I have lived with spinal pain for 40 years and have practised mindfulness for 30 years. Over that time I have devised and come to rely on three mindfulness techniques that I use when times are tough. I remember these three slogans when I am in need of something that that is fast acting and effective – the mindfulness versions of fast-acting painkillers.

So, whether you are in physical or emotional pain, or you feel as though you are being buried under the stress of work or exams; or if you are facing something difficult in your life, please try my 'emergency mindfulness for tough times' slogans and I am sure they will help.

'When in doubt, breathe out'

When we experience pain - be it mental, emotional or physical - we inevitably hold our breath against the pain. Try this short exercise to see what I mean:

Make a fist with one hand. Notice what's happened to your breathing. You'll probably notice you're holding it. Now imagine breathing into the fist. What does it want to do? You'll probably find it wants to release a little.

The fist in this exercise is a metaphor for any kind of discomfort. When we are not aware, we automatically tense against the discomfort with associated breath holding. Then we get into a vicious cycle of more tension, more breath holding, more pain, more tension etc. and this can feel really unpleasant. By consciously directing the breath into this cycle of contraction, the tension will gradually soften and the pain will ease.

A good way to do this is to allow each out-breath to sigh into the full length of the natural exhalation. When you notice you are getting wound up in this kind of cycle say gently to yourself "when in doubt, breathe out". Let go and soften.

'FOFBOC'

This leads to the next slogan FOFBOC which stands for: Feet on Floor, Bum on Chair. This is used when teaching mindfulness to kids but it is also a great mindfulness reminder for us big people coping with desperate moments.

When we are caught up in habits of resisting and fighting pain, we unconsciously strain away from experiencing the body and end up fighting gravity. We sort of pull away from the floor and the chair with the breath holding and tension I write about in the previous point. As you soften your breath and let the out-breath go all the way out of the body, you could also say to yourself "FOFBOC" and see if you can really feel your feet on the floor and your bum on the chair and cultivate more of a quality of rest and ease.

'Take a break BEFORE you need it'

It is counter-intuitive to stop doing something before you really feel the need, but learning to pace my activities has been one of the key ways I have learned to manage my pain and live a full life with a very demanding but satisfying job.

Pacing is learning to balance activity with rest, so you don't swing wildly between over-doing it when you feel OK and then having a big crash as a consequence. For example, when I am working at the computer, I use a timer set for 20 minute spells. When the timer goes off I pause, stretch, move about a little and give my body a break from being in one posture. This has been revolutionary for me and I have been able to write three books by working in 20 minute spells.

Before I learned to pace I used to do an activity until my body forced me to stop - usually at the point of agony. So I might work for 2-3 hours at a stretch but then be wiped out for the rest of the day. By pacing, I can now work for many more hours without ever reaching this pitch of agony. Think of it as never quite draining your bank account but always having a little bit of cash in reserve!

To fully establish the many benefits of mindfulness in your workplace, please get in touch about training with Breathworks here.