Updated: Feb 22
Picture this, you’ve had zoom meetings all morning and each one probably could have just been an email. For lunch, you rushed to the fridge and scarfed down some cold leftovers from last night while standing over the sink, before scurrying back to your desk for a long, intensive phone call with the head of your team. Your whole day has been rushing, reacting, and stressing over things that are not in your control. You feel fried mentally, scattered, negative, and unfocused. You feel like you could scream. It’s time to take a mindful minute for yourself.
What’s a mindful minute, you ask? It’s a way to quickly reset, refocus and regroup from the stresses in our day-to-day that negatively affect our health. It can help us become present in the moment by focusing on our breathing, certain sounds, and senses, or even an activity. We’ve become so programmed in the United States towards working ourselves sick, that we forget to take any time for self-care practices such as meditation and mindfulness which are critical for a healthy lifestyle. As small business owners at Camp Copeland Studio, we regularly get buried in the mountain of things we have to do, and the 20 different hats we have to wear during the day. Over time we’ve come up with some wonderful mindfulness exercises to step away and regroup. Today, we’re sharing our 6 favorite ways to relieve stress during the day so that you can benefit as well.
1). Don’t Reach For Your Phone
Ok, so number one is less of a way to achieve mind-body centering and more of a tip to help you proceed to the next 5 on the list. Our first instinct when taking any sort of break tends to be to reach for our phones and start scrolling social media. We think, “I’ve got a few minutes, I’ll find some cat videos on Tiktok to help me unwind”, or “Let’s see what Linda is up to, she always posts the most fun things”. Although cat videos are the bee's knees, and Linda does post some rad stuff, scrolling social media doesn’t relax your mind when you’re stressed. Social media is a distraction that doesn’t separate you from your stress, it only puts you in a holding pattern. Some studies have shown that social media scrolling can cause spikes in cortisol (the stress hormone) to worsen by making us envious, lonely, inadequate, anxious, or depressed. This affects us all, but particularly affects younger people and can actually become an addiction. This article by Social Media Victims Law Center in Seattle goes into great detail about this matter. This is not the recipe to achieve a peaceful mind, especially when you only have a few minutes to yourself. This recent CNN article by Jacque Smith is a great example of what you can accomplish by disconnecting from social media. We agree this Jacque about using your time more wisely than just scrolling through Instagram, especially when it comes to your mental health. In our opinion, the following 5 stress reduction techniques are way better in helping you regain your mind-body focus and rebalance. We use at least one of them every day!
2). Artistic Expression To Calm a Busy Mind
This is my favorite way to relax during the day when I can’t get away from my desk. Recently Alyssa and I started to work through Melissa Washburn’s wonderful book, “Draw Like An Artist: 100 Flowers And Plants”, to help us work on our illustration game. Although we are both artists/craftspeople, neither of us is very confident drawing, let alone doing it realistically. Artistic expression and learning to draw flowers through a step-by-step process have proven to be a fantastic mindful minute exercise. I can concentrate on the act of drawing which allows my creative mind to stretch. I can also bring attention to my breathing to slow my heart rate and calm racing or negative thoughts. Each flower or plant step by step exercise is easy to understand and fairly quick to complete. This is a great way to refresh before, after, or between Zoom meetings. We each keep the book along with a small sketchbook and some watercolor pencils at our desks. Below is a photo showing Alyssa’s setup. The pencils and eraser are resting in our powder blue fused glass nourish ellipse tray.
3). Keep A Home Made Zen Garden To Relieve Stress
Similar to the exercise of drawing flowers or doodling in a sketchbook, keeping a homemade zen garden is a great mindfulness activity to perform at your desk. Combing the sand and arranging small plants or accessories is meditative, making it a great way to manage stress during the day. The best part is you can customize the entire experience or simply purchase a kit. The base for your garden can be as basic or as fancy as you’d like. Fill a plastic container with sand, or buy a pre-made zen garden set. I use our fused glass mustard and white square tray for my base. There is a photo of my setup below. Create your zen garden by choosing unique air plants, using seashells or stones from your yard to make a relaxing landscape. I cast small concrete stones and walls for mine. To fill my base I chose small grain white sand, but again, the options are practically endless as far as color and size. Finally, the rake to comb your garden. It could be as simple as a fork. You could also buy a small zen garden rake online or, like me, I handmade one from sticks in the yard and hot glue. Comment on this post if you’re interested in seeing a tutorial on how to make a rake. Desktop zen gardens are one of the easiest ways to relieve stress during the day.
4). Get Away From Your Desk and Breathe For a Mindful Moment
This one is the most simple, but also an extremely effective way to reduce stress and reclaim a peaceful mind. Simply get away from your desk and find a quiet place, sit down, close your eye, and allow yourself to enjoy a 3-minute breathing space. Don’t stress if your mind starts to wander to thoughts about what you have to do later today, or when you have to pick up the kids, etc... Just relax, and allow yourself to be present in the moment with your breath. Often I’ll focus on the birds chirping in my backyard, or how the breeze through the window feels against my skin as I breathe. Other times I’ll repeat the affirmation “This moment is mine” with each exhale. After a few minutes, I always feel great and ready to continue with my day.
5). Get Outside + Walk In Your Garden
There is no better way to reconnect with our environment and ourselves than to get outside in nature. Go for a quick walk around the block after lunch to boost circulation and feel the sun on your face. Work for a few minutes in your garden. Every day before lunch Alyssa and I take a walk through our garden. We find it so enjoyable to see the progress of our plants, prune and pick ripe produce. Most days our afternoon harvest dictates what we have for lunch and dinner. We also grow flowers for chamomile and lavender tea. Harvesting the flowers in the afternoon and allowing them to dry fills our first floor with lovely floral aromas which are calming in and of themselves. If you don’t have a garden, maybe there’s a park nearby where you can sit on a bench and have lunch in the shade. The most important thing is to get away from your stress and enjoy some time for yourself.
6). Tend To Your Plants
Another way to experience nature mindfully without going outside is to own and tend to houseplants. Recent studies have shown how beneficial houseplants and flowers are to improving mood and decreasing cortisol levels. Some of the reasons houseplants are so great to have are that they remind us of our link to nature, they’re beautiful and they show us that our actions have power. There is an ebb and flow to the life of a houseplant that mirrors our existence. Sometimes our plants don’t bloom, but they still grow, persevering through tough times. Aesthetically, plants are perfect elements of interior design and provide a lovely place for us to rest our eyes. Leaf striations, bloom, and beautiful shapes make houseplants natural works of art that we have helped sustain. Watering and tending to houseplants prove that our actions have meanings acknowledging the importance of conscious living. Without our attentive care, our plants would wither, brown, and most likely die. This connection to another living thing can be a constant reminder to make time to act mindfully.
Time To Get Started Living Mindfully
I hope that these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me and Alyssa. As I mentioned above, before becoming small business owners with Camp Copeland Studio, we dabbled in mediation and yoga but didn’t truly understand how to have a mindful practice or the overall importance of regular mind-body centering during the day. Now, almost 6 years later, it is an essential part of both of our workdays. If one of us finds a great new way to be more conscious we eagerly share it and compare notes with the other. We’d love to hear your tips and practices as well. Please don’t hesitate to comment below or email us and if you know someone who may benefit from this article share it or Pin it.
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Thank you for reading
Alyssa + Drew