COVID-19 UPDATE: my Midtown Manhattan office is currently closed. I am available for online therapy sessions (for NY residents only) via a secure video platform.

Welcome to Part 3 of my Practicing Calm Series! Click here to read Part 1 (young kids) and here to read Part 2 (older kids & teens).

We adults have a lot to deal with – managing careers, personal lives, families, and more on a daily basis can be very stressful. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard an adult say “I’ll relax when the presentation is done” or “I don’t have time to relax” or “I’m not stressed, I don’t need to relax (or meditate, or breathe)”. Have you ever said or thought one of these things?

I love yoga retreats, silent meditation, and home-cooked meals just as much as the next person, but sometimes it really feels like there isn’t time. The phone is ringing, the kids needed to be picked up 5 minutes ago, your boss is constantly emailing you. Though it may seem less than productive, it’s in those stress-filled moments that we need to care for ourselves even more.

You might constantly be promising yourself that you’ll get to yoga class this week, will finally book that massage, will shut off your phone after work. All of these things are wonderful, but it’s better to start small and consistent (like taking a multi-vitamin every morning) than to hold it all in until your annual vacation or monthly massage.

Here are 3 simple ways that you can start practicing calm today:

  1. Exhale. Many people hold their breath so often that they cease to notice it. Take a moment to notice right now – are you holding your breath? Are your lips, cheeks and jaw feeling tight? Exhale fully, perhaps with a sigh. Notice if anything shifts.
  2. Close your eyes. I don’t mean take a nap (unless you have time!), but just close your eyes and let yourself be still for a moment. If you’re afraid you will fall asleep, maybe count “One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi…” like you did when playing hide and seek as a kid. Or just exhale three times.
  3. Listen. This can mean listening to a favorite song – without also checking your email or cooking dinner. Or listen to your own breath. Or listen to the sounds around you – what three things can you hear right now?

These 3 ways to practice calm are all components of mindfulness – the act of being in the present moment, which can also be explored with music.

If you’re really pressed for time, you can combine these three things into one. Set a timer on your phone if you’re worried you’ll drift too far. Or let yourself exhale and close your eyes for the length of your favorite relaxing song. One of my favorite relaxing songs is James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes” – leave me a comment below and let me know what yours is, I’d love to know!