Mindfulness coach Dominic Cogan gives a series of mindful supports to help reduce stress.
When you notice that you are getting stressed, the 7/11 breath just allows you to take a moment to calm yourself. Simply breathe in on a count of seven and breathe out on a count of eleven. By counting the breath you are deliberately distracting yourself from what is upsetting you and allowing you to come more into your body which can help you to feel more grounded. By consciously extending the out-breath you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system which is designed to have a cooling down effect on the body and mind. If you find that you have run out of breath while counting, all you need do is to speed up the counting. This exercise is drawn from the Mindfulness in Schools .b training course but it works as well for adults as for children.
The 3 Step Breathing Space
Taken from the internationally recognised Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR) this is another very easy technique to help you re-balance yourself:
Step 1: Checking in. Doing a mental check–in to see what is going on with you right now. This involves answering the questions: “How is my mind right now?” and “How is my body right now?” There is no need to try to change anything. This step is all about noticing how things are. Very often we are so wrapped up in our thoughts that we lose touch with how we are feeling.
Step 2: Focusing on the breath. In this next step we narrow the focus of awareness to notice the sensations of breathing in the body Follow the in-breath and the out-breath with all your attention for a few breaths. It is best to choose where in the body you notice the breath most easily e.g. at the tip of the nose or the chest or the belly.
Step 3: Expanding Awareness. In this last step we widen the attention again so that now you are aware of your whole body as you breathe, including your posture and your facial expression. Having a sense of the body from head to toe. This is a very handy mindfulness on-the-go practice that you can do with your eyes open and even while engaged in another activity. This practice allows us to momentarily step out of autopilot and helps to ground our awareness fully in the body – an effective way to lower stress.
The Self-Compassion Break
This has three steps like the Breathing Space but the focus here is more on counteracting the tendency that a lot of us have of being self-critical or feeling very isolated when we are experiencing some stress. This exercise is drawn from a course called Mindful Self-Compassion devised by Chris Germer and Kristin Neff.
Step 1: Acknowledging to yourself the reality of the stressful situation: Saying to yourself: “This is a moment of stress.” or “This is a moment of suffering.”
Step 2: Reminding yourself that being stressed and experiencing suffering are inevitable experiences of being human. We all suffer at times. So you can say to yourself: “Other people feel this way too”, “I’m not alone in my suffering.” or “Suffering/Stress is a part of living”.
Step 3: Consciously choosing to show kindness to yourself by saying:
“May I be kind to myself.” Other phrases that might be relevant could include: “May I accept myself as I am.” Or “May I be strong.”
By actively offering yourself kindness and support at a difficult moment in your life you can avoid the isolation that many people feel when they are stressed as well as counter-acting the inner critic that adds to the suffering through blame and judging.
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