Learn How To Reduce Your Stress With Mindfulness

July 6, 2023 by
Learn How To Reduce Your Stress With Mindfulness
Human Edge

We all have gone through periods of stress. Whether it’s that deadline closing in or moving to a new place, getting that promotion or taking a relationship one step further. Anything that brings a change in the normal flow of things creates stress for us. But this kind of stress is good. It is known as eustress and it makes us physically and mentally motivated to deal with the situations at hand. 

So, when does stress get bad?

Stress can hamper our growth, performance and health when it is prolonged, when we are dealing with situations we may not have dealt with before, if they are sudden and complicated in nature. Some of these stresses could happen if we are dealing with a traumatic event, or a loss of a loved one, if we get fired from our job, or encounter a major life event. 

The effects of these can create emotional, physiological, cognitive and behavioral changes in a person. 

1. Emotionally, people are prone to mood swings, they may alienate themselves from friends and family, and may be prone to anxiety or depression. 

2. Physiologically there is an increase in the production of adrenaline and cortisol which in the long run can lead to high blood pressure, changes in metabolism causing obesity, headaches/migraines, poor sleep and fatigue, gastrointestinal issues and weakened immune system. 

3. Cognitively, stress can create a mental overload. This may make the person careless in decision making, thinking, judgements and other important cognitive tasks. Faulty decisions can have a lasting impact which can be hard to recover from as well, such as financial or job loss. 

4. Behaviourally stress often changes the person’s eating habits, they may eat less, or eat more and consume unhealthy food. They can also start using substances such as alcohol or smoking as a means of relieving stress. These are addictive in nature and also create tolerance. This means that more substance is required to achieve the high or pleasure than what was needed before. 

All of these put together can cause burnout. This is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by stress. 

What can be done to reduce stress?

While there are many healthy ways to destress, mindfulness is a recent concept that has come into light. Of late, mindfulness has been used to treat depression, obsessive thoughts and stress to name a few. Mindfulness is the ability to be in the present, to be aware of one’s surroundings and to not get overwhelmed by the external circumstances that aren’t under one’s control.

Mindfulness is present in everybody, but due to the fast paced lives we lead we often forget to acknowledge this and it gets forgotten over time.

What happens when we practice mindfulness?

1. When we are mindful, it allows us to become more focused in our work. Since it helps in increasing our awareness to the present, our brains are better able to handle the tasks at hand and not worry about the future or the consequences. 

2. It can also help change how we view stress. If we are able to think of stress as a challenge, something we can benefit from rather than an obstacle, our behavior towards stress would automatically change. 

3. Mindfulness can make us more aware of our emotions and the needs of our bodies. Mindfulness allows us to activate the being’ mode of our mind. This allows us to be more aware of our body, what it is going through, what are our emotions at that particular time and helps soothe the emotional and the physical pain associated with stress. 

4. By being more aware of ourselves and our present we can also increase our level of emotional intelligence. This is the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions (Salovey and Mayer). 

Some techniques to achieve mindfulness

There is no one way to achieve mindfulness. It can be done when we are walking, sitting, standing, meditating, when we take a break from our jobs or tasks and so on. Let us look at 4 techniques we can use in our daily lives to try and be more mindful;

There is no one way to achieve mindfulness. It can be done when we are walking, sitting, standing, meditating, when we take a break from our jobs or tasks and so on. Let us look at 4 techniques we can use in our daily lives to try and be more mindful;

1. Mindful mornings: Having a routine morning schedule is the best way to organize and plan for the day to come. It can prepare us, keep us motivated, energize us and be a good way to destress. The start of the day should always be refreshing, and what better way to achieve this than with exercise. Exercise can help improve circulation and release hormones such as endorphins and dopamine which help in reducing pain and increase pleasure/happiness. Breathing exercises and yoga are also good ways to achieve calmness and peace. Other ways can include reading a few pages from our book, journaling and making a plan for the day and what all tasks we have to do.

woman performing yoga

2. Change the environment: Keeping our surroundings organized is important. When we see clutter our body automatically gets overwhelmed. Another activity to engage the mind into the present is by changing the order of things. When this happens a part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) shifts from autopilot mode of being familiar with everything to being more present and aware of its surroundings. The RAS is helpful in alerting the brain to the various sensory information it receives from our sense organs which makes us alert and attentive to our surroundings.

3. Body scan:  This is an effective way to reduce pain and stress. You can either sit or lie down for this. Imagine a light of any color starting from your toes and traveling up each body part. While this light is traveling, allow it to soothe the muscles and relax them. If you have pain in any area imagine the light healing that part or reducing the pain and keep moving on. When it reaches the head, allow the light to expand in your mind, taking away all the stress, all the negative thoughts and all the anxieties of the past, present and future.

4. Mindful walking: Go out into nature where the senses can be used better. During this time, focus on what you hear when you are walking (the crunch of the leaves), what you see when you walk (people, flowers, animals) and what you feel when you walk (the cool air brushing against your skin, warmth of the sun) and what all you can smell (the earth, the food from the stalls). 

All these common practices should be done with a clear head, by staying in the present moment and dealing with one task at a time. This is how we can be mindful of even the basic tasks that we do. 

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