If your to-do list is running long and you feel your stress levels rising, you might want to start your day with a quick break. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true — just a few short minutes of breathing and mindfulness can help you set your stress aside and improve your focus and productivity when you attack your inbox.
Set a timer for five minutes. Start up some relaxing sounds or soft music, if you like. Close your eyes, relax your shoulders, and take a few deep breaths from your belly, letting the air slowly rise up into your chest, all the way up to the top of your head. Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, then hold for four counts before starting again. Focus on each count and how the air feels as it moves in and out of your body. Think about how your body feels through each breath, and if other thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and let them go.
While you do this exercise, don’t worry about how well you’re doing it — just try to stay in the moment. When your timer goes off after five minutes, you can return to your tasks feeling refreshed and ready to tackle each challenge as it comes.
If a DIY quick meditation isn’t for you or if you prefer a guided experience, a number of meditation apps are available for iOS or Android. Try Headspace, Calm, Healthy Minds or The Mindfulness App.