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How Mindfulness Can Help With Stress

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response.  We react to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses.  It is a normal part of life and we experience stress from the environment, our bodies and our thoughts.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing as it keeps us alert and ready in order to avoid danger.  It also helps for a burst of extra energy and focus – when you’re playing a competitive sport or speaking in public.

Stress becomes negative when it is continuous, without relief or relaxation.  When stress builds up you can become overwhelmed, it might feel like your attention keeps being kidnapped by emotions and thoughts.  Worrying thoughts can lead to a vicious cycle of stress and anxiety from which is difficult to escape.  This can lead to tension, headaches, and lack of concentration, fatigue and other health issues.

SO HOW CAN MINDFULNESS HELP?

We spend a significant part of our lives operating on autopilot including the way we think.  Most of the time we are not aware of what is happening, our subconscious brain makes the decisions.  We stop thinking about what we are doing.  This can be helpful, walking to work or home, making a drink, driving, but it can also be unhelpful and can cause stress especially when our thoughts start running away and our inner critical voice takes over – dragging us down or worrying.

Mindfulness helps us to be more aware of what we are doing, giving us a choice rather than letting the subconscious brain take over.  This includes how we think, allowing us to take control of our thoughts.

Mindfulness is being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment, and not being trapped on the past or worrying about the future. – Danny Penman (Mindfulness for Creativity).

When our mind is focused in the present moment it makes it difficult for the mind to do anything else.  Therefore integrating mindfulness into your daily activities i.e. what is our experience at that moment, provides us with a short break from negative/worrying thoughts and allows stress levels to fall, enabling clearer thinking.

Here are a few techniques that might help you to introduce mindfulness into your daily life thus reducing stress and tension.

DO SOMETHING MINDFULLY

Pick something that you normally do every day, such as brushing your teeth, showering, making a drink, opening/closing doors.  Just do it mindfully which doesn’t mean slowly, it simply means paying attention to whatever you are doing.

So if we take brushing your teeth, firstly do nothing else.  Notice what it feels like to clean your teeth: the feeling of the brush on your teeth and gums, the taste and texture of the toothpaste in your mouth, maybe the smell.  How does it feel to wash your mouth with water the end?

Whatever activity you use to be mindful with…

  1. Just do that activity and nothing else
  2. Bring your attention to the physical sensations
  3. If your mind wanders, bring it back to what you are doing.

GET AWAY FROM THE PC FOR A FEW MINUTES.

Simply move away from technology, take a brief walk and don’t answer the phone.  You may find this liberating as we tend to be at the beck and call of phones, social media and emails.

TAKE A BREAK.

How many times in a day do you stop and do nothing?  Most of us go from one thing to another not even stopping for a cup of coffee.  While waiting for the kettle to boil we tend to do other things.  Even drinking the coffee whilst doing something else emails, cleaning etc.

Having no breaks, even for a minute, is not good for us and is one of the causes of stress as we are continuously on the go.  Our minds become tired, we can find it hard to concentrate and pay attention to what we are doing.

If you are thinking “I am too busy,” have you thought how more efficient you would be if you were paying attention to what you were doing and thinking clearly.  Several times throughout the day give yourself permission to do nothing for a few minutes.  Stop what you have been doing and rest for a few moments.

3 comments

Victoria Tidboald

I agree with all of this, but especially the last paragraph. When you are so busy it is easier to delay/postpone or just not practice your mindfulness, but that is when you need it most! In truth none of us are so busy that we cannot spare a few minutes for our own well-being.

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