Just get out there. It’s all in your head. It’s all in your head.

That’s what I kept telling myself, moments before heading on stage to perform the most complex, improvisational choreography of my life – alone before an audience packed with critics. I was at the peak of my contemporary dance career, strong and thin as a rail, and this was my moment – but I was definitely not ready.

An endless loop of jittery nerves and self-depreciating thoughts was standing in my way. On stage in the dark, a violinist stood at the ready. Perhaps she was feeling the same way. We’d rehearsed a million times, but what was so scary (and so exhilarating) about this show was that she’d be improvising, and I’d have to keep up. This was opening night – the first time we’d be performing this set before a live audience.

We’ve all experienced a moment like this –entering a situation as prepared as we could possibly be, only to find our minds undermining our focus and our cool with impossible questions and useless advice. What if you don’t make it? You don’t know what you’re doing. When was the last time you looked in the mirror?

Enter mindfulness – a technique that can help you combat stress, stay calm, and thwart those nasty little voices of doubt and uncertainty. Sounds great, right? It is. But the trick is making it a habit. And making it happen.

Looking back on this moment, I wish I’d been able to take at least one mindful minute to tune in, acknowledge those feelings, and move forward despite them.

When I first started practicing mindfulness, staying focused was about as easy as entering that empty stage. I went at it in fits and starts; sometimes I’d be able to do it for a full minute, sometimes I could barely go 30 seconds without unwelcome interruption. Sometimes I skipped a week at a time.

But eventually I learned to focus in, breathe, and accept my present moment, plus all the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that go along with it.

We’re faced with stressful moments every day. The curtain rises and we’re expected to run out there and improvise. By making mindfulness part of your regular routine, it will be there for you when you need it most.

Here are five ways I’ve learned to add in a mindful minute to my everyday life:

1. Over coffee.
2. Anytime I catch myself reaching for my iPhone – when I wake up, while waiting for a train, a table, a sandwich, while distracted at my desk, at dinner, at bedtime.
3. While showering or brushing my teeth.
4. While washing dishes.
5. Before, during, and after a fitness class or spa therapy at exhale – where mindfulness is always encouraged!

Exhale can help you learn to be mindful. Read the rest of our “What Mindfulness Means to Me” essays here. Plus follow all our mindful moments – and share yours! – with #MyMindfulMoment on Facebook and Instagram.

We want to hear your story! If you would like to submit a What Mindfulness Means to Me essay, you can do so here.