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Mastering mindfulness in ecology: a 5 step guide

Today, we’re busting myths and experiencing shifts with today’s post: mastering mindfulness in ecology – 5 ways to get grounded and soothe yourself when you’re having a bad day…

Mastering mindfulness in ecology: a 5 step guide | #itsawildlife

Contrary to popular belief, working your dream job can be stressful, it can be challenging and it can be emotionally exhausting at times – and it can still be your dream job. After many years of working in the passion-fueled ecology and wildlife conservation industries, I’ve felt guilt and self-directed anger at low moments – because I know how many people would love to do my job (and would thrive in it!)

But if there’s anything I’ve learnt – it’s that passion-project or non-passion-project, competitive or otherwise – dream job or not – working in ecology is still just that – it’s work. And just like every other job – it’s ok to have a bad day.

Moreso, in an industry dominated by passionate (and compassionate!) people – but also rife with exploitation, unrealistic expectation and high levels of competition for underfunded positions – it’s only natural that some days will be challenging and emotionally draining. As someone who has dealt with these experiences by suppressing them and throwing myself deeper into work – I am here to tell you this doesn’t solve the problem – rather it saves them up (and they compound) for a later date. And when “down the track” finally comes, it’s not great.

We discuss this in depth in the post: Behind the glamour: a call for compassion in ecology,so make sure you check that out.

But today, we’re gonna look at using mindfulness as a coping strategy to turn your bad day around (or at least give yourself a moment to breath and reconsider).

Mindfulness basically means stepping away for a moment to give yourself the time and space to breathe and reassess the situation. Practicing mindfulness allows you to:

1) ground yourself by identifying and acknowledging your feelings (know that however you’re feeling – however crazy it may seem to you or others – is valid!)

2) practice awareness and appreciation of your present momentthis is the mindfulness part which we’ll be focusing on in today’s post!

3) activate some selfcare to sooth yourself and take care of your physical and mental wellbeing – after all, if you don’t, who will? You owe it to yourself and your longevity in this industry – so check out the blog post on this here!

Certainly not the easiest of things to do – but like most aspects of strengthening your physical body and mindset – the more you practice that response, the stronger and easier it will become.

Practicing mindfulness (step number 2 above) can be done in a number of ways of course, but here are 5 simple ways you can try to ground yourself and give yourself the space to regain a feeling of presence and calmness in your life.

1. Tap into your senses

A nice way to do this is using the “5 4 3 2 1 method”: take a moment to notice 5 things around you that you can see, 4 sounds that you can hear, 3 things you can feel touching your skin, 2 things that you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

2. Walk or just be in nature

Take a walk somewhere natural and try to notice what’s around you. Being barefoot or touching things like the bark of trees or the veins of plant leaves with your hands is a great way to heighten this experience.

3. Create something

Doing something creative, especially if it’s something with your hands is a powerful way to activate your sense of touch and ground you in the present moment. It also helps to distract you from whatever challenges have caused your bad day by providing an alternative and positive focus.

Playing music, creating art, writing, cooking, gardening, even doing your makeup or hair. There are no rules – it’s all about finding something that feels good for you

4. Breathe

Set a timer, remove as many distractions as possible (putting your phone on flight mode is a big one!) and take a few moments to focus on your breathing.

Start small with something that feels manageable like 2 or 5 minutes and build up from there.

5. Have a cuddle

There are no words to describe the warmth and comfort that can come from a long hug with someone you trust, or a cuddle with a furry pet. As social animals, the feeling of being held and physically supported is a wonderful way for us to heighten our awareness of the present moment and keep ourselves feeling grounded and put things into perspective when we’re overcoming challenges or simply having a bad day.

Although it’s easy to feel stressed and time poor when you’re having a bad day or things simply don’t feel like they’re going your way – however giving yourself the time and space to practice mindfulness is often the fastest and most effective way to turn things around and tell a different story.

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