Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind

Advertising
9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind

People don’t realize the power of mindfulness. First, because very few understand how to correctly apply it. And also because it involves us. And the moment we get involved it becomes personal…

We start thinking that maybe we won’t know if we’re doing it right or not; if it will work; if it will be difficult; or if we fail at doing it.

But relax and trust these exercises. They are a proven method of calming your mind, and in the case of my clients, of completely eradicating anxiety too.

This is because the Applied Mindfulness Exercises that I created are specific and very effective. The exercises I am about to teach you today are not the typical misconception about what mindfulness is. I won’t give you a pep-talk, I won’t tell you to just “calm down” or to imagine yourself in a field of flowers.

These mindfulness exercises are completely applicable, practical, and yield definite results in your life — bringing your mind under your control.

Today we will go down the rabbit hole of calming an anxious mind. You will see that these mindfulness exercises are correlated, and some may even overlap a little bit.

Mindfulness will help you create strong foundations upon which you can build a strong mind, completely free from anxiety and unwanted emotions. And this is useful even if you don’t have anxiety, because anxiety is not only a mental illness but also that common moment of of fear or despair, powerlessness and so on. And it is in those moments when you most need to calm your mind.

So let’s get right into action with the first mindfulness exercise, the one that has the quickest effects — the powerful breathing exercise.

1. The 5-2-5 Breathing Exercise

People swear by this mindfulness exercise, and many of my clients have told me it’s like taking a pill, but better because it’s natural. You do the breathing exercise and your mind starts feeling more calm. It is extremely easy to do.

I call it the 5-2-5 exercise because you have to take 5 full seconds to fill your lungs completely.

Without straining, of course. But you have to go from empty lungs to full lungs in 5 seconds.

We usually breathe much faster, and shallower, but this is what does the trick: Forcing yourself to breathe slowly.

You take 5 seconds to breathe in, then hold your breath for 2 seconds and lastly, release air in 5 seconds too. This, obviously, takes 12 seconds in total, and you do this mindfulness exercise for at least 5 minutes. All while you pay attention to the way, air moves in and out of your lungs.

After you are done, you will noticeably feel more calm, your mind will be in a different, more centered state.

Don’t take my word for it. Go ahead and try it.

Now let’s move on to the other exercises.

2. If It’s Cold, Close the Windows

This one addresses the rational fears of your subconscious mind. Let me explain, you use these mindfulness exercises when your mind is agitated, right? When you don’t see a logical way out of the problematic situation, and you are at the mercy of your fears…

So, for this exercise, we will think of your agitated mind as a person inside a house; and the problematic situations, the ones provoking your turmoil, are like cold gusts of wind.

I use this simile to explain that we are often affected by situations that although perceived as very complex, are solvable.

Emotions cloud our judgment. But if we actually dare to divide, go problem by problem, and address each one of them, we will actually feel much, much better.

Let’s face it, life can be stressful… Get groceries, pick up medication, turn in that report, buy the gifts, cancel that subscription, car servicing, meet the deadline, have that difficult conversation, attend that meeting…

It’s all too much, but still things need to be done.

So, what do you do?

In the middle of the damn blizzard, we dare to take action, we painstakingly walk towards every window and we shut it close. Every single one of them. And only then we can be warm. Only then will our agitated minds find peace.

This mindfulness exercise consists in taking the time to separate all the issues we are facing. Making a list if that’s necessary. And we go one by one, determining a solution for each one.

If you have too much on your plate, determine what will happen with each situation and that alone will give your mind the peace it’s so desperately looking for.

Once again, don’t take my word for it, go ahead and do it.

Advertising

Set times for everything. Delegate. Make a plan.

This is not yet the solution, of course. But in your mind, all those undetermined situations are like open doors and windows.

And on a subconscious level, your mind just detects them as danger. And your mind just feels like a threat can cross the threshold at any minute.

You live in uncertainty, feeling threats from all places, and you are just too busy and too agitated to shut the doors.

But I know it’s not always that simple.

I know it can be more irrational sometimes, and that’s why I will talk about what to do when your fears are not quite as rational, such as anxiety… but sometimes your mind needs this.

Sometimes, it’s just your mind asking you to take care of things. So do it. Try this, and you will see it does work.

And if it’s too much, if your mind is having different problems, try the next one…

This is where we start going into True Mindfulness.

3. Recognize That Emotions Distort Your View of Reality

Sounds a little too deep, huh?

I told you, we are going down the rabbit hole.

So, what is this mindfulness exercise all about?

It’s about you realizing a big, big truth right now so that you can calm your mind more easily when you most need it.

Emotions distort the way you see things, the way you see people and situations. So, whether it is anger, fear, or sadness that is invading you, you can be sure its influence is making you see things bigger than they are.

Fear, as anxiety, will make you believe things are very dangerous.

Don’t go out, it can kill you. Don’t talk to them, they will think you’re a weirdo. She will leave you. And so on, and so on…

In anger, it’s exaggerated: They are mocking me. He must learn a lesson. He’s an idiot for not understanding what I’m saying…

And in sadness, it goes like: I won’t ever find anybody like him. I will never stop failing. I won’t recover from this one.

You know this… and you have been through this before. And yet, we love to forget about this fact of life.

We take a mistaken approach. Instead of keeping a centered view, we just accept the distorted version and, what’s worse, we decide to act upon that.

That cannot be you.

This mindfulness exercise is very simple, and all you have to do is to remember this when you are emotiona, and then correct your view. Observe events and situation as they are, nothing more. Don’t allow emotions to interfere with your judgment.

It’s a simple lesson, but the real challenge will be remembering this when you are agitated, and then to actually do the exercise.

But with lessons this simple and this powerful, I am sure you will remember and apply them.

So let’s go to the next one, which is intimately connected to this one.

4. Recognize Emotions as Temporary States

Now it’s time to turn deep mindfulness into applied mindfulness.

You know emotions distort your view, and you must also keep in mind that they are just temporary states of mind.

Advertising

There is no emotion that can last forever. And yet, through our mindlessness, we allow emotions to guide our behavior, to determine who we are, and to determine how we will live life.

This mindfulness exercise is very simple and very powerful. If you dare to look at your situation from this standpoint, things will be very different.

Instead of thinking that this is going to be your normal, you will understand that emotions are like waves; and even if it feels like crap, you will learn to “ride the wave”.

You won’t see your agitation as who you are, or how you have to react. Instead, this mindfulness exercise will give you the chance to step back and wait for it to go away.

You will learn to live life with true maturity., from a position of authority over your emotions.

It really sucks when emotions are the boss and we cannot calm ourselves. So next time you are feeling angry, sad or fearful, remember you cannot keep obeying the emotion. Remember it’s a temporary state and that it will pass. I am sure you’ve heard this before.

It is true, but now you are armed with more powerful wisdom: Emotions are just temporary states.

This mindfulness exercise is just that: To remind yourself of this when you most need it, and ride the emotional wave.

5. Refuse to Live the Dualism of Emotions

Whoa! Sounds too deep, right? Well, we are going deep into true mindfulness — lessons that will allow you to have greater control over your mind and emotions.

In order to properly apply this mindfulness exercise, you must first understand what I am teaching you:

Emotions, as many other things in life, are dualistic. There is hot and cold, day and night, peace and conflict… Emotions are the same. They can be either positive or negative. And we live in a constant, emotional ebb and flow.

One day you’re at the top of the world. The next one you feel like you won’t ever recover from this. Even if it doesn’t happen as drastically, I want you to see the truth in this.

Do you see now how you ride the emotional rollercoaster?

If there is sadness in you, you get quiet, stay at home and act all gloomy.

We all do! It’s natural.

The same goes for anger and fear, of course.

And the problem here is: We cannot be the rag-doll of our emotions.

If you are going to follow your emotions wherever they take you, you will have a hard time calming your mind when you most need it.

So the answer is simple.

For this mindfulness exercise, you must refuse to ride the emotional rollercoaster.

Understand, as we said before, that emotions are temporary states of mind. And since they are a dualistic concoction, you may as well decide not to go as low as they want you to go.

What do I mean?

You must stand above your emotions. You must recognize that going down will always end up bringing you back up anyways.

When you realize somebody is not listening to you, save the frustration. Don’t go there. Don’t ride the dualistic rollercoaster. You will be back at “neutral” later anyways.

Why bother behaving frustrated? If the store ran out of that product you wanted, let it slip. You will go back to normal anyways.

What I am saying here is, save the ups and downs and stay in the middle. Learn to take the good as it comes, and learn too to let it go whenever it must go.

And the bad? Learn to let it come without putting so much resistance.

Advertising

Living in dualistic emotions will have you agitated, affected by the times you go down.

Recognize instead that you will always eventually end up in the middle, in the “baseline” so to speak.

Remember this when you are feeling agitated: Don’t bother taking the emotion too seriously.

6. Embrace Chaos, and Operate Within It

Your mind is agitated. You find yourself in a situation you don’t like, and you feel bad.

What do you do?

You lean into the chaos, into the things you are not liking. And you attempt to change them.

Now, I understand that this may sound a bit contradicting. I have been telling you that you shouldn’t act out your emotions and now I tell you to attempt to do something surrounded by the chaos?

Well, it’s different.

Because the key in this mindfulness exercise is to recognize the true solution to the conflicts you are going through. Embracing the chaos when very angry doesn’t mean to go ahead and punch somebody in the face; instead, it means to look at what the true solution might be, for example, being understood.

You see?

If you are very angry because somebody is not listening to you, you dare to change the situation, but not from anger; instead, you switch your language and body language and state things clearly: “I think you do not understand me, and I need you to listen to me.”

Two different things.

The same goes for sadness.

If you are sad because you lost someone, you cannot even change it. So what do you do?

You analyze what the true solution might be: To find solace through resignation.

The key here is to look at what the true solution might be, beyond emotions.

So it becomes more simple if you see it this way: The goal is to return to a state where you are not influenced by your emotions.

Therefore, you must find ways to not be angry. The enemy becomes sadness, not the situation. The enemy is fear itself, not the conflict. And the key is to ask yourself: What can I do to bring down my emotions? Right there, you will find the answer.

I know, very deep, right? And also philosophical.

In the end, this is what mindfulness is, a liberating perspective.

On with the next one.

7. Take a Long Walk

Let’s take a break from the deep and complex ones and talk about a very simple mindfulness exercise. Steve Jobs used to do this one.

We are so caught up with tasks, conflicts and everyday drama that our minds don’t have a single moment of peace. Taking a walk changes this.

Leave your phone behind, take your keys and nothing more. This gives you time to mentally shut the windows we talked about above.

But that’s not all. I specifically said a long walk. This is because, for the first minutes, your mind will circle the conflicts we just talked about; precisely the ones we are trying to put an end to.

So, the first minutes, when your mind is still agitated and busy with these matters, the exercise won’t even count.

The real mindfulness exercise begins when your mind can get off those matters and then you are “free” from all that.

Advertising

Long walks are 30-minute long at least, so don’t try to rush it. Take your time. Don’t try to force yourself into anything.

Allow your mind to wander as you go. And always explore new places.

If you are expecting more specific instructions here, I am sorry to disappoint you: This is all you must do.

Just walk, and see the results for yourself.

8. Get Busy

This mindfulness exercise is also very simple. All it takes is to engage with full attention with something important enough.

As humans, we also have a tendency of dwelling on things that don’t deserve that much mental space. When this happens, it’s time to move on.

The best way to do this is to truly engage in what you are doing. First, because it’s obviously a distraction, and you need it to move on. And secondly because you will also be applying yourself, meaning, you will be actively changing your situation and your state of mind.

In other words: You will go from passive, to active.

Which takes me to the last mindfulness exercise…

9. Start from a Perspective of Power and Capability, Instead of One of Powerlessness

Think about it, when our minds are agitated, we cannot help but think we are at a disadvantage. Can you see this in a recent situation in your life?

We feel discomfort and negative emotions because of two things:

  • We don’t like where we are, and…
  • We don’t see a clear and definite way of getting to where we want to.

Because of this, we feel at a loss.

We feel the disadvantage of not knowing what to do, and we are at the mercy of our emotions and the situation.

But what if we did it the other way around?

That’s the hack that allows this mindfulness exercise to work — to shift your mind.

If, instead of starting from a position of disadvantage, you shift to a position of power, you will effectively use your capacities better.

Instead of not knowing what to say, you will tap into your creativity.

Instead of caving in to despair, you will remind yourself of your capabilities.

Instead of fear, you will be willing to put up a fight.

Think about how much this brings to the table. You are automatically going from a position of disadvantage, to one of power, one that will actually help you overcome the conflict you are facing.

In short, whenever you feel your mind in turmoil, shift from the emotion-led behavior, to counting the advantages you have over the situation.

Go from victim to protagonist. This is an immediate game-changer, with no learning curve. I am sure you will see results from the very first time you use this mindfulness exercise.

In fact, all of these have a significant result in helping you calm your mind, and so the true challenge here becomes remembering the lessons in this article.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, I want to say that I understand if your emotions are more stubborn than this.

Anxiety is particularly stubborn and if none of this seems to work, feel free to head to my website and there you will find the first step to bring down your levels of anxiety. If you are looking for a cure for anxiety, that’s the place where you should start. I help people defeat anxiety, cure depression, overcome OCD, Pure-O, PTSD, trauma and loss with the sole use of mindfulness techniques.

All this is possible for you if you create a strong mind, and that’s exactly what I can teach you. So, be sure to take a look at my profile and send me your questions if you have any.

May you find the strength necessary to attain a perfect mind.

Advertising

More About Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

More by this author

George Alonso

Mental Health Expert, creator of the Transcendental Mindfulness Therapy.

9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind Having an Emotional Breakdown? 15 Ways to Re-Center Yourself Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional? How to Handle Relationship Fights to Connect Deeper with Your Partner Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

Advertising
Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

Advertising

You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

Advertising

Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

Advertising

Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

Advertising

There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

Advertising

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next