“No-Fail” Friday: Know your options

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This week’s earlier post stole a little of the thunder of this one, you may have noticed. We talked about the requests I’ve been getting more and more often for mindfulness tips that work in the moment. We all have those experiences where we think we’re good heading into that exam, interview, presentation, or deadline, and then we realize…not so much. I gave you some ideas on Wednesday, but for this weekend’s “no-fail” mindfulness challenge, let’s break it down a little further, why don’t we.

I mean, better this than you, right? 

That’s kind of the idea, anyway. Avoiding breakdowns, I mean.

So, just like in the actual “moment,” for this weekend’s challenge, you have some choices. The whole point of mindfulness is for you to actually use it, so we work with different types of approaches and exercises on this site from week to week so that you can find one (or a few) that resonate with you, and that you’ll be willing to actually draw upon in your regular life. There’s no time when those preferences become more obvious than when the stress alarms are ringing at full steam. If you don’t like doing it when you’re relatively calm, you will most likely not reach for it when you’re at your most stressed.

I know, you’re thinking “I’d do anything then!” But, the truth is, you wouldn’t. When you’re hyper-stressed, you are maxed out, and you don’t have the patience to try the uncertain, unconfirmed, or especially the disliked.

So, what’s the solution, then?

Well, obviously, try them now. Try them when you’re not freaking out. Generally speaking, freakouts aren’t great times for discerning nuances. Maybe now is better?

For this weekend’s mindfulness challenge, you can select from some of the suggestions I offered up on Wednesday. As a refresher, here were some top picks:

  • Guided Imagery (or visualization; scroll down). This is one of my faves for high stress, or even panicky situations. It doesn’t involve breathwork, but rather you take yourself on a bit of a journey internally, envisioning a space or place, and connecting to the way your five senses respond to that space. It’s cool, honestly. I recommend checking it out.
  • Another option is intentional breathing, which you can layer up with extending your inhales and exhales with a count (Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing here is so good at calming, it’s often recommended for insomnia), or a gatha (kind of like a mantra, but silently repeated to yourself). The point here is to connect with the basic process of your breath, and to use it as an anchor for your observations and your focus. Deep breathing tells your body it’s ok to take it down a notch in terms of the stress response, and the extra layer can give you a stronger focal point to come back to when your mind wanders, as it will…
  • If you’re not feeling the stillness, then get moving. Take a mindful walk, or run, or do 5 minutes of yoga. If you really take the opportunity to focus on the movement, it can be as centering as taking that same time for stillness. It’s all about bringing your attention to a single place, and your body is a perfect, present example of that, whether you’re flowing through a vinyasa or commuting home on the subway. You’re always there, no matter where you are.

Your goal this weekend – or maybe your intention – is to figure out what works for you, so that when the stress dial turns up, you know how to roll it back down. You want your toolkit to have some known options in it, so you can turn to mindfulness in those moments when you need it most.

Of course – and you knew this was coming – I’m going to strongly recommend that you make a habit of carving out time for even just a little mindfulness more often than not in your daily agenda. There’s a good chance that over time, you will notice fewer of those “emergencies” coming up anyway, and it’s probably not the situation that will have changed.

Photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina

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