“Self-care is recognizing that we’re trying to manage whatever stressors and trauma we experience, but we’re also honoring ourselves as whole beings with a lot to celebrate, that we’re joyful in community, and in solidarity.” – Grace Chen

“Mindfulness” is a set of activities meant to promote well-being and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety by influencing the stress pathways in your brain. It is the practice of focusing on what is going on inside your body, not just what is happening in front of you. This roots you in your body in the here and now. It can be done during formal meditation or during everyday activities, like cooking, cleaning, or walking.

Just Breathe

Steady deep breathing signals your body that you are in a safe space and eases you into a relaxation response. Breathe through the nose at a rate of about 4 breaths per minute (15 seconds for each in-and-out breath). Ideally, you should do this for 5 – 10 minutes, but you will probably start to feel more able to cope and make good decisions in about 1 minute. There are free apps you can get to help you, if you need it: 

Stretching

Stress makes your body tense. Simple stretches or movement can make us aware of where we carry our tension and relieve it. Move your body in a way that feels good and is doable in that moment.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is done by tensing and releasing different muscles in your body. PMR helps relax both your body and mind. Curl your toes in or squeeze your fists tightly for 5-10 seconds and release the tension. Notice the feeling of relaxation afterward.  To learn how to use other muscle groups for a full body PMR exercise, click on https://www.fammed.wisc.edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/handout-progressive-muscle-relaxation.pdf.

Visualization

Use your imagination to visualize yourself in a peaceful scene. Create a detailed image in your mind such as watching the sunset or sunrise, watching the waves on the beach, or walking through a field of wildflowers. What colors do you see? What do you smell, hear, or feel? The more detail you can include in your visualization, the more effective it can be in offering you a peaceful escape from stress.

Zoom-In / Zoom-Out

To clear your mind between tasks or between supporting different individuals, focus your attention on a complex object, such as a tree. Observe the whole tree, its shape and coloring. Then zoom in to examine a leaf or a branch in detail—its shape, texture and color. Then zoom out again to take in the whole tree.

5-4-3-2-1 Technique 

This is a way to pull yourself back from strong emotions that get in the way of coping. Intentionally take in the details of your surroundings using each of your senses. Attempt to notice small details that your mind would usually tune out, such as distant sounds, or the texture of an ordinary object. 

  • What are 5 things you can see? Look for small details such as a pattern on the ceiling, the way light reflects off a surface or an object you never noticed.
  • What are 4 things you can feel? Notice the sensation of clothing on your body, the sun on your skin or the feeling of the chair you are in. Pick up an object and think about its weight, texture, and other physical qualities.
  • What are 3 things you can hear? Pay special attention to the sounds your mind has tuned out, such as a ticking clock, distant traffic or trees blowing in the wind.
  • What are 2 things you can smell? Try to notice smells in the air around you, like an air freshener or freshly mowed grass. You may also look around for something that has a scent, such as a flower or an unlit candle.
  • What is 1 thing you can taste? Carry gum, candy, or small snacks for this step. Pop one in your mouth and focus your attention closely on the flavors.

Grounding Objects

In many cultures people have objects that they handle, rub or “play with” that help them physically reduce stress. In the Middle East, worry beads or worry stones are common. A modern North American example is the fidget spinner. You can use any small object, such as a small rock, clay, a ring, a piece of cloth or yarn.