5 Mini-breaks that provide perspective, balance and resilience
How are you feeling these days? There is a lot going on in the world. This time of year, we might feel the intensity as we gear up for holiday season. And now, we are experiencing the heaviness, pain and fear from conflict and horror in the Middle East. Add to that whatever you have going on with your family, with work, your home and everything else. If you ask me, we could all use a retreat and I have one in April in the south of Portugal, which will be amazing, and which still has some open spots. So, sign up today, and have something wonderful to look forward to. Of course, that is still months away and you may need some respite prior to that. If you have a regular mindfulness practice, like Yoga or meditation, you already know that it can help you relax, provide nervous system regulation, and help you cultivate your inner resources that help you meet the challenges that come and go. And if you have a regular practice, you know that you are able, over time, to access your inner resources with more facility with each new challenge.
Sometimes, though, we lose touch with our regular practice. We get busy, we get injured, or will fill our time with other activities, like the daily Wordle. There is nothing wrong with the Wordle (I am a Wordle-er) but when I reach for my phone to play a puzzle, I might lose track of time and not get back to my practice. Or, we have a practice, but still need some breaks during the day to help cultivate balance, or perspective. We may need just a few minutes to pause and tune-in and remember that we are not the stress we experience. Then, once we remember ourselves as whole beings, we can return to any situation, feeling stronger and more capable. It may be as simple as a few even breaths, 3 minutes of quiet, or some visualization. In fact, it’s so simple that sometimes we forget how powerful it can be.
So, in case you need a mini-break before our time together in Portugal ;), or just need a reminder to take care of yourself in the midst of all that swirls around you, here are 5 mini-breaks you can do in 1, 3, 5, or 10 minutes!
If you have 1 minute:
- Give the mind a rest and see the world from a new perspective. This can be done standing or sitting down. If you are seated, gently lean your body forward and imagine placing your head on your knees (it may or may not touch). If you are standing, bring your feet a comfortable distance apart and mindfully fold forward.
- Regain balance and calm the nervous system. This can be done anywhere. Place the tip of the tongue lightly on the roof of your mouth. Take a full breath in through the nose, while silently counting how long it takes. Then exhale through the nose for the same count. Repeat this until you have completed 4-6 breaths.
If you have 3 minutes:
- Clear your mind. In a seated position, lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders. Place your middle fingers gently over your eyes. Rest your index fingers on the forehead towards your third eye point. Place your pinky fingers near the corners of your mouth. Place your thumbs on the flaps of your ears and close them off. Keep your lips lightly closed, and place the tongue at the roof of the mouth. Take a comfortable inhale and exhale with a buzzing “mmm” sound, much like the sound of a bee. Repeat several times. Place your hands in your lap and feel the vibration for a few moments before opening your eyes and returning to your day
- Go to your happy place. Close your eyes and think of a place that you have been where you felt completely at home and at ease with yourself. Imagine that you are in that place. Experience it with all of your senses—taste, sound, sight, smell, and touch. For example, if you are at a beach, imagine feeling the sand between your toes, and hearing the sounds of the waves and seagulls, etc. Notice how you experience the memory in the body, and lean in to the experience. When you are ready, let the memory dissolve while keeping the good feelings and vibes, and return to your day. The more you cultivate these pleasant sensations, the easier they will be to access, so that you will have an inner resource of wellness within you.
If you have 5 minutes:
- Release tension in the hips and shoulders. Here is a short sequence of movements you can do when stress is creating discomfort in the body
- Shake it out. Let your arms drop to your sides. Shake your fingers and wrists, then add the elbows, and finally the shoulders. Continue for about 30 seconds. Then, with your hands still by your sides, imagine you are using each hand to open a jar, rotating your hands at the wrists. Continue for about 30 seconds and relax.
- Stretch it out. Stand at the back of your chair and grasp the top of the chair with your hands at shoulder-width. Walk back until you are in the shape of an upside down “L”. Soften your knees. Bend your left elbow toward the floor, take 3 breaths and then release. Repeat on the right side. Continue for about a minute.
- Hip release. Sit with your feet on the floor. Raise your right knee toward you and hold it with your hands. If that feels like enough, stay there. If you want more, take your right ankle and place it over your left thigh. Lean forward, if needed until you feel a stretch in your right hip. Repeat on the other side.
- Neck and shoulder release. While seated, place your left hand under your left thigh. Take your right arm and drape it over your head, taking your right hand to the left side of your head. Very gently draw the right ear towards the right shoulder. Take a few deep breaths and then gently lift your head, using your hand to help. Repeat on the other side.
Remember, there are many ways to bring yourself back to balance, perspective and ease, even when, and especially when, things feel overwhelming. Keep this list handy and use these practices (and any others you like) when you need to take a break. And, don’t forget to sign up for retreat, which can be a great reward for all that you do in your busy, full life!
I’d love to hear about other mini-breaks that work for you. If you have something you can share, click here to let me know!
Be Well. ~Lisa