• Mindfulness

    Take 5: How to De-stress, Recenter and Focus With Mindfulness


    Ahead of a public speaking event, I found myself struggling with a bout of pregame nerves. But instead of panicking, I did something I often advise clients to do. I sat down and practiced breath mindfulness for five minutes, which calmed and centered me and helped me focus. In the end, the event went really well.
    Tuning into my breath helped take my brain out of stress mode — I concentrated on the simple cool and warm of the breath entering and leaving my nose and lips. Previously, the thoughts going through my mind were: What if the presentation goes poorly? What if … what if … what if?
    But focusing on breathing brought me into the present moment. The slow, rhythmic breathing flashed a safety signal, and my brain began scaling back the production of adrenaline and cortisol — hormones that drive the fight-or-flight response.
    Simple and very effective, you can use this activity every day to help manage stress. Research suggests that people who regularly practice mindfulness experience less anxiety and are less likely to be depressed. In addition, neuroscientists have identified positive physical changes in the brain that occur with the long-term practice of mindfulness.

    Incorporating mindfulness into your day is easy:

    • Find a quiet comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed.
    • Sit in a comfortable position while maintaining an upright posture.
    • Close your eyes or focus on one point in the room.
    • Take normal, comfortable, slower breaths — do not take deep breaths.
    • Notice your diaphragm rising with each inhale and falling with each exhale.
    • Breathe in through your nose (if you can) and exhale through your mouth.
    • Notice the slight cool of the inhale and the slight warmth of the exhale. Try to stay connected to the cool and warm sensations.
    • When your mind goes somewhere else (and it will), take a moment to notice what pulled you away from the breath.
    • Do your best not to judge yourself or the place you were pulled to. Return to the breath and the “cool-warm” sensation.
    • Start with 5 minutes daily or every other day and build up to 10 or 20 if you can.

    This breath technique can be applied to almost any stressful life situation — job, relationship, health, or social. If privacy is not possible and you don’t feel comfortable practicing this in front of others, don’t despair: There are a wealth of other mindfulness techniques that people won’t even notice you doing.

    I often teach mindfulness as a part of therapy, and there are also many wonderful books, apps, and videos to access. I recommend the work of John Kabat-Zinn as a starting place. To learn more about how to practice mindfulness and how it can lower your stress, contact me through couplestherapyorlando.com or by phone at 407-579-2070.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.