My program, Stress Less, Live Better, was developed with women in mind, who often seek my counsel when they’re going through life changes: mind, body, and spirit. About half the women I teach come to see me for factors related to childbearing: having a baby, experiencing a pregnancy loss, having fertility issues, experiencing a complicated pregnancy, or having a traumatic birth experience. The other half of them usually show up around peri- menopause or menopause when life changes and hormonal influences collide again, becoming too much to handle on their own. I also teach mindfulness-based skills to reduce stress for individuals with anxiety, OCD and depression, and couples who want to learn to communicate better and improve their relationship.
To accommodate my students’ needs for a way to practice these skills that was not time-consuming and could be incorporated more easily into their daily lives, I came up with dividing the skills I’d learned from many teachers into five skillsets. In Simply Breathe, you learn to notice your experience as it’s occurring by focusing on your breath. Soothe Your Body is about paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment through body awareness. Savor the Moment involves sensing the experience we’re having with all five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. In Settle Your Thoughts, the intention is not clinging to thoughts or emotions but letting them come and go. Finally, Self-Compassion Always is about accepting yourself with self-compassion rather than self-criticism, which is perhaps the most challenging skill to practice. Each skillset is presented in a separate chapter with exercises in the book and online for you to practice.
If we are serious about reducing stress, we must practice these skills consistently like we do when we’re learning to play an instrument or ride a bike. If we want these skills to become more automatic and accessible, we must make them part of our weekly routine. We must be persistent despite discouraging outcomes and be accepting of gradual but steady progress. It may sound cliché́, but mindfulness is a journey, not a destination.