It’s easy to feel frazzled when your attention is being pulled in a million directions during the COVID-19 pandemic. We worry about our businesses, planning for the future, and the health of our families and loved ones. Being present in the moment, managing stress, and effectively regulating emotions is key to finding balance in the chaos. In our 5-week short course, Leading with Emotional Intelligence, we discuss how to help yourself and your team become more self-aware, and how to utilize mindfulness techniques in stressful moments. These techniques are helpful in a business setting, as well as at home, and are especially needed during these unique times. We’ve featured some of our favorite techniques below so that you can try them at home, or with your team. We hope they bring you mindfulness, relaxation, and peace.
Mindfulness for Stress Relief
Mindfulness may bring up new age images in your mind, however, there is power in this concept. What does mindfulness mean exactly? A useful definition of mindfulness is a state of being aware. In the metaphysical world, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. During this awareness you calmly acknowledging thoughts, feelings, and the physical manifestations of those feelings.
Pause, Don’t Give Up Your Power
Immediate action is rarely required in a given situation. It is important to take the time to pause during stressful moments so that you don’t give up your power with a negative reaction. You need to pause, take time to recover from the initial feeling, take time to think, and then take time to respond. Remember that you are in control of this time. You do not have to give back your power to that situation, or person.
Do you remember when your mother told you to “Count to 10?” That is still good advice, and may be sufficient to move you from reaction to action. This simple practice allows you a bit of time to recover from whatever shock altered your emotions. It is also possible that you need more than just a ten second count. Getting up to go get a cup of coffee, or water, may be the break you need to adjust your attitude, and get yourself in the right frame mind. The point here is that you may need to step out of the situation before addressing it.
The Benefits of Breathing
Breathing is a powerful tool to help regulate the physiological changes caused by stress. Mindfulness practitioners use the term breath work. Many techniques can be practiced to obtain full immersion in breath work. Start by recognizing that taking deep breaths for as little as a few minutes at a time will alter your physical and mental being
For the next several days, practice these simple breath work exercises. Start slowly and build the cycles as you get accustomed to the work. In both of these exercises, try to focus on the breath. Keeping random thoughts at bay may be difficult at first, but be patient and listen to your breath and your body.
4-7-8 Technique (allow 3 to 4 minutes)
- Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position.
- Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds.
- Hold this breath for a count of 7 seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of 8 seconds.
- Repeat this cycle Four times.
It’s okay to stop if you get lightheaded. Go back to your standard breathing pattern and relax. You can limit your cycles, or you can cut the counts for each step in half if necessary. Try to eventually build up to the full count for each step, and perform the exercise at least twice a day to combat stress.
Diaphragmatic Breathing (allow 5 to 10 minutes)
- Lie on your back, knees slightly bent, with a pillow under your head.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other below your rib cage.
- Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand.
- Keep the hand that is on your chest as still as possible.
- Exhale using pursed lips as you tighten your stomach muscles.
- Repeat this cycle for 5 minutes at first, and work your way up to 10 minutes. Right before you plan to go to sleep is the best time for this exercise.
Meditation for Mindfulness
We recommend starting the day with this meditation exercise as opposed to at night. Begin by spending about 3 minutes on this exercise, at least once a day, to increase your mindfulness. As you practice, try to find peace, and see if you can make it to 10 minutes intervals.
- Find a comfortable and quiet spot and sit with your feet firmly on the ground.
- Sit with your body in an open position. Do not cross your arms or legs, and keep your hands open with palms facing up.
- Close your eyes as you begin.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose and hold your breath for 3 seconds.
- Release your breath with a forceful blast.
- After your initial big breath, use the 4-7-8 technique to become centered.
- Clear your mind as best you can.
- When thoughts come into your head (and expect that they will), see if you can convert those thoughts into clouds. Look at the clouds and watch them float through the sky. Let the clouds come into your vision from the left and float across the sky to the right.
- Keep breathing using 4-7-8 technique. It is ok to think about your breathing, but if you can, it would be better to convert those thoughts to floating clouds.
Stay Self-Aware to Practice Mindfulness
The key to finding peace in this pandemic is staying self-aware. This awareness allows you to recognize when it’s time to pause, and keep your power, instead of just reacting. Taking time for mindfulness and breathing techniques will give you the gift of peace throughout the day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress during COVID-19, these techniques are a wonderful place to start. For a more in-depth study of this topic, consider booking our Emotional Intelligence Workshop to help your team.