Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment as a means of managing stress or as part of your self-care routine. Taking a break from a busy day to incorporate mindful breaks into your schedule can be beneficial for both youth and adults, especially in remote work and learning environments. Mindful practices can help reduce anxious and depressive feelings, enhance personal insight and awareness, promote trust and reduce trauma responses, and help manage emotions. There are many cognitive benefits, too – improving attention and working memory, increasing cognitive flexibility and stimulating curiosity, and reducing negative, distorted thought processes and ruminating behaviors.
To learn more, read Benefits of Mindfulness: Practices for Improving Emotional and Physical Well-being, a Harvard Health article from HelpGuide.org.
When we are stressed, we tend to tense up and our breathing is limited. Practice deep breathing using one the strategies below or search sites like YouTube for deep breathing exercises. See this example for young children: https://youtu.be/gLbK0o9Bk7
1. Choose a positive phrase or mantra and repeat it as you inhale and exhale to keep your breathing steady and focused.
2. A common recommendation is 4-7-8 (inhale for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8). If this is uncomfortable, modify the count to something that works for you.
3. Another recommendation is using a 1:2 ratio of inhale to exhale (i.e breathe in for 4 and exhale to a count of 10).
This coping technique helps to relax and distract your mind in stressful situations. It requires purposeful use of your senses and can be done anywhere, anytime, without people around you noticing. For more information, visit: https://www.mondaycampaigns.org/destress-monday/unwind-monday-5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique
Relax your body!
A body scan is a meditative technique that helps with stress, difficulty sleeping and chronic pain. It’s a process of focusing on each part of your body from your toes to your head. For information and a guided body scan, visit: https://www.mindful.org/beginners-body-scan-meditation/
Take a journey!
Guided imagery is a technique to help reduce stress and distract you from uncomfortable thoughts or tension. Although it takes practice, there are many videos and apps that can talk you through a few moments of an imagined, peaceful setting. You can also imagine your own journey to a place that brings you peace. For more information, visit: https://www.verywellmind.com/use-guided-imagery-for-relaxation-3144606
We hear our own voice more than any other, so it is important that we are speaking kindly to ourselves, especially when difficult moments arise. Using a positive affirmation or mantra can help us feel empowered while staying present while facing challenges. Making a list can be helpful, and starting each morning with an encouraging message to yourself can set the tone for the day. Below are a few suggestions to get you started:
I am enough (Who I am is enough).
Even my worst day only lasts 24 hours.
I will stay positive, and work on a solution.
I have the power to create change.
I am grounded, confident and worthy.