Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and like you just can’t get out of your own head? You’re not alone. Sometimes the pressure we face day-in and day-out can feel unbearable and we are easily swept away by negative, never-ending thought patterns. But what if stress (and the anxiety that comes with it!) didn’t have to rule your life? Many have found that mindfulness techniques can be an effective tool in reducing stress levels—if used correctly. So what exactly is mindfulness and how could it help you live a more relaxed life? In this blog post we are going to explore the concept of mindfulness, delve into its impact on our psychological health, and look at some tips for using mindfulness as a way of managing stress and its neighboring friend, anxiety. Let’s jump right in!
A quick google search about what mindfulness is may leave you feeling confused and maybe even a bit overwhelmed. The growing literature on the benefits of mindfulness, how to practice it, and what to avoid, is exciting to watch develop but can quickly bury all desire to get started. For the sake of simplicity in our time together, the word ‘mindfulness’ in this article refers to any practice that helps to simply pay greater attention to your moment-to-moment experience while remaining open, curious, and accepting. Practices can take any number of forms and shapes, but the underlying mission of any mindfulness exercise involves focusing attention on the present moment, and increasing your ability to allow thoughts to come and go without judgment or criticism. There are endless lists of ways to practice mindfulness including meditation, coping skills or tools, or awareness building exercises, that take little to no time to execute. And although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for practicing mindfulness, there are plenty of activities to try on for size when considering what works best for your life.
Does Mindfulness Help With Stress?
The science shouts out a resounding yes; mindfulness can be an incredibly effective tool in managing anxiety and stress. In fact, mindfulness exercises have been proven to lower chronically high cortisol levels, which are prominent in those of us reporting experiencing high volumes of stress for extended periods of time. Some studies have found mindfulness to boost the formation of gray matter in the brain areas in charge of emotional regulation, and others suggest mindfulness assists its practitioners in becoming less emotionally-reactive to life stressors. Regular practice of mindfulness has shown to increase focus, the ability to solve problems, to reduce biases, and foster more effective conflict resolution skills. Long story short, mindfulness practices not only help us become less reactive to stressors, but recover from stress better when we do endure what life can entail.
Mindfulness provides these juicy benefits by working to put our minds and bodies into a state that opposes anxiety and stress. Instead of focusing on everything that may unfold in the future, or ruminating about things that have happened in the past, mindfulness moves us into the here and now. When we become more aware of our own thoughts, sensations, and feelings, this shift in awareness grants us access to information we need for greater self-regulation in difficult situations. By regularly practicing mindfulness, we build the muscle required to remain in the present moment, and to ultimately address stressors with appropriate and adaptive responses with less effort coming from us.
The effects of mindfulness can be fairly immediate. You might notice a decrease in feelings of restlessness, jitteriness, sensory overwhelm, fear, anger, withdrawal from social situations, as well as decreased thought rumination, distraction, and increased feelings of efficacy and peace. These benefits only grow with time and practice, with marked changes in physiological markers in those those that participate in mindfulness on a regular basis.
Although finding a mindfulness practice that feels fitting, and keeping up with it on an ongoing basis, can be difficult initially, mindfulness makes a positive difference in how we feel and how our bodies respond to everyday events. Incorporating regular mindfulness practices into your life can help you better navigate challenging situations with a calmer mind and heart.
If you’re ready to start your self growth journey but are feeling overwhelmed with where to start, schedule your free pre-consultation today by clicking here to start mapping out your start with support.