Mindfulness Exercises to Alleviate Stress
These mindfulness exercises are designed to be quick, fitting into your schedule no matter how limited it may be, and they cost nothing.
Let’s face it: the current COVID-19 health crisis facing our nation just adds another layer of stress to what for many adults is already pretty stressful. Job security, aging and sick family members, economic hardship, these are all weights that push down on our shoulders, and sometimes we need some support to manage daily life.
We all know that stress management is a crucial tool in the prevention of serious illness, such as cardiovascular disease and mental health, but we often fail to appropriately manage stress.
Luckily, the key to managing stress doesn’t have to be found in a pricey Hawaiian vacation or an expensive day spa (as nice as that sounds). Mindfulness is a powerful stress management tool, and its exercises can be completed anywhere, rather quickly, as often as you want or need them. Best of all, it’s free.
Mindfulness is defined as “remembering to be present in the moment, learning to relate to our thoughts and our feelings in a way that goes against the grain of our conditioning. It is a way of unbecoming what we are not. Mindfulness is the awareness and approach to life that arises from paying attention on purpose, fully present, with curiosity and compassion.
“Mindfulness helps to change the way you think and feel about your experiences, especially stressful experiences. It involves paying attention to your thoughts and feelings in order to become more aware of them, less enmeshed in them, and better able to manage them.”
While that definition sounds great in theory, it may seem a little daunting in practice. We are here to help.
First, find a quiet, comfortable spot. Now, let’s try a few of these exercises when you are feeling particularly stressed.
Anchoring/Body Scan Meditation
Anchoring is a technique where you direct your attention to each body part in turn, focusing on how that part feels, and relaxing. The Mayo Clinic suggests doing a Body Scan Meditation, which is a similar exercise in which you concentrate on each part of the body in turn, recognizing how each body part feels, and relaxing each part.
Breathing exercises are one of the most essential parts of mindfulness. Breath Counting is a practice in which you inhale for a count of six, and exhale for a count of ten. Do this repeatedly as you count silently to yourself.
You can also try Finger Breathing, where you gently trace your fingers as you inhale and exhale. There is another technique called Big Hug, 3 Big Breaths, where you give someone a big hug and, while holding them, breathe deeply three times. They state that this exercise will not only calm you, but your calm will be felt by the person you are hugging as well. Nice!
Thought Awareness Exercises
Becoming aware of your thoughts and your intentions can also help you calm yourself and support better mental health. Take a few minutes and ask yourself what you are grateful for and what thoughts you wish to let go of. Alternatively, if that feels too daunting, how about just observing thoughts and letting them be, with no reaction to them.
You can also try something called a Loving-Kindness Meditation, where repeating a mantra such as “May I be happy, may I be well, may I be filled with kindness and peace” can help bring about peace of mind. Try this, even for just a minute, and see if it works for you.
These mindfulness exercises are designed to be quick, fitting into your schedule no matter how limited it may be, and they cost nothing. Try to implement these practices into your daily self-care to help you manage stress effectively. This will leave you to meet your daily challenges with a clear head, and you will improve your overall health and well-being, which is a great thing for you and those around you.