5 Ways to Reduce Stress with Mindfulness

guest Article - 5 Ways To Reduce Stress With Mindfulness

Mindfulness brings your full nonjudgmental awareness to this precise moment in time.

When you make the choice to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness, you decide to make contact with the present moment with complete openness, acceptance, and curiosity. You let go of the need to alter or change any aspects of the present moment and simply welcome your experience. Life becomes stressful when we feel overwhelmed by worries about the past or future. Mindfulness enables you to release your attachments to stress by bringing your peaceful awareness more fully to the present moment.

Stress can be useful when it is experienced as a motivating impetus for change… “eustress.” On the other hand, stress becomes unhealthy when it acts as a blockage to growth and keeps you stuck… “distress.” Mindfulness allows you to discern between eustress and distress by encouraging you to take a step back from being enmeshed with your thoughts and emotions. When you become mindful, you are transformed into a watchful observer of your experience. This quiet place of observation provides you with the space necessary to make more informed choices of how to best proceed.

5 Ways to Reduce Stress with Mindfulness

The next time you notice yourself experiencing unhealthy stress, try to approach your experience of stress from a place of mindfulness:

1. Notice your bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Take a step back from your experience and mindfully observe where you feel the sensations of stress in your body. Notice any areas of tension and direct deep slow breaths to those areas. Observe your patterns of thought that may be serving to intensify the stress. Mindfully watch them float away as you visualize them as leaves on a stream. Observe your emotions with openness, curiosity, and acceptance. Welcome your emotions just as they are without fighting against them. When you welcome your experience in this way, it creates far less suffering than fighting against it.

2. Pause and take 10 deep slow belly breaths. When you pause in moments of distress to take deep slow breaths, you are stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system. Taking slow and deep breaths from your diaphragm provides your parasympathetic nervous system with the opportunity to “kick in” and provide your system with much needed calm and relaxation. Bring your full awareness to the sensations of your breath filling and leaving your lungs as you notice your heart rate slow down and your muscles relax.

3. Step into “wise mind.” Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) encourages tapping into the inner wellspring of deep intuitive knowing that rests within us all: wise mind. This is essentially the delicate balance between pure reason and pure emotion. Stress often takes us away from the present moment and leads to making hasty decisions based on overuse of logic or emotion. When you feel faced with a stressful decision, actively tap into wise mind and allow your intuition to calmly and mindfully light the way.

4. Become mindful of just one thing at a time. Stress can lead to an internal sense of feeling scattered or confused. When we become overwhelmed by stress, the ability to make decisions can easily become impaired. Mindfulness means focusing on just one thing at a time. Allow yourself to consciously slow down the speed of your thoughts and the rate of your breath. Focus on just one idea at a time with full conscious awareness to avoid become overwhelmed by stress.

5. Actively express gratitude. When we feel stressed, it is easy to become overly focused on problems and simultaneously become blind to the positives. Research strongly suggests that adopting a deliberate attitude and practice of gratitude significantly increases overall well-being. Notice the way stress often leads to negative thinking. Make the choice to counteract your internal negativity and take the time to express gratitude for all of the positives in your life. This can be as simple as consciously noticing and expressing gratitude for the sun warming your face or the kind smile of a stranger.

What to do with this Information

Begin to become more mindful of your personal cues that you may be experiencing stress. As you become more tuned in to your typical signs of stress, you can begin to actively take steps toward reducing your stress with mindfulness. How does your relationship with stress change when you consciously adopt an open and accepting attitude of mindfulness? Slow down and choose to become the mindful observer of your experience. Within this space that mindfulness provides lies the opportunity to make different and healthier choices in the future.

Featured image: AAEX001038 by jessebezz / CC BY-ND 2.0

 


Comments

5 Ways to Reduce Stress with Mindfulness — 8 Comments

    • Hi Stuart, Quite right! I remember my first Tai-Chi instructor asking me not to think: ‘Don’t think, concentrate on the movement you are doing right now, be in the present moment’. Very mindful indeed… Mindfulness and Tai-Chi is a very powerful combination for stress reduction and overall well-being!

  1. There is a lot of good stuff here. Out of all these, I’m pretty good at stopping and taking a deep breath. Well, usually my wife is the one to remind me to stop and take some breathe, but I know it does a good job. In fact, I think it would be a good idea to make sure other people know this stuff so they can help you do it when you get stressed.

    I love the idea of focusing on just one thing at a time. When I get stressed it is almost always about being overwhelmed by several things at once. The next time that happens I’ll have to slow down and just focus on one thing to keep from getting my thoughts scattered all over the place.
    Steve recently posted..The Difference Between Living and ExistingMy Profile

  2. Laura,

    I never realized the fact that when we are stressed it can bring on negative thoughts and feelings more easily. But now that you mention it, I can think of numerous times it has happen to me.

    I know when I am stressed I can act irrationally but I never thought that it was my thoughts that were making me act this way.

    Next time I am stressed I will be sure to take a step back, refocus and think positively. Or at least try.

    ~Allie
    Allie recently posted..Blogging Success: Failure Is SuccessMy Profile

    • Allie,

      I’m glad this article on mindfulness was helpful to you! So often, when we are stressed or overwhelmed, it is difficult to recognize the ways in which our thoughts (and behaviors) are intensifying and fueling the very stress that we wish would “go away.” It is amazing the way that adopting a mindful attitude in the moment toward our thoughts can provide the necessary space to see them for what they are: thoughts!

      When we learn to observe our thoughts with a nonjudgmental and accepting attitude of mindfulness, they no longer have the same control over us, causing us to act “irrationally,” as you put it.

      I hope that the use of mindfulness positively impacts your relationship with stress and reduces any negative consequences associated with that stress in the future. Thanks for your comment!

      Laura
      Laura Schenck recently posted..5 Steps to Move From Conflict to Harmony in RelationshipsMy Profile

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