Stress is something everyone can all relate to. Whether it is in our work or personal life, we have all experienced the mental and physical symptoms at some point. Heightened senses, shortening of our breath, our blood pressure rising or feeling our heart pounding in our chest. Frequent stress can lead to illness, unhealthy addiction, insomnia and even depression. Here are a few mindfulness techniques to assist you in mastering stress.
We are not built for this type of ongoing stress. Our ancestors bodies were designed to have a ‘fight or flight’ reflex for life threatening situations. This was useful in it’s time as it would only be for short periods of time. However the frequent and lingering anxiety from work, family and financial stress that we cope with everyday is indistinguishable to our bodies, from the days of running away from lions.
Being stressed has become the normal. Chronic stress is a common way of life for many people. This is a huge problem in today’s society. Stress is literally killing us and severely affecting our happiness and enjoyment of life. Below are listed some effective techniques to try to retrain our minds, and the way we perceive stress, through mindfulness.
The Stop Technique
The Stop Technique is the idea of stopping and breaking our cycle of thoughts. This can help de escalate our stress. The process is, as soon as we notice any physical symptoms of stress occurring, such as rapid breathing or a tense neck, we are to stop what we are doing. Take a deep breath and observe our bodies reactions and our thoughts. Only then can we proceed, once we are mindful and present. In this way we are in more control of our anxiety.
If we have an awareness to our reactions in a stressful situation and how it is affecting us. we are more capable of releasing that stress.
Create a Mind Body Connection
A useful tool when feeling the symptoms of stress, is to perform a body scan to release the physical symptoms. There are many apps available if you prefer a guided scan. Otherwise, begin from the base of the feet, slowly working your way up the body. Notice how each muscle feels in that moment.
A body scan allows us to tune into how the body feels and heightens our awareness. You can use a body scan to check in at any time, even when you don’t think you are stressed. By releasing the physical symptoms, we can cope better mentally.
During the scan, try tuning into your emotions. We are often told that we shouldn’t feel a certain way. However, if we repress our emotions, they can build into something we can’t ignore. It is better to tune into our feelings. To face them and allow them to help us grow.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” —Thích Nhất Hạnh
Exploring Strong Emotions
Let’s discuss how we can face our emotions head on. The best place is during meditation, a body scan. It is important not to force emotions but to allow them to surface and notice sensations and thoughts. Ask yourself how you are feeling.
Some emotions can be difficult to deal with, try to only observe these feelings and allow them to just be. Avoid trying to “fix” the emotion.
If a strong emotion should arise, instead of hiding away, try to locate the physical symptoms attached to it. Notice them and be present. Try to avoid over analyzing any thoughts you may have.
Lean in to your emotions, but do not get swept away by them. It is completely natural to feel an intense upsurge when focusing on emotions. However by understanding our feelings, we can grow. Allow yourself self compassion and love.
Talk to yourself as you would a Friend
When we are faced with a stressful situation, it is common to make ourselves feel worse. We do this by use of language or thoughts towards ourselves. We often blame ourselves for bad things happening. However when we do this, we are only intensifying our stress. Ask yourself, would you talk to a friend the same way you talk to yourself?
When we are stressed, we view things in a distorted way. We often tell ourselves stories and we believe them. Often, we call ourselves names, saying we are useless or worthless. But is that true? When we notice negative self talk, we must question the truth of what we are saying.
By practicing mindfulness we can question our thoughts. We can recognize negative self talk and realize our filtered view of a situation is brought on by stress. Mindfulness allows us to break the habit of negative thoughts. Then we can be replaced with self love. We are then able to speak to ourselves, as we would a friend.
Events in Life
When something goes wrong in life, we tend to exaggerate and distort the event. We assume the worst and this stress is based on assumption. How many times have you thought your boss or friend was going to be angry, only to realise later that you had misread the situation.
We stress about events that haven’t happened yet. Often, we worry about what could go wrong and this is unnecessary anxiety. We base future experiences on our past and assume that if something failed previously, then it surely will again. Our own beliefs hold us back and cause us stress.
In the same way we use mindfulness to retrain negative self talk, we are able to retrain the way we perceive future events. We can stop telling ourselves stories and instead question our thoughts. Are they true? By doing this, stress will ease.
Give in to Life
Life is always happening and changing around us. It is the beauty of impermanence. We cannot change most stressful events that are guaranteed to occur in life, yet we resist them.
Break ups happen, computers have IT problems, businesses fall apart, friendships dissipate and people pass away. Rather than resisting these events and telling ourselves it shouldn’t have happened. If we accept we cannot change these external factors but only our internal reaction. Stress will soften.
It is important to remember impermanence when we are suffering, to realise these feelings will pass. They are not permanent. All we can control is our reaction and move forward.
“Simply let experience take place very freely, so that your open heart is suffused with the tenderness of true compassion.” —Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Life is very demanding. We feel the need to fix everything and that we cannot fall behind. Once one stress has been dealt with, then a new problem arises. Our stress evolves as our life does. Due to life demands, we tend to neglect our life balance.
We neglect taking the time to cook healthy foods to eat and we do not sleep as much as we need. Social obligations go by the wayside and so does any time for Rest and Recreation. Self care becomes non existent. All of these unhealthy habits caused by stress, can lead to our deteriorating health.
By being mindful of our stressful situations, we are able to pause and find balance. Think for a moment, what does your life looks like when you are stressed. What do you eat? Do you have a fitness regime? What about social connections with loved ones? Now think of ways you can create balance where it is lacking.
Our problems are constant, we fix one and another takes it place. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being mindful, we are able to react better when stress arises. If we have a good balance in our lives, we are better equipped to cope with stress.
Thank you for joining me here today at Healthy Mind, Healthy body, Healthy Life. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on making an effort to minimize your stress and find solutions that work for you. I hope this article has been beneficial and that you are able to use mindfulness and these techniques to better manage your anxiety and stress.
I would love to hear from you in the comment section below about techniques you have used to cope with stress. If you like what you have read, please subscribe and share this article with those you think could benefit from it.
Love and Light