Try these simple mindfulness techniques to clear away stress
By Allison Carmen for Next Avenue
Life gets busy. For many of us, it moves so fast that we think our only option is to jump on that runaway train and go wherever it takes us. As a result, we feel stressed, anxious and panicky.
But we do have a choice. We can choose mindfulness instead. Mindfulness creates a space between how we feel and how we react, and that space allows us to find the calm and joyful moments each day brings while allowing us to experience unexpected events without letting them overtake us.
Try these six simple tips to bring more mindfulness into your life:
1. Take a Few Mindful Breaths
Even one deep breath in the midst of chaos and a busy schedule can provide enough space and time to ask, “How do I want to react to this situation?” If you are able to take a few deep breaths, you will start to prevent habitual knee-jerk reactions and calm your body down.
As the breath slows down and grows softer and steadier, instead of depleting energy, we are able to nourish our minds and bodies with a peace and tranquility. With breath consciousness, we are able to become more mindful of our actions and how we choose to experience the moment.
2. Make Maybe Your Mantra
Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed or upset, it’s because we think we are stuck in a situation and things are not going our way. An unexpected expense, illness or a relationship crisis makes us worry so much about the future that we forget that life will change again. Reminding ourselves that as bad as things may look or feel, there is a chance that, just maybe, what is happening will turn out to be good, maybe it will get better or maybe we will make peace with it and still be OK.
With the reminder of maybe, we can stop judging what this moment means for tomorrow. We can return to the present more peacefully and find hope for the future. My favorite “Maybe” statement is: “Maybe everything is still OK.” I suggest trying out several “Maybe” statements until you find one that works for you.
3. Look at Your Hand
Focus on one of your hands and become more aware of how it feels, what it touches and how it moves for a few minutes. As you go about your daily chores or go to work, try to keep this awareness of the sensations from your hand. First you may notice and appreciate experiences you were not paying attention to before, from moving a piece of paper across your desk to how you hold the phone or a pen, how you type, eat lunch or hug a friend. Even though you are doing different activities and your sole attention is not on your hand, the partial awareness that you draw to your hand will keep you more grounded and present.
When the mind gets consumed with stressful thoughts, this is the moment when we are most in danger of overreacting to difficult situations. Uncontrolled reactions can damage our personal and business relationships, and a roller coaster of emotions never helps any situation. But by keeping a partial awareness of your hand, you will continuously bring some of the energy away from your mind and to your body, and this will help slow everything down. You will become more mindful of each moment and you may just find that sacred space between how you feel about a situation and how you want to react to it. This sacred space will guide you to show up with more ease, patience and kindness for your children, spouse, friends or business associates when you need it most.
You can also use this tool just at the moment you feel your stress escalating. If you are getting very distracted with worry about the future or you find yourself overreacting or feeling overly uptight, just slowly bring some of your attention to your hand and you will bring some mindfulness to the situation.
4. Make a Gratitude List
Sometimes the biggest reason we cannot be mindful and present is that we have lost perspective on what really matters to us. When we get frustrated in traffic, have a disagreement with a co-worker or our lunch order gets mixed up, we can get upset, overreact and carry these thoughts and emotions with us the rest of the day, oblivious to all that is wonderful in our lives. A helpful and easy practice to ward these off is gratitude.
In the morning when you wake up, before your mind starts going through everything you need to do for the day, stop and remind yourself of all the people and things for which you are grateful. Keeping a gratitude list on your bedside table can help create a calm perspective even before you start your day. This perspective will allow you to have a greater understanding of what is really important throughout your day so you can relax and make the best of whatever you are facing.
5. Set a Timer
Sometimes we don’t even realize that our worries, stress and anxiety have taken over our minds until hours later. Set an alarm at specific times during the day, and then stop, look at the clock and take note of what is going on around you and how you are feeling. This will bring you back to the moment.
6. Seek Joy
Try to make a point to fill your day with little things that remind you of joy. Sometimes it is as simple as a cup of coffee or tea or making time for a call with a friend or relative. Try to spread these little joys throughout the day to remind you what life has to offer when you are not over-thinking what the future will bring.
You can also make a list of things that make you feel good and appreciate being alive. Maybe you enjoy reading, physical activity, crafts or just spending time with your family.
When you wake in the morning, try to commit to incorporating these activities into your day. Often, it’s not the big occasions, but the simple moments that spark the most joy.
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