This past week, I had the opportunity to give a presentation called “Mindfulness for Busy Professionals” to a great group of BigLaw folks in the Big Apple. I love being able to share simple (if admittedly not easy) strategies for bringing some space, peace, and calm into our work lives. The topic gets me so excited every time. Mainly because it’s these strategies that have saved me, personally, from going off the rails.
During Q&A at the end of the presentation, an audience member asked, “So when, exactly, do you incorporate all of these strategies into your day? And do you use them all?” I had just offered the group a “buffet” of mindfulness techniques, so her question was understandable.
The truth is, there are some mindfulness practices I do use religiously, every day. And there are others I employ on an as-needed basis, depending on the circumstances. Of the options I offered the group, here’s my personal breakdown:
Mindfulness Techniques I Use Daily
Gratitude Practice: I start my day answering the prompts in a wonderful book called The 5 Minute Journal. The name is, as the book implies, designed to have you write for a mere 5 minutes per day. The book also isn’t guilt-inducing. Why? You fill in the date yourself (hence it’s a-okay if you skip a day!). Pro-tip: the knock-off cheap version isn’t the same as the $23 one, as it lacks the daily quotes, which are great. My vote is to go with the real thing.
Grounding Cord Meditation: After my few minutes of journaling, I do a 15-minute yoga practice (using some music on Insight Timer). At the end of this yoga practice, which I end sitting, I do a “grounding cord meditation” for a minute or two. This practice consists of imagining a thick, solid cord that stretches from the middle of your abdomen all the way down to the core of the earth. Then you breathe deeply up and down the cord, grounding yourself solidly. I find this to be a really steadying practice, in a world that often flies by and can seem endlessly unsettling.
Centering: The simple act of breathing into and “centering” my body is one I’ve only really learned this past year (through my work with Susan Dunlap and the Women’s Leadership Forum). But it’s been a life-saver. It’s one athletes use all the time in games and competition. And you can literally do it for a few seconds at a time, dozens of times throughout the day. The practice is simply to feel your body and breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of six. You lengthen your spine, neck and body while breathing out. This practice has the effect of calming our nervous systems and is perfect whether before a client phone call or walking into a room of screaming children.
Mindfulness Techniques I Use Depending on the Circumstances
Box Breathing: When my mind is spiraling out-of-control, whether because of swirling to-do’s or because I’ve been triggered by an e-mail or a confrontation, this is my go-to breathing practice. I wrote in detail about how it works here so won’t repeat those instructions. The thing I love most about it, is that it is truly impossible to ruminate about anything while employing this technique!
Body Scan: This is a practice I use when I’m having trouble falling asleep at night. Perhaps you’ve heard of this one – where you consciously think about and feel each body part, starting either from your toes and working your way up, or starting at your head and working your way down. There are guided meditations that can lead you through this type of meditation. (I recommend this if it’s the first time you’ve ever tried it.) Or you can do it on your own. Go as slowly as possible through each little body part. For example, focus on each toe, one at a time. Usually, if I start with my toes, I’m out cold by the time I get up to my knees!
There are other strategies I employ less frequently. For example, there’s a “color meditation,” where you focus everything of the same color. And there’s a five-senses meditation, where you find examples of experiencing each of your senses). But the ones I’ve named above are my go-tos. I’d also like to point out that none of them takes but a few minutes, if that.
Turns out no matter how packed your day is, there’s time fit in one or more of these practices. It’s all about making it a habit, bit by bit, in your life.
What are your preferred mindfulness strategies? Please share in comments below!
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave