Meditation, colouring in, going for walks… These are all lovely ways to help bring a bit more calm and peace to life. But I often found that the general mindfulness advice of taking time to switch off didn’t really help me when I was feeling tense or experiencing anxiety in real life situations. If I found myself irritated by a co-worker, overwhelmed by a manic day with the kids or feeling hormonally on edge, the idea of sitting down to meditate would have sounded like a the last thing I wanted to do. So, over time, I built a little arsenal of mindfulness practices to help me out when I needed to calm nerves before an important meeting or for when both kids were having simultaneous meltdowns and I just needed to compose myself. These exercises were given to me by a therapist I saw years ago and have stuck with me ever since. They’re easy to remember, can be done absolutely anywhere, at any time and work a wee treat.
Release Tension In Your Face
It’s actually quite amazing how much tension we hold in our faces. For me, personally, every time I do this exercise, I never realise just how tight I’m holding my face until I start to relax it. Start by drawing your attention to your brow and consciously relax the muscles there. Next, your eyes, let go of any tension around them. Allow your tongue to release and settle to the bottom of your mouth. Then loosen your jaw and allow it to slacken. If you feel inclined, you can move this body scanning exercise for releasing tension down into your neck, shoulders and the rest of your body. It’s a great one for instantly bringing calm and a sense of perspective.
Five Senses Scan
Relax in your chair, with your back straight if possible. Start by noticing all of the things you can see directly in front of you. The more detail you notice the better. It might be the cracks in your keyboard, the lid of a pen, the hat on the person in front of you on the train… Anything and everything goes.
Now, focus on all the things you can feel. The pressure of your body in the seat, the feeling of your clothes on your skin. The air temperature, notice if it’s cool or warm. Next, notice all that you hear. We tend to selectively tune out noise in our day to day, but open your ears to all of the subtle and not so subtle sounds around you. Bring your attention to all that you can smell. It could be pleasant or unpleasant, it doesn’t matter. Just notice for a moment. And finally, notice taste. You could take a sip of your coffee, breathe in and taste the fresh air or simply notice the taste already in your mouth. This little routine doesn’t take as long as you might think and it’s an excellent way to bring your attention to the here and now.
4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
This is, without doubt, my most used mindfulness exercise. I have used this breathing technique in almost every facet of my life. I can honestly say that it works to calm both the mind and body when you need a quick reset. Its simplicity is perfect. Being called the 4-7-8 breathing technique, you guessed it… You breathe in to the count of 4, hold for the count of 7 and breath out for the count of 8. If you can’t meet (or remember) these exact numbers, don’t worry. The key here is to breathe out longer than you breathe in. It turns out focusing on inhalation actually activates the body’s fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and what we want to engage in order to calm down is the parasympathetic nervous system. We can do this and instruct the mind/body to relax, by actively exhaling for longer than we inhale.
I really hope that some of you have found this useful. And maybe have given the exercises a go while reading? Let this be the post you can come back to if you just feel you need a bit of calm. And if you know of any other mindfulness exercises, do leave them in the comments below and we can all have a nice, chilled out Thursday ☺️