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Practicing Mindfulness for Stress Management
Practicing Mindfulness for Stress Management

 

In this Article:

 

  1. What is Mindfulness? 
  2. What can Mindfulness do for you? 
  3. How can you start practicing Mindfulness for Stress Management? 

 

You wake up aching and feeling exhausted. You’re trying to get out of bed, but there is a heavy weight on your chest. It feels like you’re sinking and the walls are closing in. You look around your room but you can’t seem to focus. Your vision blurs, and you’re starting to sense the pangs of an oncoming migraine. Thoughts are racing in your head.

You grab your phone to search for the possible causes of these symptoms. “Stress” pops up in the results one after another. As you scroll through articles to read more on how to manage stress and its effects, “mindfulness” is frequently mentioned as a way to cope. But, what is mindfulness, and how does it help reduce the effects of stress?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of the mind that focuses on the present moment. It is paying attention in a particular way, with intention, in the now, and without judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). It is also related to one’s capacity for self-regulation of attention (Cebolla and Demarzo, 2003) to the present moment.

Engaging in mindfulness activities allows us to tap into our raw, unfiltered thoughts and emotions in the here and now. It invites us to actively regulate our attention, so we can monitor the emotional and mental routines that we let drive us on auto-pilot. Through observing our surroundings using our senses, we can heighten our awareness to what is factually occurring at the present moment (Bishop et al., 2004). Living day-to-day mindfully gives us access to more relevant knowledge that will inform us in taking more effective steps to improve our overall quality of life (Cebolla and Demarzo, 2016).

 

What can Mindfulness do for you?

Stress Response

The symptoms laid out in the scene earlier are a few of the many possible physiological effects due to stress called stress response. Once triggered, the body experiences an “adrenaline rush”, priming itself to react to an imminent threat. Threats are not limited to physical dangers, like an encounter with a wild animal. The body can also perceive the voice of your boss, or a nearing deadline as a threat, for example (Harvard Health, 2016).

Naturally, the body has systems that help you calm down after the danger has passed. However, in our current work culture, stressors can pile up on top of one another. This creates a “backlog” of stress triggers that prolongs the body’s stress response (ibid.). Practicing mindfulness can aid in slowing down and lessening the body’s response to stress.

Mindfulness as a Stress Management Technique

As a stress management technique, mindfulness is made of two parts: attention and acceptance. Mindfully paying attention to the present moment allows us to regulate the racing and repetitive thoughts clouding our minds. These non-productive worries are often self-created, and only escalate stress. Paying attention to what is occurring in the present moment alone allows us to experience what is actually happening as it unfolds (Delagran, n.d.).

Mindfully taking in information as it comes with an open attitude decreases overthinking and avoidance (ibid.). You can start speculating on the million different reasons why your plans went awry, or instantly assuming your partner has cheated on you after missing a call. However, mindfulness calls for observing those thoughts and sensations, accepting them as your own, without judgment. Then, you let them go. (APA, 2019). An accepting and open attitude leads to an improved ability to tolerate challenging situations, and lessens reactivity, and repetitive negative thinking (Delagran, n.d.).

In the long run, practicing mindfulness can lead to a fundamental change in your overall perspective and way of engaging with the world and other people. Mindfulness trains us to have the mental capacity to step back from our thoughts, regulate our emotions, and choose thoughts, words, and actions with intention and purpose (Mindfulness.com, n.d.).

 

How can you start practicing Mindfulness for Stress Management?

A common and easy way to practice mindfulness is through mindfulness meditation.

1. Get comfortable

Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can sit. It can be on a chair or on the floor. Note that your head, neck, and back should be in line and straight, but not stiff or tense. Wear comfortable, loose clothing, so you won’t be distracted.

2. Consider a timer

A timer with a soft, gentle alarm can allow you to forget about counting the minutes and seconds passing by, and help you focus on meditation. It can also remind you of the time so you’re not meditating for too long.

3. Focus on breathing

Turn your awareness to your breath. Attune to the sensation of air moving in and out of your body, your nostrils, lungs, and belly as you breathe in and out.

4. Notice your thoughts

Imagine your thoughts and emotions as clouds passing by. Accept and release them with your inhales and exhales.

5. Give yourself a break

If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind wanders without judgment. Then, simply return to your breathing. Returning to your breath and refocusing on the present is the practice of mindfulness.

6. Download an app

It can be difficult to practice mindfulness meditation on your own, especially when you’re just starting. You can consider downloading a free meditation app that can guide you through your meditations whenever you need them (Kendra, 2022).

 


References:

American Psychological Association. “Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress.” American Psychological Association. October 30, 2019. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation#:~:text=Researchers%20believe%20the%20benefits%20of,downstream%20effects%20throughout%20the%20body.

Calia, Rogerio C, de Oliveira, Marcelo S. B., and Demarzo, Marcelo M. P. “Mindfulness and Theory U for The Professional Sense of Purpose.” In Human and Social Management 9, 5 (2018): 1-29. DOI:10.1590/1678-6971/eRAMG180021.

Cherry, Kendra. “What is Mindfulness Meditation?” VeryWell Mind. September 22, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/mindfulness-meditation-88369

Delagran, Louise. “Mindfulness for Stress Reduction.” Taking Charge of your Health and Wellbeing University of Minnesota. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/mindfulness-stress-reduction

First Psychology. Your Guide to Mindfulness. First Psychology. https://www.firstpsychology.co.uk/files/mindfulness-booklet.pdf

Kim, Dong Jin. “Mapping the mindfulness: An Literature Review of Mindfulness in Education Field” (sic). In Open Education Studies 4 (2022): 136-147. DOI:10.1515/edu-2022-0008

Kristeller, Jean L. “Mindfulness Meditation.” In Principles and Practices of Stress Management, 3rd ed., edited by Paul M. Lehrer, Robert L Woolfolk, and Wesley E. Sime, 393-427. New York: Guilford Press. 2007.

Malloy, Amy. N.D. A Pocket Guide to Mindfulness: A Practical Introduction to Mindfulness in Your School. Pearson.

Mindfulness.com. “How Does Mindfulness Help with Stress Reduction? (+ 5 Techniques to Calm Yourself).” Mindfulness.com. https://mindfulness.com/stress/mindfulness-for-stress-reduction

“Now and Zen: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain and Improve Your Health.” Longwood Seminars. March 8, 2016. https://hr.harvard.edu/files/humanresources/files/mindfulness_now_and_zen.pdf

Pratika, Arihdya Caesar. “Mindfulness as an Effective Technique for Various Psychological Problems: A Conceptual and Literature Review.” In Journal of Professionals in Guidance and Counseling 1, 5 (2020): 1-13.  DOI:10.21831/progcouns.v1i1.30605.

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