How Being Mindful Reduces Stress and Increases Peace
Never in most of our lifetimes, has there been quite a virus like this one. Not since the Spanish Influenza of 1918. Our minds race, trying to make sense of this new normal, however temporary. Healthcare workers of all disciplines are scrambling to make sure there are enough supplies and testing materials to distribute to people. It is a true test of our nature as humans to cope effectively and survive.
Our genetics, brain chemistry, and life events are factors we have little control over. However, the way we perceive and handle those life events we do have a great deal of control over. How we think about this crisis, literally causes physiological changes in our brain and body. By dwelling on a stressful thought, anxiety increases.
Peace, on the other hand, is a natural state of being already within each one of us, just masked by all the stress and tension we take in and focus on. Looking to the past and towards the future actually raises anxiety. Mindfulness is the act of keeping our focus on the present moment, paying attention to the here and now, with kindness and curiosity (not with judgment or criticism). By practicing mindfulness, we learn to “let go” of anxiety and bring ourselves back to a peaceful state.
The following are ways to feel more mindful and peaceful:
- Relaxed stretching. Stretching slowly and gently dissipates stress chemicals and increases circulation in the body
- Yoga. Combines poses, breathing, and meditation to quiet the mind and increase concentration.
- Tai Chi. A Chinese martial art performing softly and gracefully movements with smooth even transitions between them to relax, calm the mind, and relieve tension.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Consciously tensing then releasing muscle tension from various muscle groups relieves anxiety.
- Deep breathing. Brings oxygen to all of your muscle groups to relieve anxiety and clear the mind. Following the breath, focusing on how it flows in and out of your body.
- Centering yourself. Focusing attention on the physical center of the body for improved balance and stability.
- Mindful attention to daily activities. Doing one thing at a time. Using one’s senses to experience the activity. Focusing on what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. Bringing your mind and thoughts back to the present when your mind wanders.
- Visualization. Creating a safe place or situation in your mind relaxes the body and releases anxiety.
- Meditation. Training one’s brain to let go of anxiety and come back to a peaceful state. Used as prevention, this helps with staying calm in situations that used to make one anxious.
- Prayer. Belief in a higher power can help with preventing and managing anxiety.
For more on mindfulness, check out https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356.
If you are struggling to find ways to be mindful or if stress continues to impact your life, contact me at SHCS.