Stop living your life on autopilot!

Have you ever drunk a cup of coffee or eaten a chocolate bar and don’t remember how it tasted? Or had to turn back unnecessarily on a journey because you didn’t remember locking the front door? Or tuned-out while your loved-one was talking?

These are signs you are living your life on autopilot. It’s really sad if you are so stressed, distracted and unaware that you miss out on much of your life.

To check if you’re living your life on autopilot, ask yourself if any of the following applies to you:

  • Have difficulty switching off from work when at home, and vice versa?
  • Feel you have so many difficulties you can’t overcome them?
  • Find it hard to stop thinking about upsetting things?
  • Overreact?
  • Have too many negative thoughts?
  • Feel you are unable to control important things in your life?

If you have answered “yes” to two or more of the above, you may be experiencing so much stress that you are living your life on autopilot. But take heart; help is on the way!

When I, or the people I coach, find ourselves living our lives on autopilot, we use a consciousness exercise which helps us to be more mindful in the moment. It’s simple, fairly quick and really works in relieving stress:

Consciousness Exercise
Part 1: Breathe

Sit quietly in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. As you breathe in, notice the air tickling your nose and gently swelling your chest. Pause. Breathe out through your mouth, noticing how your chest collapses back on itself as the air leaves. Feel the rate of your breathing slowing down. Do this for three or four minutes.

If anxious thoughts intrude [and they probably will!], simply notice them, and then gently put them aside. They are simply reminders from your mind of pressing issues. Acknowledge the thought and mentally say to it “Thank you for the reminder. I will deal with you later”. It’s important not to be impatient with the intrusive thoughts, otherwise you will reduce the anxiety-reducing benefits of this step.

Part 2: Feel

Continue to breathe deeply, and feel what is happening throughout your body. As you breathe deeply, you will experience your body relaxing. Groups of tight muscles, often in neck, shoulders and stomach areas, will relax and you may even feel your body slumping. That’s all good.

Become aware of your body, and any remaining discomfit in it. If there is discomfit and residual stiffness, where is it? What does it feel like?

If you can, move and slowly stretch to reduce the discomfort. Gentle massage also helps.

Part 3: Connect

Expand your awareness using your senses to connect with your environment: what do you smell, what are you hearing, and what are you tasting? I find it’s best for me to still keep my eyes closed to reduce distractions.

Then connect with the really important people in your life. Picture these people in your mind and think of why you are grateful to them and the joy they bring into your life.

Nothing however can take the place of face- to-face connection. Thus no matter how busy and distracted you are, take time out to be with the really important people in your life – to be really present and “in-the-moment” moment with them. Really, really listen to them.

Finally, and particularly when time is limited, remember a hug always works wonders. Try the “three breath hug”, hugging for three synchronised in-and-out breaths. It’s a really good way to leave and meet up with your loving partner, little kids enjoy it and even teenagers will secretly do it. The best thing to me about hug is that I never get tired of them!

The Consciousness Exercise helps me to be present and “in-the-moment”, paying attention to what I value or desire, rather than being drawn to what I fear or regret. If you want to stop living your life on autopilot, what do you do?


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