Stress is something that everyone deals with on a daily basis. You might find yourself stressed over your job, paying bills, or even something as simple as a family get together. Whatever the cause, stress can have a significant impact on your life.
While it’s impossible to eliminate every cause of stress in your life, there are healthy ways to manage it. These practices are known as mindfulness stress reduction, and they’re easy to incorporate into your life than you might think. Here are multiple ways to bring your mind back to a calm state.
Often, people learn to live with such high levels of stress that they barely notice the symptoms anymore. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- Low energy
- Frequent headaches
- Upset stomach
- Unusual aches and pains
- Chest pain accompanied by a rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds or infections
- Difficulty concentrating
- Confusion or forgetfulness
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Nervous ticks, such as biting your nails
- Lack of interest in things you enjoy
These symptoms can impact every aspect of your daily life, but you don’t have to let stress take hold of your mind. With the proper stress management techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, you can turn this formidable foe into an opportunity for personal growth and self-development.
Mindfulness stress reduction is a program created by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970’s. The idea behind the program was to aid hospital patients who suffered from physical or mental illnesses, but it has proven to be applicable in nearly anyone’s life.
This form of meditation is something you incorporate into your life in various ways. Mindfulness is designed to change the way you perceive stress through these practices, as well as develop a positive outlook on life. These methods have helped individuals just like yourself, as well as patients with chronic and even terminal illnesses.
The following are practices and exercise you can work on in the comfort of your own home. Give one or all of them a try to see how they can change your life.
Many think of mindfulness as a single state of mind, but the truth is that there are several different aspects involved. Focus, awareness, and the ability to switch between the two are all a part of the process.
The first aspect is focus, which involves reflecting inward. As you look inside yourself, observe what is going on inside of your mind at this particular moment in time. Keep your thoughts narrowed to the current experience, keeping your breath calm as you enjoy the sensations of the moment.
For instance, you might explicitly focus on your drive to work. How does the music playing on your radio make you feel? What parts of driving your car do you enjoy the most? Are there any landmarks along the road that you to observe?
The idea is to relax and let go of everything else that does not pertain to this moment. Your drive to work isn’t about deadlines or duties, it isn’t about an argument you had yesterday, and it has nothing to do with all of the things that need to be done once you punch out for the day. Allow yourself just to be, focusing on nothing but the drive.
Awareness is all about placing your attention on the external things happening around you. It involves examining your thoughts and feelings through the lens of other living things, but also the process of separating yourself from them.
Imagine your thoughts and feelings as a stream, with you standing on the river bank. Allow them to pass by without analyzing them or making judgments about yourself. From there, you can pick out individual emotions and focus on them individually.
Without the other thoughts or stress that surround this emotion, how do you feel about it? Does it belong with the other emotions surrounding it, and does it tell you anything about yourself?
This practice can help you separate the anxiety and depression that come with stress, seeing a situation for what it is and handling it accordingly. It can also help you to better understand painful experiences from your past.
Switching Between the Two
Focus and awareness go hand in hand. Start by focusing on the moment, breathing deeply to relax. Then begin to drift into awareness, or consciousness, until you come across a stressor.
“Pluck” that stressful object from the river, then deliberately focus on it. The combination allows you to handle stress before it gets out of control.
Exercises and Practices
To help you with your focus and awareness, there are a number of things you can do for your mental state. Each can help alleviate stress while putting you back into a positive mood, allowing you to enjoy life.
Breathing and Body Scanning
The number one is breathing, which involves focus intently on your breath as you take air in and back out. This should be used in combination with what is called a body scan.
Body scanning requires you to lie down and focus on individual parts of your body as you relax them. Start at your feet and make your way to your head, working on each small area at a time. For instance, you would focus on your toes, then your feet, then your ankles before moving onto your shins.
When you arrive at an unusually tight or sore part of your body, take extra time to think about it as you breathe deeply. Once you’re done, you should feel incredibly relaxed if you haven’t fallen asleep already. With that last part in mind, it’s a good idea to set an alarm the first few times you try this out.
Each meal should be enjoyable, right? You can practice mindfulness stress reduction each time you eat a piece of food. All you have to do is focus all of your senses on your food.
Eat slowly, noticing the way each bite tastes. How does your food smell? How does it feel in your mouth as you chew? This is an excellent stress reliever during a hectic workday since you can practice it at lunch.
Stretching and Yoga
Choose any routine or set of position you would like for this mindfulness stress reduction technique. As you move from one stretch to the next, stop and take the time to focus on how each one feels. Enjoy the sensations of different parts of your body relaxing or stretching, breathing deeply through each one.
Both yoga and stretching can help alleviate stress, increase your level of calmness, and bring about cheerfulness. As a form of exercise, yoga can also help you sleep better at night as well as lose weight. If you have an extra ten minutes or more in your day, spend it stretching instead of worrying.
Walk It Off
Taking a walk can be incredibly meditative on its own, but you can take it one step further with mindfulness. As you walk, pay attention different sensations as they happen. How do your feet feel when they meet the ground? How does the outside air smell or feel when the breeze picks up?
A Few Other Stress Relieving Techniques
For many, the downtime in their day is when stress can wreak the most havoc. Filling your time with relaxing activities can help you to alleviate some of that stress or even just take your mind off of what is causing it for a while.
After a long day, you could take a hot bath with candles and a glass of wine. You might find relief by getting lost in the pages of a favorite book, or slaying some enemies in a favorite video game. Sitting on your porch and watching the sunset is another excellent option since it forces you to practice mindful focus.
On the other hand, you might find that a funny TV show or going out for a drink with friends can help take your mind off of a stressor for a while. Maybe you’re the type of person who would feel accomplished after cleaning out their closet or fixing up the house. Do an activity that can help you focus on something positive for a while.
A Note on Handling Anger
Sometimes, stress can make someone incredibly angry. The frustration of the moment might cause you to say or do things you would later regret, which makes managing this emotion vital to mindfulness stress reduction.
If you find your anger rising in a stressful situation, separate yourself immediately. Find a place to sit quietly where you can focus on your breathing. Once you’ve begun to calm down a little, utilize awareness to see what emotions are manifesting in the form of anger.
Paying attention to your thoughts can help you identify those emotions. For instance, you might have reacted in anger when you were just trying to express concern for someone. Maybe you simply feel hurt or are even frustrated with something else altogether instead of what you ended up fighting about.
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