Ever feel anxious or overwhelmed? If you’re not a robot, your answer is probably yes. Anxiety isn’t a fun experience, but it’s totally normal. The good news is that there are simple ways to work with anxiety so that it’s less of a problem. One method is called the “mindful pause.” It can take as little as 30 seconds, and you can do it any time you start feeling stressed or anxious.
Meditation helped Jon Krop, JD, go from “disorganized screw-up to Harvard Law School graduate.” Jon can guide anyone toward chill—anxious people, depressed people, New Yorkers, even lawyers. He teaches meditation online at jonkrop.com. He also runs Mindfulness for Lawyers and Breathing Room NYC (a meditation group for people with anxiety).
The “mindful pause” in four steps
Because the “mindful pause” is so quick and discreet, you can do it almost anywhere. Just start tossing “mindful pauses” into your day. Get a feel for it. Then, when difficult moments come, you’ll be ready. Here’s how it works:
1. Take a deep breath.
Take a slow inhale, filling your lungs. By slowing and deepening your breathing, you encourage feelings of relaxation and calm.
2. Turn toward your body.
Open your attention to the sensations in your body. Let yourself notice whatever comes up: warmth, tingling, pressure, or the touch of clothing. There’s no need to evaluate the sensations as “good” or “bad.” Itching is simply itching. Coolness is simply coolness.
If you notice sensations that seem connected to stress or anxiety, those are especially good to turn toward. Most of us resist those sorts of sensations. This resistance is what creates suffering, not the sensations themselves.
It’s like playing in the ocean: When a wave is coming, and you try to plant your feet and resist, you get knocked over. But if you dive straight through the wave, it’s no problem.
This step needn’t take longer than one in-breath or out-breath. Stay with it longer if you like, but it can be that quick.
3. Rest your attention on your breath.
Pay attention to the sensation of air touching your nostrils as you breathe. With gentle curiosity, watch the flow of changing sensations at the nostrils. These sensations anchor you in the present moment.
Just like the previous step, this step can be as short as one in-breath or one out-breath.
4. Carry on with your life!
The last step of the “mindful pause” is to simply re-engage with the world, without hurry.
Open your eyes if you’d closed them and carry on with your day. But take your time. Don’t lunge for your phone or speed off to your next activity. Move at a leisurely pace.