Feeling like life is going too fast and it needs to slow down?  What about feelings of stress and finding time to take for yourself?  These can be hard things to deal with and we all face times where life can feel overwhelming. 

It is okay to have bad days and want to retreat or put up the white flag.  I’ve been there, I know those feelings.  There are, however, some simple techniques that don’t require a huge time commitment or fancy equipment to give yourself a mental break and a way to recharge your batteries.

What is this easy to do, quick way, to give yourself a break?  Well it’s can be quite simple, it’s finding some mindfulness through focused breathing for 5-10 minutes.  There are three simple breathing exercises that I suggest to add to the start, or end of your day, to help create a mental recharge.  These are yoga techniques, called pranayama, that require little effort physically but reap huge rewards for the mind, refocus your day, and bring about positive changes.

The first exercise to try requires you to find a comfortable way to sit, either on the floor or in a chair, sitting with good posture.  Once seated, start to breathe slowly through your nose, inhaling for a count of 4, pausing for a moment, and then exhaling for a count of 6.  Set a timer, like your phone or something else, that is out of reach and set it for 5 or 10 minutes; then inhale and exhale, as mentioned above.  This is a calming ratio and can help with anxiety and stress allowing you to focus on just sitting there.  I hear many times it’s hard to meditate because thoughts and ideas come into the head; yes, they do.  Instead of judging those thoughts or ideas, you let them pass and continue focusing on your breath.  Each time your mind wanders (which could be many times), bring your attention back to counting for 4 and exhaling for 6.  It doesn’t need to be perfect practice, it’s benefits come from consistent practice.  Try breathing like this daily for a month and then see if there is a change in how you think, act, and feel.

Another exercise to try is a little more complicated breath.  This one is called nadi shodana and is about breathing through one nostril and then the other.  To begin, with your right hand you bring your index and middle finger to the middle of your forehead.  To do the breath, you gently close the right nostril, with the right thumb, and inhale through the left nostril.  You pause for a moment at the top, and then gently close the left nostril with your right ring finger and exhale.  To complete the breath, you breathe through the right nostril, pause, and then exhale out the left nostril.  You repeat this technique for 5-10 mins.  This is a great breathing exercise to promote balance throughout the body and to slow down, lower anxiety, and learn to release stress.

The third technique is to combine the first breath with the second breath.  One suggestion is to breathe for 5 breaths with the inhale for 4 and exhale for 6 technique.  After you have completed 5 of these breaths, add the second technique, nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing), for 10 breaths.  To complete the mindful practice, do the first breathing technique 5 more times and then sit there for a few moments and see what happens and observe how you feel; there aren’t any right or wrong answers here, just observation.

These simple techniques are ways to remove stress and anxiety and bring about mindful living.  The techniques aren’t complicated but they do take consistent practice to yield positive effects.  The mind is a muscle, and like muscles in the body, it needs regular exercise through, mindfulness or meditative practices, to gain strength and resilience.  It starts with you taking a small amount of time to sit and breathe.  The result will be stress reduction, anxiety destruction, and a recharged mind able to tackle life’s challenges.

Tim Seutter is a Firefighter, Yoga Teacher, and Director of the Loft Studio, Whangarei.