Many of us struggle with stress and overwhelm from our extra busy, fully packed professional and personal lives. It is also often difficult for people who need it the most, to find the time and energy to do time-consuming self-help exercises. The following exercise is a concise and relatively easy way to include bite sized self-care and mindfulness amidst your daily hustle bustle. These are all simple activities, but when done consistently and consciously, can provide a welcome breath of relief and inner calm in navigating through a chaotic outer world.
The exercise is to include MINDFUL PAUSES in your day – not just at the beginning or end of your day, but at regular intervals through the day. You are free to determine the frequency of these pauses based on your schedule, but ensure that you put them in your calendar, set a reminder and as much as possible plan your tasks around it. Ideally, take a break for 10-20 minutes every 2 hours. The concentration span of the human brain is limited so if 2 hours seem too short, think again as by then your brain would already be fatigued and aching for a break.
During the mindful pause:
- Stop – Stop what you are currently doing (physically and mentally), get up and get out of that space – out of your desk, out of the room – allow your mind and body to recognise that you are taking a break. Get some sunlight and fresh air if possible, if not simply go to a different area of your workspace.
- Check in – How am I feeling, what am I thinking, how am I breathing? In that moment, instead of engaging in the thoughts or fighting your feelings, simply observe, accept and let them pass for the moment as you give yourself a time out.
- Stretch – give your body some movement, take a short brisk walk if possible, notice and consciously relax any areas of tension in your body. A quick body scan with stretching and relaxing the main muscle groups will help.
- Hydrate and provide nutrition that your body may need.
- Breathe – bring your focus to your breath, practice long slow deep belly based breathing for a few minutes as you allow your mind and body to get centred.
- Refocus – Choose what you are going to focus on and identify what you seek to accomplish in the next 2 hours and channel all your attention and energy into that specific task. Do a quick plan or visualization of how you will be utilizing the next two hours and begin work from a clear and calm state of being.
- Repeat after 2 hours.
When you have a lot on your plate, it can be difficult to imagine taking out 10 precious minutes from your already crazy, stretched thin schedule. However, in all likelihood you will find yourself lighter, fresher and more productive at the end of this short break, enabling you to engage with the rest of your life with more energy and positivity. Give it a try!
M.A., MSPS, CRT, C.Ht.
Registered Clinical Psychologist