How to beat stress and worry in 5 minutes
I’m sure you’ve come across the notion of mindfulness, the act of focusing our attention on the present moment in order to still the mind and subdue strong emotions. I’ve written about it both online as well as in books such as Confidence 2.0
(and you can follow links from within that book to download and then listen to my guided audio instructions too).
Many people find that simply focusing on their breathing for a few minutes helps them to feel calmer and more in control. It’s an activity that you can do sitting or lying, standing or even when walking around.
Most of my clients enjoy and rely on that simplest version of mindfulness. However, there are many different ways to be mindful and some of my clients say that they prefer another variant which I’ve taught them, called 5-senses mindfulness.
The idea is to focus for around a minute on the different sensations and sensory inputs that you get from each of your five senses. If you would like to try it, work through the following steps:
1. Hear. Begin by focusing your attention on the sounds around you. These may be sounds in the room with you or sounds in the world outside. Sometimes the sounds may be pleasant. Often, the sounds may be jangly and unpleasant – the noise of traffic, voices, the thrum of passing aircraft or perhaps even the sounds of construction equipment or road repairs. But try not to judge them or categorise them as good or bad. Simply listen. Focus on these sounds intently for a minute. And continue to breathe normally.
2. Smell. Next, shift your attention to the sensations of your nose and nostrils. Try to pick out the scents in the air. Perhaps you can smell food, the fragrance of people who have passed by, the smells of nature, maybe your laundry detergent or even your own body odour. Again, try not to judge these smells as desirable or undesirable. Simply notice them for a minute. And if you can’t smell anything, then that in itself is a form of sensory input – continue to focus merely on the air as it enters and exits your body.
3. See. Move on to the sights of the objects and environment around you. Even if you’re in a very familiar place such as your home, try to look more intently at everything. Notice the shapes, lines, corners, edges, colours and textures around you. Just spend a minute really focusing on everything that you can see around you.
4. Taste. Next, focus on the sensations within your mouth. Run your tongue inside your cheeks and along the backs of your teeth. Concentrate and pay attention to the ridges, lumps and bumps that you can detect. Notice the dryness or otherwise of your mouth. We usually ignore our mouths unless we are eating. So take this opportunity – for just 60 seconds or so – to really pay attention to what’s going on within your mouth.
5. Touch. Finally, bring your awareness to the physical sensations within your body. Notice the contact points that your body makes – perhaps your feet on the floor, your buttocks on a chair, your back against a bed, your hands on a desk or whatever else you can feel. You may notice pressures, discomfort or even pain. And that’s OK. Again, try to notice these sensations as just being there. Avoid judging or categorising them if you can.
And that’s all there is to it. The point is merely to bring your attention to what’s actually going on within and around you. Even if you can’t afford to spend a full minute on each of the five steps, the technique is a way of guiding your attention from whatever thoughts or feelings may be troubling you. Doing so may help you to subdue whatever negative emotions or worries might be roiling within you. You could do it at home or at work, when walking from one meeting to the next or even when you’re feeling crushed on all sides by commuters on a busy bus or train.
As with any form of mindfulness, it’s a good idea to practise it at least a handful of times when you are feeling calm and able to control your thoughts. Then, over time, you should get be able to slip more easily into this mode of mindfulness when you’re feeling worried or anxious.