Mindfulness Breaks for Wild Schedules

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Is your life so busy and stressful that you don’t even have time to de-stress? Stress has become a part of daily life. According to the American Psychological Association, in 2010 76% of people said money was a stressor, 49% said job stability, and 55% said relationships. Whether your personal stress is economic, health-related, concerns fear about safety, or about personal relationships, or even just existential—or a combination of all those, finding ways to alleviate that stress is essential.

Along with other good practices like a healthy diet and exercise, meditation and mindfulness techniques can help to alleviate some of your stress. Some evidence shows that following a meditation program can help with depression and anxiety. However, your life may be too hectic to take long walks in nature or spend an hour a day meditating. The good news is that even small mindfulness breaks can offer benefits.

The goal of most mindfulness techniques is to help you stay present in the moment. To refocus only on what is tangible and essential in your environment. You’re trying to halt the frantic demands of your electronic devices, your phone, your calendar, your boss, your kids, and to just take a moment to be in the moment.

A good suggestion for any short mindfulness break is to find somewhere quiet. That isn’t always possible, of course, so at worst, just find a spot you can pause for 30-60 seconds without being physically disturbed. That might mean a corner of your office, or a break room—even the bathroom or hiding out in the laundry room at home can be spots that are not heavily trafficked that offer you a few moments of relative calm.

Try to leave your phone in another room, or at least a few feet away. As long as it isn’t in your pocket, or easily reachable, this should work. Also, silence it. Anyone should be able to go a few minutes without answering their phone—no one expects you to answer for the 3-4 minutes it might take you to use the restroom, for instance, so think of your little mindfulness break as something as essential and worthy of respect as a bathroom break.

Breathing is an important part of most meditation, and is usually folded into mindfulness break techniques as well. It’s best to be able to sit up tall or stand (although lying down can also work) so you can take very deep and full breaths. It’s important to consult with your doctor if deep breathing caused you pain or discomfort.

When practicing breathing, try to think of your lungs as a measuring cup that you’re trying to fill to the brim with oxygen as you breathe. Most people find that holding the breath for a moment or two once they’ve inhaled helps this technique work best. And remember as you exhale to try to do so somewhat slowly, and in a controlled manner.

Finally, while different focus techniques work for different people, a great place to start is focusing on something present in the room, or by closing your eyes and trying to hold one thought or image. Take a deep breath and then exhale as you hold that object alone in your focus and thoughts. Even 3-5 deep focused breaths can help give you the calm feeling you need to then jump back into your busy day.