When stress hits, you can feel it in your body. You might notice tightness in your chest, shallow breathing, holding the breath, tension in the shoulders or neck, or a nervous stomach. You might also notice a foggy mind or difficulty concentrating. What does your body feel like when it's stressed?
In these moments, a quick way to help the body relax and bring a little peace to the mind is through the breath. By deepening and regulating the pace of the breath, you can help stop the brain-body stress reaction. So, give yourself a quick breather! Here's a 2-minute exercise that can make a dent in stress:
- Find a spot where you can be alone for 2 minutes. If you're somewhere public (work or school) or a parent with kids around, it might mean going somewhere private like the bathroom and locking the door for a couple of minutes -- whatever works is perfect.
- Sit with both feet planted on the floor.
- Set the timer on your phone for 2 minutes and press start. Setting a timer allows you to check out for a couple of minutes and simply focus on the exercise without worrying about taking too long or needing to monitor the time.
- Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. This helps quickly connect you to your body and ground you in the feeling of the breath moving in and out.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and exhale for a count of 5. Take another deep breath and exhale for a count of 5.
- Repeat this breathing pattern until the timer goes off.
Once the timer goes, take a brief moment to notice anywhere in the body that feels a little more relaxed. Maybe the shoulders are a little looser, you're able to take deeper breaths, or your mind feels a little clearer -- whatever it is that's even a little calmer, just take note.
And that's it. A quick refresh in the middle of a busy day can make a big difference.
Feel free to adapt the length of the exercise as you'd like. Make it longer if you're able, or if you're really pressed for time, do it for just one minute to start.
Now, pat yourself on the back for helping your brain and body find a little calm!