10 Daily Ways to Reduce Stress and Cultivate Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

1. Quietly begin the day with yourself.

Spending just 5-10 minutes in the morning in silence can help establish the tone for the rest of the day. Use this time to feel the water pressure or temperature in the shower, to gaze out the window at the birds or trees, to really listen to the sounds of nature or the birds chirping, or take a slow and quiet walk by yourself. Beginning the day by quieting the mind and bringing mindful attention to the physical world around you can really help to shift away from thoughts and worries.

2. Set good intentions.

Take a few moments at the start of each day to establish good thoughts and intentions for yourself and perhaps also for others. Imagining or visualizing a productive, manageable, and positive day for yourself can help set that in motion and contribute to a stronger likelihood that your words, actions and thoughts sync with your positive beliefs and imagination.

3. Eat mindfully.

Take notice while eating a daily meal or snack. What does the food actually look like, smell like, feel like, taste like? Are their sounds that accompany eating the meal? Eating too quickly or while multi-tasking can significantly impact our digestive systems and create discomfort. Most of us tend to eat quickly due to limited time and the many responsibilities that we carry and as a result, we rarely pay gentle attention to eating. However, bringing awareness to eating and the enjoyment of our meals can help to decrease stress and digestive-related symptoms.

4. Take three deep breaths.

Taking three slow deep breaths in and three deep exhalation breaths out as many times as needed throughout your day can help manage feelings of anxiety or stress. This can be done anywhere; when you first wake up, while the car is warming up, while sitting at your desk at work, while standing in line at the supermarket or before you close our eyes to go to sleep. 

5. Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated with water and herbal teas is a very small kind act towards yourself and of course towards your health. Drinking throughout the day is excellent for your mental alertness, heart health and helps all of your bodily systems run smoothly.

6. Stretch.

Many of us sit for so long throughout the day and experience tension or tightness in the muscles especially in the neck or back. Try stepping away from the desk or office for 30 minutes if possible to stretch or go for a walk. If this is difficult, gently stretch your body while seated. While sitting at your desk or the keyboard, try to place a mindful awareness from time to time around how your body is feeling and around any sensations or tensions that may be happening. This helps to consciously relax the body through a kind, gentle approach. 

7. Set realistic and manageable expectations.

We may feel overwhelmed from time to time and often have numerous tasks and responsibilities at hand. Instead of overloading yourself every day with a long to-do list, try to prioritize the list in the order of those that need to get done today in addition to those that need to eventually get done. By compartmentalizing your to-do list and focusing on what can get done today, you remove some of the pressure from feeling that everything has to get done at once. In addition, try to carve out some time during the week to allow yourself some uninterrupted enjoyment and time to relax. Setting aside special time for you to step away, unwind and re-center yourself is very helpful and beneficial to productivity and overall well-being.

8. Drive mindfully.

Driving is often an activity that we do while in ‘auto-pilot mode.’ We may rarely even notice or pay attention to the skills that are required and as a result, often drive without conscious awareness. Instead, try to practice the act of driving with some mindfulness applied to it. For example, spend a few moments while the car is warming up to begin to become aware of your body and how your hands, legs, shoulders and feet feel in the car. While driving, spend some time in silence without the radio or phone and try to pay attention to how your hands feel around the wheel, how your legs feel on the car seat, and bringing attention to the traffic lights, sounds, and nature around you.

9. Transition back.

Once you return home from our work-mode to that of home, it is important to spend some time physically and emotionally transitioning back. That means using the time after warmly greeting and reconnecting with your home space, loved ones and pets to change out of your daily clothes into clothing that help defines your home role and one of comfort and relaxation. In addition, it is helpful to use the downtime of the evening to turn off cell phones and any other electronic devices so that your focus and attention shifts to a more centered awareness around what is happening for you in the present moment and to ensure you have quality time with your loved ones. 

10. What went right during the day?

Finally, spending some time before you fall asleep thinking of any 3 things that went right for you during the day or that you feel grateful for, is a great way to conclude the day. These can be as small as the weather becoming warmer, the days becoming longer, having a pleasant encounter with a co-worker, or your warm, cozy pillow and bed!

Lauren Debiak