May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a month about recognizing the importance of mental health and its impacts, as well as the power of self-care. In these times of tumultuous change, having an awareness of your own mental health and overall wellness needs, as well as a sensitivity to the experiences and feelings of those around you, is vital.
While everyone’s challenges may be different, I have found success in navigating stress and boosting confidence and performance in the workplace through daily mindfulness exercises. Here are three to consider:
- Strengthen your mind and muscles with yoga: Coming from a root meaning of “yoke” or “union” with origins in India, yoga has been used for physical, mental, and even spiritual benefits, for more than 1,000 years. This ancient practice can aid flexibility and strengthen muscles, all while reducing stress. A great beginning pose is the Tree Pose, which improves balance and mental steadiness. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch legs. Beginning your day with yoga can help you find your center and poise. It’s a great in-between meetings pose to practice too.
- Incorporate mindful or paced breathing: A core mindfulness tenet and practice is an awareness of breath. Even one minute of a breathing exercise has been shown to activate stress reduction processes in the body. The breathing exercise I use is a 4-second in-breath, followed by 2 seconds of holding breath, then a 4-second out-breath. The exacts here should not cause discomfort but be used as a rough estimate. To keep concentration as a beginner, count the seconds you breathe in, then the seconds holding and the seconds breathing out. As you gain experience, you can simply repeat in your mind, “breathing in,” then “breathing out,” and after a great deal of practice, you can simply breathe without thought. Regardless of your skill level, and even after the first practice, you should find yourself calmer, more renewed, and more focused.
- Embrace power posing: For those who want to increase self-confidence and presence in big meetings, interviews, or in life generally, power posing may be a great solution for you. Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk launched a craze that has since been backed by a Harvard study to show that “posing in high-power nonverbal displays” causes “increased feelings of power.” The classic power pose, whether done in front of a mirror or without, is the Wonder Woman / Superman pose, where you stand with your feet apart, your hands on your hips, and your chin tilted upward. This has been a useful practice for me before canvassing doors on the campaign trail, calling reporters, managing non-profit volunteers, or interviewing for a job. The confidence boost will get noticed fast!
And a bonus combo tip: Pair the yoga Easy Pose with mindful breathing: This comfortable, cross-legged, seated position is a great pairing with a mindful breathing practice. The Easy Pose strengthens the back and helps with hip flexibility. To get into this pose you need to sit, cross your legs, and make sure your shoulders are aligned directly with your hips. Once you have the top of your head balanced and pointing toward the ceiling, you can rest your palms upon each knee. Then the pose is complete, and you can begin your breathing practice for an added stress-relief benefit.
These mindfulness exercises can be done at home before you head into the office, to start a staff meeting, or to rally a team around a new business pitch (power posing could help bring home the win!). Repetition will create lasting habits and practice will make the exercises feel more like second nature in time, bringing a sense of calm to even the busiest of days. I’d encourage you to give them a try. If you do, please feel free to share any feedback with me at email@example.com.