When we're feeling overwhelmed meditation can seem like yet another thing that we're not doing. But sometimes slowing down, taking 1 minute for yourself, and clearing the overwhelm can be the best use of your time. Then you can return to the task at hand with a bit more clarity and focus.
These are things I try to incorporate into my daily routine. In the car (especially when the traffic is heavy), in the bath, when I'm waiting for the kettle to boil, and when I'm washing my face. They're tools to have on hand for when you need to redirect your attention away from less-than-helpful patterns.
1. Breathe. Repeat.
Need zen now? This is my favourite one: it's super soothing. Start by slowing your breath down and making it more deliberate. Try 10 slow, even breaths. Repeat as needed, throughout each and every day. If visualisation helps, imagine sending the inhale all the way to your fingertips or toes. When you exhale focus on releasing and relaxing all your muscles.
Want to feel more grounded? Imagine your current situation as a short scene in the loooong movie of your life. Sometimes seeing how things do (or don't) matter in the long haul can help give perspective on the here and now. Also, it reminds me of a friend's wise expression "observe not absorb."
3. Notice 5 things
Need focus? Look around and note 5 things you can see, hear, feel or smell. Take a moment to linger on each one. You get bonus points if you include smell and touch in your 5. Pause and notice the quality...pretend you're seeing/smelling/hearing that thing for the first time.
4. Label your emotion(s)
Need to cool the fires? Acknowledging your emotions with words -- "I am stressed", "I am worried", "I am uncomfortable" -- shifts some of your brain activity from the emotional area to the thinking area.
5. Watch your thoughts pass like clouds.
Our mind generates so many thoughts/opinions/judgements in a day. Take 60 seconds and just observe the thoughts as though your were watching clouds drift in the sky. It's a way to remember that our preoccupations, needs and worries are temporary. Jill Boîte Taylor said that emotions have a natural lifespan of about 60 seconds (or so) as long as we don't keep feeling them with a story. So watch the thought then let it go.
Here you'll find essays and musings on applied mindfulness. What does this look like on a daily basis? How can you infuse it in your day to enjoy yourself more? Join hundreds of others on the the mailing list (link in footer) to get these straight to your inbox.