Making time for mindfulness can help ease daily stress.
Stress can have a detrimental effect on our lives, especially in these troubling times. Incorporating the skills of living mindfully can reap many rewards, including positive changes in health, attitude and behavior.
Stress is often characterized by:
- Changes in mood
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disorders
- Panic attacks
- Stomach and digestive problems
- Loss of libido
- Aches and pain in our joints and muscles
“Most of us work in an environment that’s very stressful or have a busy family life. We’re constantly on the go, so we need to be aware of the triggers that can make our lives unpleasant and how to cope with them,” said Mary Beth Schmidt, White Plains Hospital senior staff chaplain and a practitioner of mindfulness. “Mindfulness is a way to bring that awareness into our everyday lives. It helps us savor the moment and overcome life’s negative aspects.”
Research Studies compiled by the Harvard Gazette and other publications support the many benefits of practicing mindfulness, which include higher brain functioning, increased awareness, attention, and focus, as well as lowered anxiety levels. One of the ways in which mindfulness can help treat depression is through enhancing our ability to regulate our emotions.
When you’re feeling stressed, Chaplain Schmidt suggests utilizing a simple, effective method – STOP. STOP is an acronym for… Stop what you’re doing… Take a breath… Observe what you’re feeling… and then, Proceed.
“Another easy way to ease stress is through deep breathing,” says Chaplin Schmidt. “If you’re stuck in traffic, you can take a deep breath, hold it for five seconds, and then let it go for ten seconds. It will lower your blood pressure and change how your body reacts to stress.”
Mindfulness practices that can improve everyday living include:
- A quick, full body scan. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Beginning at the top of your head, take a long, deep cleansing breath. Work your way down your torso, to your eyes, neck and shoulders, taking deep breaths. The process helps relieve discomfort and stress.
- Mindful eating. Put work aside for a few moments and eat in silence. Savor a bite of food for 30-60 seconds, paying attention to the texture, taste and sound the food makes while you chew. Paying attention to small, often overlooked details establishes focus and calm. Mindfulness is not a magical method that can conquer stress, but through practice, it can help us manage it.
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