Quieting the mind during times of stress can be challenging. The mind may be chattering. Some call this the “monkey mind.” Others can feel like the mind’s racing and lacks clarity and focus. Some are full of ideas but can’t figure out where or how to get started. Psychologists estimate that about 95% of our thoughts are repeated over and over again. We can get stuck in thinking patterns. Finding a moment of silence, to quiet the mind might be the very thing to unlock creativity, identify ideas and create opportunity.
Our mind, is like a sponge wants to hang on to ideas and thoughts. The mind wants to keep working even if it senses fatigue and exhaustion. There is a strong attraction to keep working to solve the issue versus taking a short break to clear, release and let go for a moment. There is a nagging pull back to the idea, like a powerful vortex sucking us into the middle. Our mind saying; “If we stay focused a little while longer the brilliant solution will appear and our problems will be solved.” And sometimes, that idea, that spark does appear but most of the time, we would do better after a short break. The focus and mega-tasking fatigues and stresses our physical mental and emotional body thus slowing and zapping our performance. We think we are being productive when actually we may be just going through the motions.
It can be difficult to take a break, especially when you are trying to meet a deadline or scheduled with back to back meetings. Try this simple breathing exercise to clear the mind and re-energize the body in three to five minutes.
It can be helpful before you start to write down the two or three topics on your mind and put them aside. They will be there when you are finished with your break.
Find a comfortable place to sit, where you won’t be disturbed for five minutes. Set the timer on your Smartphone App to keep track of the time.
Take a deep breath in through both nostrils and exhale out the mouth with a sigh. As you inhale in through the nostrils, draw your shoulders close to your ears and on the exhale with a “HAH,” drop and relax the shoulders and neck. It may feel good to do this a few times to let go of the tension that can build up in the neck and shoulders from sitting or moving in habitual patterns. Gently switch to breathing in and out through the nostrils. If your sinuses are clogged, it’s ok to breathe through your mouth.
Begin to draw your attention and focus on your breath. Notice the inflow and outflow of your breath. See if you can gently lengthen each inhalation and exhalation without the need to push the air. If it’s comfortable, close your eyes and give the eyes a break. Otherwise, find a point to focus your attention.
Relax the eyes in the eye socket. Relax the cheeks and let go of any tension in the jaw. Invite the tongue to rest in the mouth. Continue the slow steady breathing.
As the breath moves into an even pattern, invite the mind to quiet. See if you can place the thoughts in the background with the main focus on breathing. If your mind just won’t quiet, consider asking yourself, “What’s that all about?” Give yourself a moment to listen to what’s your mind without the need to judge it or work it at this moment. Let it go with a long exhale.
Start to lengthen the inhalation and the exhalation. Notice the transitions at the top of the inhale just before your body switches to exhale and again at the bottom of the exhale before the next inhalation. Fill the body as you inhale and empty on the exhale.
Relax the abdomen as you inhale filling the body with fresh air and empty completely, releasing any tension in the abdomen on the exhale. See if you can notice a relaxing and releasing of any holding you might have.
Invite silence, let go of the need to do anything. This is only two to five minutes. At first it may feel like a long time. As thoughts float in, there is no need to work them, allow them to just be as they are. See if you can soften the thoughts or dissolve them into the background. With each exhalation let go of any attachment to your thoughts, let them be.
Relax the neck, the shoulders and lengthen the spine to invite deeper breathing for better air flow through the body.
At some point the timer will sound. See if you can sit a bit longer as to not disrupt the quiet you have created. Invite a bit of movement.
As you inhale maybe stretch the arms overhead and on the exhale float the hands back down to your lap. Do this for a few breaths. What stretch would feel good at this moment? Maybe some shoulder rolls, or circles of your head, or maybe arching the back or twisting from one side to the other. Continue your rhythmic breathing as you move. Breathe into the stretches.
Slowly open your eyes. Notice how you are feeling at this moment. Has anything shifted?
Consider the two or three things you wrote down before the minibreak and determine what actions you can take in the next few hours to make positive progress on your work. Before jumping to the next task, set an intention of how you wish to show up in the next activity. Breathe in with a fullness of breath.
Come back to this technique several times a day to provide a temporary pause. Minibreaks once an hour are a good way to rebalance, re-energize and come back into focus.
Move into your next meeting with presence, awareness in an alert and calm way.