Zen in 10: Mindful Ways to Cancel Back-to-School Stress
Story by Aimee L. Morgan
Illustrations by Sophie Konop
See original article featured in Kit Magazine here
As summer vibes give way to fall-time frenzy, you may find yourself at the boiling point. As the mother of two elementary school-age kids, I get squeamish just looking at my family’s packed calendar.
Between work, shuttling kiddos to practices and caring for aging parents, I rarely have time for myself. But I’ve found some ways to calm down and access my best self, and I’d like to share them with you. Try these mindful practices to reduce stress, sleep better and reclaim your precious life force.
1. STOP, DROP AND SOUL
When you’re ablaze with strong emotions, stop what you’re doing and listen to what’s going on inside yourself. What thoughts do you notice? Whatever comes up, watch the thought float like a bubble across the sky. Then channel your inner Elsa and let it go.
2. WRITE IT OUT
The thoughts that may have floated (or sprinted) by during your “Stop, drop and soul” moment need a place to go. Sometimes it helps to write them on paper. I love this practice because, looking back at my journal, I often notice that what bothered me a month ago has resolved itself — and that joys from past entries can be celebrated as joys again today.
3. WEAR MANTRA BLING
Sometimes we need a little reminder to take a deep breath and listen to our inner voice. One powerful tool is a mantra, word(s) or sound(s) repeated to help you concentrate in meditation. Some say “Om” or “I’m peaceful.” Keep your mantra top of mind with personalized jewelry — like a handstamped bracelet from Brownsburg’s Twigs & Twine Jewelry.
4. FEEL TEA-RIFIC
Spoil yourself with a cup of herbal tea and notice the complex flavors swirling in your mouth. If it’s hot, let the steam mist your face. If it’s cold, listen for the tink of the ice. Imagine you’re a visitor from a far-off land. What would you tell your people about this cup o’ goodness?
5. SCAN YOUR BODY
One of my favorite ways to bust stress and big feelings is to scan my body. This is super handy when I can’t get to sleep. Start by noticing the bottoms of your feet. Then move to your toes, ankles, calves and on up until you reach the top of your pretty head. #nightnight
6. GET IN A CREATIVE ZONE
Read a poem that speaks to you or listen to a song that makes you come to life. Then grab a notepad and write or draw whatever comes to you. Become immersed in the experience and let your creativity flow.
7. TAKE FOUR (BREATHS)
Close your eyes and imagine a square. Visit each corner of the square with mindful breath. Corner 1: Take a deep breath — really fill up your lungs. Hold your breath for a count of four. Release your breath all at once. Listen to the whoosh. Repeat for the other three corners.
8. MAKE SPACE FOR YOGA
This yoga move is great for small spaces. Raise your arms out to your sides to form a “T.” Turn your palms to face the sky. Breathe out as you curl your arms in and touch your shoulders Breathe in, extend to a “T.” Repeat until calmness is yours.
9. GO FOREST BATHING
Don’t let the hectic time of year stop you from getting away to connect with nature and yourself. Even if you can’t escape alone, plan a night in a cabin or a day hike to your favorite hollow. Listen for the birds. Watch a butterfly flit about. Smell the flowers. Experience nature to release your stress and increase your happiness and creativity. Go ahead, hug that tree.
10. COMFORT YOURSELF WITH CUSHIONS
Whether you’re meditating or sitting on the floor with kids, a comfortable, crescent-shaped cushion can reduce pressure on your sciatic nerve and sensitive spots.