When you’re stressed, meditation is a great way to center yourself. But what if there’s no time for that?
Fortunately, you don’t need a quiet room and a Zen cushion to reap the benefits of meditation. The simple strategies listed below take only a few minutes. They can be used anytime, anywhere. You don’t need any experience in meditation to get started.
Inhale through your nose for a slow count of four. Exhale through your mouth for a slow count of eight. Repeat several times, always making your exhale twice as long as the inhale.
Variation: 4-7-8 Breathing
Inhale for a slow count of four. Gently hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale for a count of eight. The exact length of the breaths doesn’t matter but keep the 4-7-8 ratio.
I’ve found I get the best stress relief when I use these breathing techniques for three to five minutes. But even if I can only manage a breath or two, it’s amazingly calming.
Grounding, Version One
This is my variation of a popular exercise for reducing anxiety:
1. Take one or two deep breaths, if you can.
2. Name four things you can see around you right now. (Speak them out loud if possible.)
3. Name three things you can feel or touch.
4. Name two things you can hear.
5. Name one thing you can smell or taste. Or think of something you smelled or tasted recently, and name that.
6. Take a moment to check in with yourself. What are you feeling?
7. End with another deep breath.
Grounding, Version Two
1. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing that. Take one or two slow, soft breaths.
2. Inhale deeply. As you do, imagine your breath flowing through your body, starting with your feet and moving up through your legs, your belly, your torso, your arms, and finally your head.
3. Exhale deeply. As you do, release something that you want to let go of – fear, tension, a bad memory – whatever is bringing you down.
4.Take one or two slow, soft breaths. Open your eyes.
Connect with Nature
Step outside if you can. Take a few deep breaths. Focus on whatever elements of nature are around you – the tree across the street, the clouds, the squirrel scolding you. If you’re in the middle of a busy city far away from anything natural, look up at the sky or just feel the air blowing on your face.
If you can’t get outside, look out a window or gaze at an image of something from nature. You can also close your eyes for a moment and remember time spent in nature. What did you see, hear, smell, and feel?
Begin with a few deep breaths. Speak a blessing over yourself: “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free from inner and outer dangers.” Adapt this script however you wish. Then speak the same blessings for a friend or loved one. Next, send the same warm wishes toward a neutral person – an acquaintance who doesn’t inspire strong negative or positive feelings in you. Finally, send your blessings toward a difficult person in your life. End with more deep breaths.
I often practice this mini meditation in the car before meetings or appointments, sending good wishes toward the people who will be interacting with me.
No amount of meditation can make stress completely disappear. But by practicing these small exercises throughout the day, you’ll find more strength and peace to meet whatever challenges come your way.
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