Many of us start the school or work week feeling as if we’re stuck in a reality described by the Bangles’ 1986 hit, Manic Monday. As soon as our eyes pop open, our minds become busy-busy-busy anticipating (or dreading) all that needs to get done during waking hours. For others, anxiety jerks our chains every single day, almost hourly – pulling our attention and focus away from the present moment. Think about it. The last time you caught yourself worrying, where was your attention? Probably somewhere else. Often we live and breathe in one moment while we choke with worry over some potential future moment.
Anxiety and worry can make us feel like we’re caught in a stranglehold. And we long for escape – maybe to a calm place like the woman in the photo. But we have to show up for class, punch the clock at work, or get the kids ready for school. No time or money to get out of Dodge and avoid anxiety. We face different daily responsibilities. We have unique personal struggles and challenges. Yet each of us shares two things in common: (1) we have 86,400 seconds in each 24 hour period, and (2) each of our breaths takes about 5-8 seconds. Interestingly, Daniel Stern suggests that our subjective experience of the present moment lasts about the length of a breath: 5-8 seconds. It’s sad that we lose so many present moments to anxious thoughts, especially since being in the moment corresponds to an increased sense of peacefulness and reduced distress.
Today’s tip invites us to use a normal activity to calm our anxious minds and recapture the present moment. The simple exercise helps many people to breathe away anxiety one moment at a time.
Mindful Monday Tip #15: Breathe Away Anxiety
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath for one minute. (Use the timer on your cell phone to measure the time).
- Let your attention ride the wave of each breath from inhale to exhale.
- If your attention gets distracted by anything, gently refocus on your breathing. (It’s not about perfection; it’s about the process of intentionally focusing your attention).
- Commit to a one minute focused breathing practice multiple times a day. (Think of it as exercise for your mind).
What happens when you intentionally focus on your breathing for one minute?
You may discover a place of mental calm you’ve been missing. If you need more help to deal with anxiety, please contact me.