Sometimes things can get a bit too much.
Pressing ‘pause’ can help.
Even if it’s just for a few short minutes.
Here’s a simple exercise to help to slow things down – all you have to be able to do is to count up to five.
Using the fingers of one hand and spending about one minute on each finger:
1 Concentrate on your breathing. Don’t try to force anything, just listen to your breathing.
2 Notice any Bodily sensations that you might be feeling. Go gradually from your toes to the top of your head. Be aware of any feelings of discomfort or pressure.
3 Try to label any Emotions you may be experiencing. This is likely to be the most difficult part. Emotions are vague and ephemeral. They are likely to merge with bodily sensations, like an anxious knot in the stomach, a tightness of the throat, or pressure in the head. If it’s difficult to name the emotions, then maybe think about six basic emotional labels – happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised, disgusted.
4 What are you thinking about? What ideas and Thoughts are on your mind? Most people will find that during this kind of exercise they will be distracted by thoughts. That’s fine. It’s normal. When you realise that you have lost concentration, just return to the exercise and allow the thoughts to fall away.
5 Then for the last minute or so return to concentrating on breathing. Just listen to your breath going in and out.
You can remember this exercise by using the word ‘BET’ – Body/Emotions/Thoughts.
This can be particularly useful if you are about to go into a difficult or unfamiliar situation, for example an interview or a difficult meeting.
Once you are reasonably familiar with the exercise, you can limit it to five breaths,
(1) simply being aware of your breathing,
(2) a quick body scan for physical sensations,
(3) noticing any strong emotion,
(4) thinking about your thoughts (although you might be thinking so much that you may just be aware that there are lots of thoughts around) and
(5) return to be aware of your breathing.
(This is an edited extract from A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress by Angus Lyon – ARK Group 2015)