are drowning.

R-RECOGNIZE. I need to recognize what I am experiencing. What is the prominent emotion or state that I feel? Is it frustration? Pain? Fear? Anger? Fatigue? Can I feel how these elements are affecting my heart rate, my muscles, my mind, my breathing, my sleep? Am I tensing up? Is my heart racing? Am I biting my nails?Does my head hurt?

A-ALLOW. I allow myself to be in this moment as it belongs to me. I will say out loud "it is so and I will let this be as it is". What I am feeling is happening. I may not be able to change what is happening but I can change how much I allow it to affect me. I say out loud how I feel. I may say "I really hate feeling like this". I may also say "I am experiencing sadness right now but I do not want to be sad".  I will allow this moment to "just be" so that I can figure out how I will confront it.

F-FACE IT. I get up close and personal, investigating every fine line and angle of this moment. I will allow myself to be curious. Just because I faced a similar situation like this last week or yesterday, there is something unique in this moment, this situation. I close my eyes and notice where the feelings may be trying to hide physically in my body. Maybe in my neck muscles? My shoulders? My eyes? Maybe my lower back?

T-TOLERATE. Tolerance is often seen as an act of "giving up" or "giving in". However, there is great power in tolerating differences in who I am. I am not always happy or alert. I am sometimes tired or distracted. I tolerate all of these emotions and states of being because all of them make me who I am. If I try to tolerate something I am forced to think. And when I think, I grow. I begin to understand and accept myself in this moment. I realize that I amgrowing in awareness. As my mind relaxes so does my body, my muscles. I can now feel the flow of the water around me rather than against me.

Maybe I can even float a bit. 

Again, there are no easy answers to many of the stressors we are faced with day to day.

Through the struggles of stress, there is always the potential to become stronger. I encourage you to use the vantage point from your own raft to navigate the currents of the NOW, being mindful of and receptive to all that this moment has to offer.

Let your RAFT be the beginning of your journey into mindfulness.

 

Dr. Andrea (Dre) Espinoza

Author
Andrea G. Espinoza MD Board Certified Pulmonologist Board Certified LifeStyle Medicine

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