Just 30 seconds of mindfulness, of quieting our thoughts by being attentive to the present moment, can help manage stress and anxiety.
The following simple exercise, called “mindful pause,” comes from meditation teacher Jon Krop. It's a 30 second interlude of breath and body awareness that calms and soothes much like a cool drink of water on a hot day.
The beauty of mindful pause is that it can be done nearly anywhere, with eyes open or closed, and whether you are standing, walking, sitting, or lying down:
- Take one slow deep breath, filling your lungs from the bottom up by first inhaling into your belly, then into your lower, and finally upper chest; gently exhale.
- Now, be attentive to any sensations in your body. You might notice one sensation, or several. Some may be related to anxiety, others not. Just acknowledge whatever you feel without analyzing it, or judging the feeling as “good” or “bad.” You might, for instance, notice neck tension, areas of warmth, or coolness, tingling, pressure, or feel your feet against the floor. This need only take 5 to 10 seconds, but stay with it as long as you like.
- Next, ground yourself in the present moment by feeling the air passing through your nostrils as you breathe. Notice the changing sensations as the air moves in and out.
- Resume your daily business at the most leisurely pace possible.
To create the habit of engaging in mindful pauses link this exercise to specific events that happen daily, such as turning on your computer in the morning, getting back to your desk after lunch, or upon buckling your seat belt.
We can also take a mindful pause whenever life feels overwhelming:
- By grounding us in the present moment, mindful pauses disrupt our apprehensive thoughts, diminishing anxiety’s intensity.
- By turning us toward our feelings to observe them, mindful pauses relax our resistance to uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety. This gives our feelings the freedom to flow into our experience—and out.
“When you’re spinning into an anxiety loop, sometimes you just need to interrupt the process. Inserting a pause gives you the opportunity to collect yourself.” ~ Jon Krop