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Mindfulness tips for expats

Try these tips for incorporating mindful moments into your daily routine, wherever you are

The ability to “be connected” through technology 24/7 can actually make you feel LESS connected. To your inner self. To nature. To the people and activities happening around you as you move about your busy day.

And if you’re an expat, that sense of disconnection to what’s meaningful can be compounded by feelings of isolation and missing the familiar. Family and friends back home. Comfort foods. Favourite activities not available where you are now.

Add to that the difficulty of navigating foreign places and handling daily workplace stress and you have a real pressure cooker. That’s why it can be helpful to set aside a little time every day for mindfulness. Practicing regular mindfulness during calm times can help you cope better during challenging ones.

Try these tips for incorporating mindful moments no matter where you are:

Clear your head. Whether you walk, drive or ride to work, enjoy the journey without music or talk radio to distract you. Notice your thoughts and your surroundings instead.

Really LISTEN. Try to be completely present in the conversations you’re having. Quiet your mind and just listen to what your friend, family member or colleague is saying to you. You’ll be surprised at how much you hear and how much more connected you feel to the person in front of you.

Break it up. In between work tasks, pause. Notice what it feels like to sit. Practice being aware of sensations in your body. Use these sensations as cues to stand up or take a stretch break.

Savour the flavour. Sit down and truly relax when you eat your lunch — even if it’s just for five minutes. Turn away from your computer. Take a breath. Notice the colours, textures and scents of your food.

Take 10. For just 10 minutes, find a spot to be by yourself. Put your phone away. Turn off music and television. Give yourself time to be with your own thoughts.

Just be. Social media, selfies and video clips have their place. But sometimes you need to enjoy life’s simple pleasures — hearing your child’s laughter, seeing a golden sunset, petting a friendly dog — without feeling compelled to document them. Relish the moment and then file it away in your memories.

Tune in. Checking in with your body helps you take better care of yourself — and it doesn’t take long at all. Start with your feet. Notice how your toes feel in your shoes. Slowly move your awareness up through your body, checking in with each part. Your legs. Your arms. Your torso. Contract and relax your muscles along the way. Become aware of your posture. Gently roll your neck to all sides, and lift your head up high.

Slow down. With endless to-do lists and deadlines, you can find yourself in a constant state of rushing as you try to keep up. See if you can notice when this happens. Stop. Feel your feet in contact with the ground. Follow with a few breaths in and out.

Think gratitude. So often we focus on what’s wrong with life instead of what’s right. Grateful people have 10 percent fewer stress-related illnesses and 12 percent lower blood pressure. So take a moment each day to recognise what you’re grateful for. Pause, breathe in and out, and focus on the feeling of gratitude.

Be playful. Play isn’t just for kids. People of all ages benefit from playful moments large and small. Toss a ball, play a board game, get silly. Even if it’s just for a short time, be sure to be fully engaged in that activity without being distracted.

Remind yourself. To remember these ideas and put them into practice each day, place a few small sticky notes around your work spaces and your home. They can be as simple as ‘Pause’. ‘Breathe’. ‘Be present’.

Our CARE team can connect you to mindfulness and other wellness resources — online and offline — that make living abroad easier. Contact Aetna International in your region.

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