Is thinking about the school year putting you into a spiral of stress and anxiety?

Many parents, students and educators are feeling the same way. There are a lot of uncertainties, unknowns and fears for what is to come.

One thing we all need to keep in mind that our elected officials, health departments, school districts and educators all have our health and safety as a priority. That means that plans may change at any time during the upcoming school year, and for some of us, that can send our anxiety and stress levels skyrocketing.

So how do you deal with uncertainty and situations that are out of your control?

One way is mindfulness practice. These shift your focus from the future to the present, allowing you to focus on the here and now and reconnect with your body.

What is mindfulness, and how can I practice it?

Mindfulness allows you to connect with your body in the present moment.

It brings together all the senses: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Is your breathing controlled? Is your body tense? What noises do I hear?

Mindfulness is often associated with yoga, meditation and deep-breathing practices. These help calm the central nervous system and encourage you to connect with your whole body – your entire being.

If you are interested in these forms of mindfulness, reach out to your local yoga studio. Yoga instructors are trained in all of these areas and incorporate them into their practice.

You can also find mindfulness and deep breathing exercises online, such as on YouTube.com (like this video) or through an app.

Everyday -- and convenient -- mindfulness exercises

We don’t always have access to a yoga studio or quiet place to meditate.

But you can calm yourself down with simple and effective mindfulness practices throughout the day as work becomes overwhelming, family demands start to mount, or any time anxiety starts to rise.

Here are some simple one-minute mindfulness exercises to help you reconnect with your inner self and calm your mind, body and spirit:

  • Yawn and stretch. These calming actions signal to your body that everything is OK and you are feeling restful. Even “fake” yawning can have the same effects as the real thing. Do this for about a minute every hour.
  • Hugs and deep breaths. While we don’t encourage you to ignore social distancing recommendations, hugging a close friend, your partner or a family member while taking deep, slow breaths can help calm you down and brighten your mood (and the mood of the hug recipient, too). Your breaths don’t have to sync, either!
  • Self-soothing hand movements. Take the index finger of one hand and slowly outline the back of your other hand. Enjoy the gentle feel of the movement and sensations while you take deep, slow breaths. You can close your eyes for greater effect, too. Switch hands after about 30 seconds, or whatever feels best for you.
  • Snack mindfully. If your tummy is rumbling and your stress is high, enjoy a small treat, but eat it slowly and mindfully. What flavors are you sensing? How is the food’s texture? Is it salty, sweet, bitter … ? Just focusing on this simple act can help reunite you with your body’s senses.
  • Clench your fists and breathe into your hands. Some of us instinctively do this when we are cold to warm our hands up, but did you know it can also help calm you down? Bring your hands together and now slowly breathe into them. Do you notice what happened? That slow, deep, warm breath, when repeated, will help your body relax!
  • Practice mindful breathing. Take a deep, slow breath, allowing your lungs to fill up fully, your belly to expand, and your chest to rise. Now slowly let it out as though you breathing through a straw. Repeat as long as time allows until your body feels calm.

Learn more one-minute mindfulness techniques from PsychCentral.