Breathing Is A Wonderful Stress Management Tool – Here's a Simple Practice for You
Bring attention to your breath as you breathe.
For three breaths, let everything else go right and focus on your breath.
Now – Shift your attention to your exhalation. Breathe out. All the way, all the way out. Again. And again. Focusing, right now, only on the out breath.
Find the pause at the end of the exhalation. Linger there.
Notice how your breath will come in again, on it's own.
Breathe all the way out. To the pause. Rest in the pause, and let your breath begin again. Deeper and more full each time.
Breathe out. Let the breath come in.
Let it turn around. Rest in the pauses and let the breath turn around. Your mind focused on the movement of breath, out... in... and the pauses that follow the breath.
As your mind focuses on the breath, you may find that there's less stress. The thinking mind grows more quiet. Tension in the body begins to melt away. You may find yourself feeling more present, more centered, more balanced. Is that comfortable? Is that a foreign experience? Can you allow this experience to be one that is nourishing and simple? Nothing to work at. Just allow... tension and stress to subside as you focus attention on your breath.
Feeling anxious, worried, even fearful about current events. Those are natural responses to crazy times. By breathing with awareness, as I've instructed, above, you may find a pleasant way to navigate stressful events and situations. Try it. Take time to reflect.
What's happening? What's happened?
Please leave a comment, below about your experience. What did you notice? What results did you experience?
Thanks for giving this a try, and letting me know a bit about your experience with breathing to release stress.
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
And, if you'd like more information about how you're actually doing a wonderful service for the world by addressing your own needs, click here to read an article on the Becoming Better website.
A Covid-19 Self-Care Checklist
Written by Shelly Tygleiski for Mindful.Org
Besides disinfecting and washing my hands, I made a list of the best ways I could take care of my heart and spirit in these times, putting that proverbial oxygen mask on first before I tend to my family, my community, and the world.
Here are eight things that are on my extensive list:
1. Stick with my normal, daily meditation practice. It’s easy to lose track of time when the days blend into one another, but now more than ever, my twice daily meditation practice (20 minutes at a time) is so important. Also, I no longer have the excuse “I don’t have time” these days—all I seem to have is time, I just need to remain disciplined.
2. Maintain contact virtually by creating a schedule. Now is a great time to make sure that we check on the ones who matter to us, and those who we rarely get to see in person because they are so far away. However, it’s very easy to lose track of time—especially across time zones—so having a set schedule of times to check in, hang out and even eat “dinner” together can help to restore some social structure to the day.
3. Get outdoors. If you are blessed to live in a place where there are parks or waterfronts (that are not closed during the pandemic) and you can access them with walks, runs, and bikes, it’s a blessing that should not be squandered. Each day I commit to getting outdoors and moving for at least an hour, plus taking a barefoot walk on grass.
4. Give myself permission to cry. This is actually a point on my usual Self-Care Plan, which seemed appropriate to migrate over in these times. I know that I will inevitably feel sad, disheartened, or downright hopeless at times, but I also know that giving myself permission to feel these emotions fully and turn towards my suffering will help me release any pain or tension and help me see the sun through the clouds once again.
5. Create a venting-hour. Just like some families have adopted a “happy hour,” we’ve adopted a “venting hour.” It sometimes only lasts five minutes but being that we are all stuck together in close quarters for the next few weeks or months, we make sure that there is an “airing of grievances,” (just like in Seinfeld’s fictitious holiday, Festivus), so that nobody keeps anything inside. I found that it reduces the build-up of tension and makes sure that there is no resentment, which is possible for even the kindest amongst us.
6. Limit how often and through what means I access the news and information. I have personally noticed how I feel when I watch the news or hear certain people speak, so now, I limit myself to 30 minutes of news per day on the television with a news anchor and station I trust. Otherwise, I mostly get my news online by reading articles and transcripts of press conferences. I also make sure to not watch the news before I go to bed, because it can get me all worked up, which is counterproductive.
7. Be of service to others without depleting myself. Within a few days of people in my community being laid off, I started to get emails and see posts on social media from my friends and community members who were scared about having their basic needs met—food, medicines, and other essentials. I realized that because I did not share those concerns, I am in a position of privilege to help others and that I can use my platform to help neighbors, community members and even strangers. I put my grass-roots activism skills to work and launched the Pandemic of Love project, a mutual aid community that has connected more than 10,000 families in need with patrons who can offer help.
What skills can you bring to this moment in order to be of service? As always, it’s important to recognize and hold the boundaries that are safe for you. This is why your Self-Care Plan is so important. Offering help to others can give you meaning during this time of uncertainty. I know it has helped me stay on the side of hope, even when things seem hopeless.
8. When all else fails, ask myself: “What do I need in this moment?” This is my default question—the one I immediately ask myself when I sense that I am not feeling right, physically or mentally. I just pause, take a long, slow deep breath and ask myself this question. In this space between, I almost always find the answer.
Each day, invariably, I find myself looking at this list. It provides me with a measure of comfort, reminds me that I am in control, and that in times of crisis, I have the choice to either be my own worst enemy, or my best ally. I choose the latter.