Prioritizing yourself can make a world of difference in how you feel and interact with work. NJI hosts bi-weekly 30 minute mindfulness sessions with a professional mindfulness coach to encourage staff to prioritize their personal wellness and mindfulness practice. Self-care routines have been clinically proven to reduce anxiety and stress, and also improve concentration and cognitive functioning.
Scheduling 30 minutes of “you time” may not be the simplest to do, but that doesn’t mean you should put your self-care aside. Instead, find little moments throughout the day where you can pause and focus on your well-being.
To help cultivate a sense of ease during the day, here are six simple mindful practices that can be done wherever and whenever needed (although we do not recommend them during your morning meetings).
There is no breath manipulation in this exercise — just drawing awareness to the breath. In just four steps, this observational breathing technique can help to improve self-awareness, quiet a racing mind, and release negative emotions.
- Step 1: Sit or stand comfortably with a long spine, legs hip-width apart, and feet firmly planted on the floor. This exercise can also be done lying down or sitting on the floor cross-legged.
- Step 2: Begin to breathe normally and focus your attention on your breath. Close your eyes or softly lower your gaze to the floor.
- Step 3: Hone in on a physical cue, such as the rise and fall of your belly or the feel of the ground beneath your feet. It can also help to place your hands on your chest and/or stomach.
- Step 4: When your mind begins to wander, take a note of it and return your awareness to the breath.
Continue this subtle observational breathing for at least one minute until you feel calmer.
2. Box Breathing (or Square Breathing)
This deep breathing exercise is a great relaxation technique that helps calm the nervous system, improve focus, and decrease stress in the body.
- Step 1: Sit comfortably on a chair with a long spine, your legs hip-width apart, and feet firmly planted on the floor. This exercise can also be done sitting on the floor cross-legged.
- Step 2: Slowly inhale for 5 seconds. Envision your body filling with air.
- Step 3: Hold the breath for 5 seconds. Keep your body relaxed during this hold.
- Step 4: Slowly exhale for 5 seconds. Completely release your breath.
- Step 5: Hold this empty breath for 5 seconds. Notice the difference in your body.
Repeat steps 1-4 and continue this cycle for at least one minute until you feel re-centered.
3. Segmented Breathing
When you are feeling sluggish or tired, this energizing breathing technique is the perfect pick-me-up. It can help to replenish your energy and boost alertness.
- Step 1: Sit comfortably on a chair with a long spine, your legs hip-width apart, and feet firmly planted on the floor. This exercise can also be done sitting on the floor cross-legged. Do not stand while practicing this breath, as it can sometimes cause a bit of dizziness.
- Step 2: Breath in for 4 short inhales separated by small pauses.
- Step 3: Breath out in one long, smooth exhale to empty the lungs.
Repeat these steps three or four times, but not more than this. Energizing breaths work quickly and effectively, so they should not be done for long periods of time.
4. Hand Massage
After a long day of typing and sitting, it can be therapeutic to give your hands a little bit of extra attention. This simple self-massage has the potential to ease muscle tensions, decrease anxiety, and improve sleep.
- Step 1: Using your right thumb, put slight pressure on the meaty part of your left palm (right under the thumb) and start to massage in circular motions.
- Step 2: Moving around the left palm, begin to massage the base of each of the fingers below the knuckles and closer to the palm of your hand.
- Step 3: Work up to the fingers, pressing on the spaces between the joints.
- Step 4: Clench and stretch your hand three times.
- Step 5: Switch to your right hand and repeat steps 1-4.
You may use this practice as many times as needed throughout the day. Feel free to stay longer in areas that feel tighter.
This easy movement can be done seated or standing. It is a great way to release stress, improve posture, and reduce neck and shoulder strain.
- Step 1: Sit or stand comfortably with a long spine, your legs hip-width apart, and feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Step 2: Keep your neck and head still and slowly raise your shoulders up to your ears as you inhale.
- Step 3: Slowly release your shoulders back down as you exhale.
Repeat steps 1-3 five to ten times, or until you feel tension releasing.
6. Hip Opener
Hips are one of the main areas where people tend to hold a lot of stress. This seated exercise can help to release tension, increase circulation, and expand creativity.
- Step 1: Sit upright on the edge of your seat.
- Step 2: Bend your right knee and place your ankle on your left thigh so that your leg is parallel to the floor.
- Step 3: Using your hand, push down slightly on your right knee until you feel a stretch in your right hip. You may also lean your torso forward to get a more intense stretch.
- Step 4: Hold this position for at least 20 seconds.
- Step 5: Release the right foot back down to the floor and repeat on the left side.
Use this practice 2-3 times a day, especially when sitting for long periods of time.
As you perform each exercise, take note of how you feel before, during, and after the practice. Each time you perform these exercises, you may experience something different. If at any time you do not feel comfortable while performing any of these practices, it’s best to stop and try again another day. Every person experiences these practices differently, and it is important to listen to your body and mind and be kind to yourself while you perform each exercise.
Each of these breathing techniques and physical movements takes less than five minutes to complete and can be used whenever needed and as often as needed. Whether you are moving quickly from one task to another or are deeply focused on an assignment, you can find time for any of these short practices.
We know our crew is the driving force behind NJI and when one of us achieves success, we all do. That’s why we make mental health and well-being a top priority. Enjoy!
Pallavi Kanumuru is an NJI Project Manager and certified yoga instructor. She has taught since 2016 and holds two 200-hour yoga teacher certifications, from Shrimath Yoga in Bangalore, India, and the other from Three Sisters Yoga in New York City. Drawing on her deep training in both western and eastern yoga practice, Pallavi has formulated her own style of teaching that combines traditional practices with modern learning. She currently instructs one-on-one sessions in the greater Washington, D.C. area. She teaches from her own personal journey and focuses on the whole student to allow each individual to explore their personal goals and intentions to their fullest capacity. As a lifelong student of yoga, Pallavi is currently training to become a certified Yoga Therapist by the end of 2023.