Burnout isn’t an individual problem, it’s a collective challenge and a byproduct of unkind systems in our world. The good news is that these systems were created by people, which means they can be updated.
We’ve put together a mini meditation retreat for relief and restoration when you’re teetering on the edge of burnout. These meditations are meant to take you from “me” (connect with your practice), to “we” (connect with your relations), to “us” (engage in the unique ways that are available to you). We hope this relief package helps you nourish your awareness, bring kind curiosity to your thoughts and experiences, and receive the care you deserve.
Day 1: Create Your Foundation
Restoring ourselves can start with the recognition that we are all naturally mindful. And when you intentionally tune in to thoughts and emotions for a few moments each day, you’re reminding your busy brain how to cultivate calm and presence.
Unwind From Stress
Stress often arises from stories we create in our minds. Try this simple inquiry practice to shift your perspective.
By Nate Klemp and Eric Langshur
Beneath every stressful emotion sits a thought—a thought that may or may not actually be true. Once you question the validity of the thought, the accompanying stress in the mind and body starts to fall away. That’s the basic insight of the practice of inquiry. The simple act of questioning the thoughts that shape our reality (especially when they create stress, anger, or frustration) opens the door to living a life with more compassion, ease, and openness to new possibilities.
You can integrate this practice into everyday life—standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for your plane to take off, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment—with the simple steps of Notice, Shift, and Rewire. Like letting the air out of a tire, inquiry is an inner technology for gradually deflating the beliefs and stories that create stress in our lives.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Unwind From Stress
NOTICE when you feel upset or irritated. Use these emotions as your reminder to take a step back and shift out of your ordinary habits.
SHIFT your perspective. Once you notice that you’re caught in a stressful emotion, shift by asking a reframing question like, “How does this situation support my learning and growth?” “How would my rebellious adolescent self view this situation?” or “How would my best self respond to this?” This question might open new possibilities. It might even lead you to feel excited, instead of overwhelmed, by the challenge.
REWIRE. Take just 15 seconds to savor this alternative perspective. Remember that this simple practice is activating new neural pathways in the brain. See if you can stay with the experience to strengthen this new habit.
Watch Your Mental Weather
Feel the freedom of noting your thoughts and emotions, then releasing them as they shift like clouds in the sky.
By Mark Bertin
Our mental habits can be both useful and far from useful. In order to tell the difference, we first have to notice them. While practicing mindfulness, we guide ourselves out of reactive stress mode and pause. From there, we observe how we think more clearly without judging ourselves as flawed for whatever we find. We can set new intentions moving forward with ease and even a little kindness.
In this practice, we sit for a moment and note thoughts as they come and go, just as we might lie back in the grass on a warm autumn day and watch the sky. Later, you may choose to problem-solve or run with a creative idea you had during this practice. But for just a few minutes we let it all slide, give ourselves a mental rest, and observe the thoughts as they pass by.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Watch Your Mental Weather
- Take a few minutes right now to observe your thoughts.
- As thoughts surface, ask yourself: Is it true? Negative thoughts might arise: I’m not good enough to handle this. Or, If I don’t get my act together I am not going to get a promotion. But, are those things true? So much of what feels fixed or permanent turns out to be assumption, conjecture, or fantasy. After you’ve asked yourself Is this true? of a particular thought, see if you can then gently let the thought go.
- Note the directions your mind tends toward. Are there specific storylines you tell yourself? Or thoughts? Are you bored? Are you hungry? Are you thinking about the past? Are your thoughts about the future?
- Become aware of storylines, then note them as habits. Let go of your thoughts. Touch in and then gently let them roll on by.
Day 2: Nourish Your Roots
The present moment is where togetherness, play, and fun live. Choosing to be present allows us to offer genuine care for our friends, family, and coworkers, while also helping us be receptive to others’ compassion—a virtuous cycle that refills our cup.
Drop Into a Mindful Moment
When we practice being in the present moment, we give ourselves the option of witnessing and responding, and even redirecting, rather than being on automatic pilot.
By Jason Gant
The present moment is where togetherness, play, and fun live. By cultivating presence, we become more conscious of all the goodness in our lives—we discover we have a choice of what we pay attention to in any moment. Even in times of challenge and adversity, we can access a sense of ease, relaxation, and calm. Presence also allows us to show up fully for other people with kindness and care (even if we don’t always agree with them). By helping others feel seen and heard, we nurture a sense of safety in which discussion and collaboration, instead of conflict, can become the norm.
Here are two ways to practice mindfulness in “stealth mode,” meaning you can practice at any time, anywhere, under any circumstances, without anyone even noticing.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Drop Into a Mindful Moment
TAKE THREE FULL BREATHS
First breath: Bring your full attention to breathing.
Second breath: Relax the body. Drop your shoulders.
Third breath: Ask yourself: What’s important right now?
HEAD, BODY, HEART, CHECK-IN
Take three full breaths, scanning one area of the body with each breath.
First breath: Scan the head, representing thoughts.
Second breath: Scan the body, representing emotions and sensations.
Third breath: Scan the heart, representing values and intentions.
Let Compassion Open Your Heart
This gentle practice helps you embrace the fact that you are inherently worthy of love.
By Sharon Salzberg
We tend to focus all our love on the people we care about—yet, to connect more deeply with others, we must turn toward the one person we keep on the shortest leash: ourselves. We often reject other people’s care or attention when we believe we don’t deserve it. This practice reminds us that there’s nothing special we must do to deserve love. You are worthy of love simply because you exist.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Let Compassion Open Your Heart
- Begin to imagine you’re encircled by people who love you. As you sit comfortably with your eyes open or a soft gaze, imagine yourself in the center of a circle made up of the most loving beings you’ve met. There may be some people in your circle who you’ve never met, but who have inspired you. Maybe they exist now, or they’ve existed historically, or even mythically.
- Receive the love of those who love you. Feel your heart receiving the energy, attention, care, and regard of all of these beings in your circle of love. Silently repeat phrases of loving-kindness that express what you most wish for yourself, not just for today but in an enduring way. For example: May I be safe, happy, and healthy. May I live with ease of heart.
- Notice how you feel when you receive love. All kinds of different emotions may arise. You may feel gratitude and awe, or you might feel uncertain or shy. Whatever emotion may arise, just let it wash through you. Your touchstone is those phrases of lovingkindness: May I be safe, happy, and healthy, or whatever phrases you’ve chosen.
- Open yourself up to receiving love. Imagine that your skin is porous and this warm, loving energy is coming in. There’s nothing special that you need to do to deserve this kind of acknowledgment or care. It’s available to you simply because you exist.
- Send loving care to the people in your circle. Allow loving-kindness and compassion and care to flow right back out to the circle and then toward all beings everywhere, so that what you receive, you transform into giving. These qualities can become part of you, and part of what you express and return to the world. When you feel ready, you can lift your gaze to end the session.
Day 3: Awaken Your Heart
A beautiful thing about mindfulness is how it comes alive in community. Our own practice ripples out in countless ways to benefit the people and beings around us, empowering us to speak and act from a place of generosity, understanding, and knowing our deep interconnectedness with one another.
Turn Awareness Into Action
Strengthening our ability to be self-aware, self-actualized, and self-determined can help us co-create a better world together. Try this guided meditation for taking wise action.
By Michelle Maldonado
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and confused about how to engage with the world from a place of strength, groundedness, and calm.
Try this awareness practice to foster three key insights: clarity of intention; understanding of our power, presence, and impact; and opportunities for wise action-taking. We don’t have to know all the answers. We are simply inviting in reflection and introspection to allow insights and awareness of body and mind to arise. Whatever arises, see if you can meet it with self-compassion and curiosity.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Turn Awareness Into Action
- First, let us our attention to our heart space by gently placing a hand over the heart, allowing it to simply rest there. Placing a hand over the heart can often bring us comfort when we explore difficult thoughts, emotions, or experiences.
- Next, see what you notice: perhaps the weight of your palm against your chest, or a temperature difference in the space underneath your palm, or maybe even the sensation of each heartbeat as you expand your awareness. Take it all in with a gentle inhale and exhale.
- Over the next few moments, invite yourself to consider these three things: How did I show up in the world today? How did my privilege show up through me? What actions can I take, and what questions can I open to, to help become more aware of my privilege and its impact on others?
Connect in Conversation
With time, we discover how bringing mindfulness out into the world and to our interactions with others can help us all thrive.
By Diana Winston
Mindful speech can be defined as speaking authentically from our heart. Usually, we just open our mouths and let whatever comes out come out. Often we speak when we want to fill the space, when we’re uncomfortable, when we don’t know what else to do. When speaking mindfully, however, we choose our words with a bit more care and intention. Invite a family member, friend, or partner to explore this practice with you. Communicating this way may feel clunky at first, but over time, listening and speaking mindfully will start to be second nature, and the sense of understanding, acceptance, and happiness in your relationships will deepen.
When you’re listening: Give your full attention to the other person. Become aware of your body (breath, feet, hands, etc.) from time to time to help you stay present. When your attention wanders, bring it back to being present with the person.
When you’re speaking: Speak authentically about what is true for you. Become aware of your body (breath, feet, hands, etc.) from time to time to help stay present. Occasionally you can verbalize what you are aware of as you are talking.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Connect in Conversation
- Find a willing partner. One person will speak first, and the other will listen—start by deciding who.
- The first speaker will speak for 90 seconds on a topic you both choose. For example, your topic might be something like, “What brings me joy?” The listener can nod and smile and show that they are interested, but not interrupt.
- After 90 seconds, ring a bell and take a silent pause to feel the impact of listening or speaking in that way. Then reverse roles and let the other person speak on the same topic for 90 seconds.
- After the other person speaks, ring a bell, and take a pause. Then reconnect for a few minutes (with no rules!) to share what it was like doing the exercise and to follow up on anything you want to ask or say, based on what your partner shared.
Even at Mindful magazine, we have to work hard to make sure we’re not teetering on the edge of burnout. Editor-in-chief Heather Hurlock shares how she and her staff hold kind space for each other, while holding each other accountable.