Try a Simple Mindfulness Exercise and Learn to Slow Down
First, before we begin, check out how much stress you are feeling now, and place it on a ten-point scale. For example, your stress might be at a five or an eight on the scale. (You may want to have a friend or family member read the instructions below out loud the first time you try this exercise.)
Next, find yourself a comfortable chair, sit it in, and find the position where you feel most relaxed. Close your eyes (and keep them closed for the five or so minutes it takes to do this exercise). Check out your face and see if you are holding any tension there, around the eyes, cheeks, or mouth, for example. Then let go of the tension and let your face fall into its natural position.
Now, the only thing we will focus on is our breathing. Let go of thoughts you are having by allowing them to drift away. And turn your focus only onto your breathing. Feel your chest as it moves in and out. Feel the air as it goes past your nose or mouth. Keep your body relaxed.
Then, we will be aware of each breath and feel how pleasurable it is to breathe. Feel the pleasure of each in-breath. Feel the pleasure of each out-breath. Every time you breathe, feel the pleasure of the breath. And we will keep this up for the next two or three minutes. You breathe in, it feels good. You breathe out, and it feels good. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the simple, low level pleasure of each breath.
Now, take two more breaths and then open your eyes. What is your current stress level on the ten-point scale?
Do this exercise few times a day, with your eyes closed, for the first few days. Then try doing it with your eyes open. It is so pleasant and it gives you such a relaxed feeling that you will look forward to doing it. You can even do it while having a conversation with someone when your eyes are open, and the other person need never know that you are doing it.
This is one route to self-awareness, de-stressing, and gaining a sense of your internal clock.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.