When you are feeling stressed or anxious your thoughts might race, making it hard to slow down or focus on what you're doing. Although this is completely normal, it can feel really unsettling, as the content of those thoughts is likely to be negative or frightening, so it's a bit like watching a scary movie stuck on fast-forward... If this is a problem for you, here is a simple mindfulness meditation technique that can really help:
Mindfulness of breathing
1. First, make some quiet time for yourself – take 10 minutes out of your busy day, that to-do list can wait! Switch your phone to silent and make sure you won't be disturbed. Find a comfortable position, either cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, or sitting on a straight-backed chair. Make sure your spine, neck and head are in alignment – erect but not tense, so you are sitting with a sense of calm alertness.
2. Set a repeat timer on your phone to 5 minutes, then close your eyes and settle into your body. Do a quick scan of your whole body, from the tip of your toes to the top of your head, noticing any areas of tension and allowing those parts of the body to soften and relax. You can imagine breathing into the tense area, then releasing any tension on the out-breath.
3. Bring your attention to your breath, following the entire breath cycle as it travels into the nostrils, down the back of your throat, into the lungs, then back along the throat and out of your nose. Notice the way your chest and belly rise with each in-breath, then fall on the out-breath. Don't try to change or control the breath in any way, just let your body breathe itself – which it does every second of your life, whether you notice or not.
4. Start counting after each breath cycle, beginning with 1 – so breathe in, out and mentally count 1; in, out, 2; in, out, 3 and so on until you reach 10. If you find yourself carried off by thoughts, that's fine – be kind and gentle with yourself, direct your attention back to the breath, then go back to 1.
5. If you find yourself counting 20, you have got distracted! Again, just go back to 1 and start again.
6. When you hear the first timer signalling 5 minutes, you can choose to continue counting, at the beginning of each breath cycle – so count 1, in, out; 2, in, out; 3, in, out and so on. Or, if your thoughts have settled and quietened down you can drop the counting and just focus on your breath.
7. When you hear the second timer, that's 10 minutes. Slowly open your eyes and gently move your body. Resume your day, carrying this calm, mindful attention into your next activity.
I really hope that helps. And if you would like to know more about mindfulness meditation, email firstname.lastname@example.org