Emergency Mindfulness: Here's How to Calm Your Mind in 3 Minutes

Your co-worker has just sent you the most irritating email… again. You feel the heat rise to your face as you get ready to hit reply and let him have it. Afterward, you feel a triumphant sense of satisfaction. You read the words over and know that you’re right. You spend the next hour ruminating over how angry you are, how obnoxious he is, and how irritating it is that you have to deal with this person. A few hours later, when you feel calm, you wonder if you should have written everything that was on your mind. You feel guilty about your reaction and anxious about how you’ll be perceived. On your way home, you realize the AC in your car isn’t working. You think about how everything is going wrong at once.

Most of us spend our days constantly reacting to everything around us. We get angry, we ruminate on our angry thoughts, we automatically react, we feel guilty about the way we reacted, and then we ruminate on that. We become anxious as we consider all the “What ifs?” and “What will people think?” Unexpected things come up, and we think about how everything is going wrong, and how unfair it is. And then we repeat the cycle the next day.

How Meditation Changes Your Experience

The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind, it’s to change the way you relate to the world around you. Normally, we follow our thoughts all day long, wherever they take us. We constantly react. We think we’re reacting to the circumstances and situations around us. But really, we’re reacting to our own thoughts and feelings about those situations. Meditation teaches us that our thoughts are just thoughts, and that we don’t have to automatically react to them.

Instead of automatically reacting, we can learn to take a pause. We often don’t realize that we have an option to step back from our thoughts and feelings. We can allow our thoughts and feelings to simply pass by. And then we can choose how we would like to respond to a situation with intention. By practicing meditation, this becomes much easier to do throughout the day. When you meditate, you practice coming out of your thoughts over and over again. You practice not reacting to your thoughts. You practice simply letting your thoughts pass by. So when something upsetting happens, you have already practiced the skill of pausing, stepping back, seeing your thoughts as just thoughts. This makes it much easier to allow yourself to become calm in the midst of stress, and actually choose your response.

3-Minute Emergency Mindfulness

When you are hit by a stressful situation, you're likely to feel flooded with difficult thoughts and feelings in all directions. This is normal. Your feelings are a signal that this is something important to pay attention to. Once calm, you'll have more freedom to choose how to best respond in a way that's helpful to you. Here’s what you can do to come back to the present with more peace of mind.

This 3-minute emergency mindfulness tool is most helpful if you already have a meditation practice of 5-10 minutes a day to build on. If you don’t, try the meditations here.