As we have begun to embark on the fall semester, many of us probably find ourselves working to establish our routines. Between classes, extracurriculars, and studying, it is easy to become overwhelmed quickly with balancing everything, especially after an enjoyed few months of summer vacation.
Have you ever heard the saying “don’t let the future steal your present?” We can learn a lot from this simple statement. Although we might find ourselves worrying about having to study for next week's midterm or thinking of our future as we plan our medical school applications, this statement serves as a reminder for us to remain present always.
Taking time to understand this mantra, not just from a quick glance, but from a deeper, reflective perspective can allow us to mindset shift into benefiting from the lessons of mindfulness and practices that we can implement into our daily routines. It is important to recognize that although the daily tasks and to do lists will never end, we can always find time and make time to reconnect with friends after the summer, or simply make time for ourselves.
Whether it be catching up over a cup of coffee, or spending time outside, prioritizing taking breaks and formulating a work life balance will set you up for long term success.
Below is one of my favorite quotes that I constantly find myself circling back to when I have a daunting list of tasks to complete in front of me, or if I am in a conflicting position of spending time with friends or having the guilt of not studying instead.
"Presence involves a simple yet incredible shift—from the ordinary state of mind wandering to bringing our attention to the experience of what is happening right now. You can make this shift anytime, anywhere."
This statement is so impowering, as it allowed me to shift my own mindset into learning how to balance the time I set aside for work, and further allowing myself time to take a break. In doing this, we can remove the guilt we might associate with not working on productive, goal-orienting tasks that enhance our career goals or academic endeavors for every waking hour of the day. Time blocking out the day and including moments to take a step back, reflect, and enjoy the smaller moments in life encourages us to not go about every day in autopilot.
Below, you can find some helpful tips on how to transform your daily practice, inspired by the work of Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp, PhD, and their book, "Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing"
Do it every day: Practice presence every day and, if you forget to do it in the shower, practice presence during some other everyday life moment, such as walking up the stairs or starting your car.
How to remember to do it: The most difficult thing about building this habit is remembering. To help you remember, we have developed a low-tech but extremely effective method. Put a sticker at eye level on your shower door. If you don’t want to use a sticker (or don’t have a shower door), you could use a piece of masking tape with “Presence” written on it. After a month or so, once the habit is ingrained, you may find that you no longer need it.
How you know it’s working: After a couple of weeks or a month, you will likely start to notice that you no longer need to consciously remember to experience presence. It just starts to happen as you enter the shower. This is the magic moment of habit formation. It means that your brain has wired a new set of connections around this everyday activity.
If you want more: If you have mastered the habit in the shower, try adding an advanced cue: stairs. Every time you walk up or down a flight of stairs, see if you can be present. This is a perfect time to feel the sensations in your feet or to bring your attention to the sights and sounds that occur as you step. This additional cue will take you even deeper into the experience of presence.