Mindfully Managing Stress

How to Mindfully Manage Stress

Written by Sheyla Zayas

Stress is a complex beast.

Medically, the definition of stress is the brain’s and body’s natural response to the demands of life, such as sudden changes or difficult challenges. Anger, anxiety, sadness, and a myriad of other emotions can accompany stress. Acute stress also kicks your body’s fight-or-flight mode into high gear.

Chronic stress may put more than your mental health at risk. High blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and unstable blood sugar are just some of the physical symptoms of stress. Your relationships or your job may be negatively impacted. Using mindfulness techniques can assist you in taking command of your stress for good.

What is mindfulness, anyway? Mindfulness involves the process of intentional, nonjudgmental concentration. Four main components make up mindfulness exercise:

  • Awareness: Tuning in to your present moment; noticing sounds, sights, smells, and other sensations.
  • Focus: Paying close attention to your present moment without thought of the past or future.
  • Acceptance: Accepting your feelings and thoughts without judgment or reaction.
  • Observation: Acknowledging unpleasant sensations as only temporary; objective awareness.

Consistent mindfulness practice has not only the potential to help decrease your stress, but also to improve your mood, your brain function, and even your ability to cope with pain.

Try the following methods to handle your stress with a more mindful approach.

  1. Get some fresh air.

Nothing feels better when stepping outside than that first big breath of fresh air. Maybe the sun is even shining down warmly on your face, and you can smell the trees or nearby water or some other natural wonder. Be mindful by intentionally recognizing how your mind, body, and spirit feel when you step outdoors. Maybe even go for a stroll while noticing the positive changes you feel.

  1. Do breathwork.

Along the same line as fresh air, incorporating breathwork into your stress management is a great way to lower your stress, too. While your body’s normal, autonomic breathing keeps you alive without your conscious effort, breathwork involves intentional breathing exercises to calm your parasympathetic nervous system. Paired with meditation or yoga, breathwork can be even more therapeutic for your path to coping with stress.

  1. Channel your energy elsewhere.

Stress can almost be categorized as a ball of dense energy in your mind, body, and spirit. Consciously taking this energy and transforming it into something positive can help reduce low vibrating, heavy feelings and make room for the good ones. You can do this by getting creative with painting or sculpting, doing house or yard work, or even reflecting in a journal. No matter what you choose, developing your coping mechanisms through channeling energy is always beneficial to your mental health.

  1. Try a body scan meditation.

One of the easiest meditations you can practice is the body scan; it is suitable for even the most beginner. Here’s how to do it. Get comfortable either seated or lying down and close your eyes. Become aware of your body one part at a time, starting with the soles of your feet and gradually moving up. Relax any tension you feel and breathe slowly (you may also want to tie breathwork into this meditation). Notice as your stress melts into calmness. This meditation can be as short or as long as you like, and there is never any “wrong” way to do it. 

  1. Be gentle with yourself.

Self-compassion and self-acceptance are not just helpful to remaining mindful, they were scientifically proven in a 2019 study to decrease your stress response. Practice these coping skills by putting a name to your emotions and then inhaling, telling yourself “it is okay to feel this way.” Learning to embrace the bad with the good while also treating yourself with loving care is all part of conquering stress mindfully.

  1. Embrace the present.

The ultimate mindfulness mechanism–that is, being present–can assist you greatly with overcoming your stress. Stress is typically the result of a past challenge or a future obstacle, so learning to be in the present can reduce that negative stress response. One study showed that present-mindedness led participants to control stress with better strategies for well-being as well as a better ability to navigate their stressful situations.

While experiencing stress is normal, it should not interfere so much that it becomes a hindrance to your health, job, relationships, and other aspects of your daily lifestyle. By practicing the above mindfulness steps, you should be able to reduce your stress for a more balanced mind, body, and spirit.

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