Mindfulness as an Antidote

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

Here we are, in the middle of April and I almost let it slip right on past. This is the month that is recognized as National Stress Awareness Month, bringing attention to how managing stress is imperative to a healthy lifestyle.

It is my belief, and indeed my own experience, that a regular mindfulness practice is critical to how we manage stress and anxiety. And so each year at this time, I share a bit of information on the topic.

Stress is a part of life. We hear people talking about it since the time we are young, then one day, we’re smack dab in the middle of it. And while not all stress is bad (good stress is called eustress), for the sake of Stress Awareness Month, we’ll be focusing on the bad kind – the kind that can harm your health.

We all know the health effects of this kind of stress. We know, for example, it can effect your heart health and your digestion. And we know what stress feels like, like you’re carrying a big heavy weight around with you. We even know healthy ways of managing stress. So why do we continue to let stress get the better of us?

Stress is deeply ingrained in us, and from an evolutionary standpoint, it has served us well when out on the Savannah chasing dinner. When something is that deep-rooted, it takes consistent effort to change. That’s why a regular mindfulness practice is so important.

Any type of mindfulness practice, which employs present moment awareness, works to reduce stress. Here are some of my favorite ways:

Begin each day with meditation
Rather than jumping out of bed and rushing to start your day, take 5 or 10 (or 20) minutes to meditate and read inspiring quotes. Beginning this way gives you a sense of peace that will manifest itself all day.

Observe your breathing
Be sure to spend part of your meditation connecting with your breath. That way, when you’re feeling stressed, you know what to do. With each out breath, you’ll feel the stress begin to fade.

Think positively
When you face a crisis during the day, think challenge. When you face an obstacle, think opportunity. It will boost your energy.

Remember, you’re human, and you get to make mistakes
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake. Everybody does. Learn by it and move on.

Practice Hospitality
Maintain an open-door policy in your heart for everyone you encounter during the day. Greet everyone with a smile. It puts both the giver and the receiver in a better frame of mind.

Take a brisk walk
Experts note that exercise is effective in burning off the excess adrenaline that fuels your feelings of anxiety and stress. Exercise also releases those feel good body chemicals called endorphins that block anxiety and pain. And, well, nature.

Take time to be a kid again
Be playful, explore, build a fort, try something new, jump in puddles, color outside the lines, dance like no one’s watching. In short, just have fun. Bonus points for being outside!

Be mindful of what you put in your body
We oftentimes eat quickly and mindlessly. If you work at an office, be sure to take time to eat your lunch away from your desk. If you are at home most of the time, set the table and enjoy your meal. This will help you to make healthy food choices. Limit your caffeine intake as well. There are many delicious and healthy options to keep you hydrated. Keep processed foods and sugar out of the house, to limit your consumption of those unhealthy choices as well.

Practice mindfulness throughout your day
Keep your thoughts to the present moment as much as possible. If you’re working on a project, do your best right now. There is nothing you can do about the past, and there’s no need to worry about what the future may or may not bring. Try to stick to mono-tasking as opposed to multi-tasking.

Let there be music
The right music can take you from an anxious, tense place to relaxed in a very short time. Let the music move you both physically and emotionally. Many people find the music of nature to be the most effective.

If you work, don’t bring it home with you
If you work at home, be sure to have an area that is strictly for work, preferably a separate room with a door. At the end of your workday, sit quietly for a few moments and consciously make the transition from work to home.

And don’t forget to dance in the rain.

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