The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted everyone differently, nonetheless, no one has been immune to the effects and challenges it has created: from existing to potential health issues, job loss, business owners losing revenue/income (or having to completely shut down), and many are juggling their 9-5 workload from home while homeschooling children and caring for loved ones near and far. Even as we phase into “reopening” some areas, so many questions still go unanswered and much uncertainty remains on the future of the world’s economy and the return of our daily normalcy.
When your life has been shaken up to the extent this pandemic has caused, it is almost inevitable that some levels of fear and anxiety occasionally seep in and infiltrate your mind. Not knowing how the virus will affect us, or how long this pandemic will last, makes it hard to not catastrophize in your thoughts. If you are experiencing this rollercoaster of emotions, know that you are not alone; however to avoid tumbling into a panic vortex, it is essential to incorporate some practices that protect your mental well-being.
Meditation is often brought up as an integral part of a successful self-nurturing routine. If meditation is unchartered territory for you, it can be a little intimidating. If the idea of sitting cross legged while chanting an OM meditation isn’t appealing to you, that is okay! There are other effective ways to take care of your mind. Here you will find a list of 4 mini meditations to incorporate a little more self love into your daily grind.
These 4 mini meditation ideas aren’t dedicated to only the coronavirus stress, but they could really help during these bizarre times.
One of the least challenging mini meditations you can do is to breathe. You heard correctly, just breathe! There are no tricks here! The International Breathwork Foundation (IBF) defines the breathwork meditation practice as, “a dynamic body-mind practice using conscious connected breathing techniques for inner peace, enhanced health, wellbeing and personal transformation”. While that sounds complicated, it really doesn’t have to be.
You can take a whole course on breathwork meditation, but if you don’t have time, just use these simplified tips to reground yourself in just a few moments.
First, find a place where you won’t be distracted. If you are able to, put on soothing music but make sure to choose a melody that relaxes you and that doesn’t have lyrics that will have you breaking out your inner Beyonce. After you find a calm space, get seated in a comfortable position. This might look different for everyone. You might find yourself cross-legged on the floor, laying in the savasana position, or simply seated at your desk with your palms resting on your knees. There is no wrong way to do this as long as you are comfortable.
The next step is to close your eyes and breathe intentionally. How do you breathe intentionally, you ask?
The key is to pay attention to where your breath is at any given time. Inhale through your nose slowly and feel each move it makes as it travels to your lungs and fills your belly. Your abdomen should raise naturally. On the exhale, go slowly and focus on the release of the air. It will travel back up and out of your mouth. Let the breath fall out of your mouth. There shouldn’t be any force behind the exhalation. After a few moments of intentional breathing, you might start to feel a tingling in your body. If you are feeling this, enjoy it! That tingling feeling is your body relaxing and a prized goal for regular meditators.
The key to meditation breathwork is to feel the breath and to let it rise and fall instinctively. You should be able to see your belly rise during the inhale and then lower during your exhale. Don’t force the air out, just let it flow naturally while maintaining focus on where the air is at any given time. The beauty of meditation using breathwork is that you can fit it in anywhere for any length of time and nobody needs to know you are doing it. If you only have a few moments between meetings, you can squeeze in a few breaths. If you have a half an hour in the evening, you can dive in. These exercises are completely flexible to your day. Isn’t it worth a shot?
This mini meditation will sound strange, but it is surprisingly relaxing. There are several ‘shower meditation’ articles out there but you won’t find this particular method in any meditation handbooks. What makes this practice alluring is that there are no mantras to remember, nor techniques to master, and it can be done in the privacy of your own bathroom. This isn’t a mainstream method, but if you want an intense sense of peace, it is a must-try. Even if it sounds eccentric, do it once and see how you feel.
All you need to do for this mini meditation is to position yourself standing directly under the showerhead so that the water is flowing over your head. Make sure you can breathe but let the water stream over you. Now for the ‘kooky‘ part; cup your hands over your ears creating a hollow cave around them. The water cascading over your hands will create a low roaring hum. You may need to move around a bit to get the sound just right. Once you are adjusted, focus on the reverberation you are hearing. If you are able to, split your focus between the sound and the feeling of the water flowing over you. The energy created by two of the five senses being stirred is intense. Peaceful imagery is a bonus, so if you want to imagine you are standing under a tropical waterfall in Bali, who’s to tell you no?
You can do this meditation at any point during your shower but muscles will have relaxed a bit after the warm water has been running over them for a few minutes, so if you want to get the cleansing part of the shower done before beginning, you will be ready to fully succumb to the meditation and alleviation of stress. There are no rules, however, so find what works for you and do that!
While you might not be able to pull out your yoga mat and break out your best downward-facing-dog while at work, there are benefits to incorporating seated yoga stretches when you need a break from your thoughts. For those who are working from home right now, you might be able to do more involved poses. If so, there is definitely more flexibility there (pun intended). Regardless of your situation, the key to making these poses effective as mini meditations, is to be focused while you are doing them. That’s it! Just focus on your movement and breath. Here are a few simple poses you can do without drawing strange looks from coworkers, or family members. (Disclaimer: It is always recommended that you consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimens.)
The seated ‘cat/cow’ pose is great for releasing tension in your back and chest. To do this pose, sit up straight in your chair and rest your palms on your knees. Start with the cow pose by inhaling slowly as you push your belly forward creating a soft arch in your back. Your chin and chest will rise and your shoulders will be drawn away from your ears as you broaden through your shoulder blades. On your exhale, move gently into the cat pose. To do that, pull your belly in towards your spine and round your back. Your head will move forward and your shoulders and chest will scrunch inward but don’t force your chin to your chest. Repeat this gentile flow a few times to bring flexibility to your spine and relax your mind. Don’t forget to focus on your breath.
The seated spinal twist is another pose you can do easily in a desk chair. You will begin in the same position you started your cat/cow stretches. Sit up straight and rest your palms on your knees. While maintaining your straightened posture, place your left hand on your right knee while releasing your right hand to move behind your right hip. Gently twist your spine initiating from your core. Don’t use your arm to lever a deeper twist. This is a tender twist, not a mobility competition. Repeat on the left side by moving your hands and twisting in the other direction.
The last pose will need a little more space, but is a favorite among yogis and non-yogis alike. Savasana, or the corpse pose. For this pose you will need a space to lie down without distraction. This pose might not be one you can get away with in your typical office environment, but if you are working from home, take advantage of this perk and give it a go! To do this pose, you will need to lie comfortably on your back with palms facing up. You are welcome to add a pillow under your head or knees if that feels good. Relax your legs and arms and let your body sink into the floor. This might look like you are inviting sleep, but this is not naptime! Use this pose to allow yourself to relax your mind, body and spirit while letting any lingering thoughts or worries dissolve.
With any of these poses, make sure you are focusing on your intention and your breathing and you will come away with more than just a nice stretch. You will feel more relaxed and ready to take on your day.
This final one is the simplest meditation in concept that is mentioned in this list. Decide on a personal mantra for yourself and repeat it to yourself throughout the day. What is a mantra? According to www.yogabasics.com, a mantra is a word or series of words chanted aloud or silently to invoke spiritual qualities. One of the best qualities of this mini meditation practice is that it can be done as a thought or spoken out loud and it can be done once or a hundred times. A popular mantra practice some people have is to look in the mirror, gaze into your own eyes, and recite your mantra aloud to yourself as though you are saying it to your best friend. It is thoroughly customizable and can be alternated daily to fit your ever-changing needs so if something doesn’t feel right, adjust it and try something new.
A few examples of mantras you might repeat to yourself are “Be with those who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you”, “Don’t say maybe if you mean no”, or “Create a life you can be proud of”. These are just examples, so feel free to personalize your mantra to fit your mood or goal. There are no wrong answers here so as long as it makes you feel good, you are doing it right! The only requirement is to be kind to yourself and express the same emotion and love to yourself as you would express to a family member or friend.
If none of these feel good to you, you can take Milton Berle’s advice and laugh. He was quoted to have said, “Laughter is an instant vacation”. If you can find something that brings out that deep belly laugh or a snort, you will feel an instant relief. Laughter is the best medicine, or in this case, a great mini meditation.