Stress happens. Some weeks are busier than others, maybe even some months. Even after navigating burnout and finding a more supportive environment, I am not immune to stress and overwhelm. Along the way, I have learned some helpful mindful coping mechanisms — some require some space and some you can do without anyone even noticing.
I personally have a wide variety of mindful coping mechanisms depending on the time, place and how I am feeling. You can use these almost anywhere!
Breathwork is the ability to manipulate the breath in order to promote feelings of calm, balance and presence of mind. It is the foundation of most mindfulness practices. There are a ton of different types of breathwork, but here are two of my favorites:
Box Breathing: Sit wherever you would like, however you would like. You can close your eyes or keep them open. You can repeat this sequence as many times as you would like
Inhale: 4, 3, 2, 1.
Hold: 4, 3, 2, 1.
Exhale: 4, 3, 2, 1.
Hold: 4, 3, 2, 1.
This is one of my personal favorites and there are so many ways to perform!
My favorite is laying on my stomach with a blanket rolled up, a pillow or a pliable, squishy ball like the coregeous ball from Yoga Tune Up or deflated playground ball under my diaphragm (rib & stomach area).
You start off with laying with the ball under your diaphragm, let your legs go straight behind you and rest your hands one on top of the other so you can rest your head there. Inhale & fill up your lungs, letting your ribs and low belly expand. Picture your ribs and low belly pushing the blanket/pillow away. Exhale, let it out and let your ribs and low belly melt into the surface beneath. Try doing this through your nose only, but if that is uncomfortable, feel free to breathe through your mouth.
Repeat as many times as possible. You can also do this technique by placing both hands firmly over your ribs and giving yourself pressure as you breathe in.
Mindful Walking: This might seem pretty self-explanatory, but one of my favorite things to do if I am feeling overwhelmed and having a hard time settling into my body is to go for a walk. For me, bonus points if it is near anything green, even better if I am by the ocean or in the mountains but obviously, that is not always possible (#cityliving). Mindful walking though takes it a little deeper. Instead of just going for a walk, ditch the cell phone, headphones, music and podcasts at home and set out.
Start with just noticing how your feet feel hitting the ground. Then bring you awareness to your legs, how big are your steps? How quick are you walking? Next notice how your lower back and belly feel, are you leaning back? What are your arms doing?
Next bring your awareness to what is around you. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell?
As you continue to walk, let yourself experience the walk inside and out.
Muscle Activation & Relaxation: You can perform this seated or standing. You will be progressively contracting and relaxing your muscles one after the other. Start with your toes, curl them and press them into the floor and relax. Next squeeze your lower legs and calves and then relax. Continue up your legs. Contracting and relaxing quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Next move up through your stomach, lower back and upper back.
Move through your upper arm, biceps and hand. Finish by clenching your jaw and then relaxing. Last but not least, engage all your muscles for one breathe and relax, sighing out.
These are just a few mindful coping mechanisms to help bring your awareness into the present moment. Next time you are feeling overwhelmed or caught in a stressful situation, try one out and see what you like best.
This piece was written by Joy Energy Time Insider Kerry McGinn PT, DPT, RYT. Kerry is a physical therapist, performance coach, yogi, rock climber, adventure seeker, lover of movement, Mother Nature, and deep breaths. She is the owner of Live GOOD, Feel GOOD. Visit her site here.