How to Stay Centered During Stressful Times
It can be easy to become uncentered due to things that occur in our daily lives. When we feel uncentered, we feel as though we’re being spread too thin in many different directions. Our minds can become crowded with thoughts and we can feel anxious or stressed in our bodies.
When left unchecked, prolonged stress can lead to diseases, lowered immunity, tiredness, fatigue, and burnout. Long term stress can also lead to depression, anxiety, and social or communication issues. Another important point to keep in mind is that how we react to stress determines how stressed we actually feel, as well as our outlook on life. For example, two people could be in the exact same stressful situation, but if one has learned to reframe that situation in a positive light—or learned how to react less to it—that person will have a completely different experience than the other.
Regular yoga, pranayama, and meditation practice can help us to combat stress and help us with how we respond to stressful situations. By quieting the mind and allowing ourselves to be more deeply aware of the present moment, we can start to become more mindful of our emotions, our thoughts, and how we react to stressful situations. It’s important to take time each day to sit in stillness for a few moments to rediscover the place of centeredness in ourselves. As we practice sitting with this place of centering, we often find that we can access our centeredness more easily in times of chaos or stress. By strengthening our connection to it, we can allow this space of being centered to guide us in every moment. Some other ways we can return to our centers are taking walks daily, being in nature, eating healthy, journaling, yoga, breathwork, or meditation
By practicing calming the mind and building awareness of ourselves and the world around us, we gain dominion over our thoughts and our emotions.
Here are a few simple practices you can do today to help you feel more grounded in times of stress.
1. Centering Breath Practice
The simplest way to center in any moment of our lives is through our breath. The best part of this practice is that is easy and we can do it anytime we begin to feel stressed. To practice this centering breath practice, find a pace of breathing that feels good to you. Then, as you inhale, say the words I’m breathing in either out loud or internally. As you exhale, say the words I’m breathing out either out loud or internally. Repeat this up to a minute or longer. If you find that your mind wanders away, just gently bring your awareness back to this centering breath practice.
2. Sitting Grounding Practice
Grounding and feeling rooted helps us get in touch with feelings of stability and support. To practice, begin in a comfortable seated pose, with eyes either closed or open. Begin to center your mind with your breath; breathing deeply. Bring awareness to your sit bones and your connection with the earth beneath you. Observe how firm and supportive it is as you connect to it. Take several breaths in and out as you feel this connection deepening and begin to feel support and stability.
3. Counting Breath Practice
Focusing on our breath and breath practices can be a powerful way in which we can turn away from fear and move towards peace. To do this practice, begin in a comfortable seated position. Start off easily with a slow three-count inhale in and a slow three-count exhale out. Then, take a deep breath in for a count of three and hold for a second. After the hold, exhale slowly for a count of three. You can do this for up to a minute, and even extend the count for up to five seconds (five seconds inhaling and five seconds exhaling out, slowly).
4. Standing Grounding Meditation
In times of stress, this simple grounding meditation can allow us to come back to the present moment. To practice, begin standing tall in Mountain (Tadasana) with your legs hip distance apart. Bring awareness to your feet rooting down into the Earth and feel supportive energy rising up from the Earth into your bodies. Engage your core and your leg muscles and feel this energy rising up all the way to the crown of your head. Bring your hands to prayer position at your chest, take several deep breaths, and take a quiet moment to express gratitude and respect to our home, Earth.
5. Calming Peace Prayer Practice
Compassion has a powerful effect on our minds and how we feel. Practicing compassion can take us from feelings of fear to feelings of love and understanding. To practice, begin in Easy pose or a comfortable seated position with your spine upright. Bring your hands to Namaste or Anjali mudra at your heart center. Allow your heart center to open and fill with love and light. Repeat the following peace prayer mantra, either out loud or internally. Imagine that you are directing this mantra to the entire world: Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
This ancient Sanskrit mantra translates to, “may all beings everywhere be happy and free.” Repeat this up to ten times and feel your heart radiating with love and peace for all beings in the world.