Stress Reduction Tips
How to Reduce Your Stress and Boost Your Awareness with Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a widely-used term, but one which is often assumed to be more complicated or regimented than it really is. It’s actually pretty easy to explain: it’s the practice of becoming more aware of your moment to moment experiences, both internally and externally. As a practice, it’s being increasingly recognised by psychologists for its ability to reduce stress and encourage awareness of the present moment, rather than a focus on past or potential future events, thus helping with issues related to things like anxiety. You may associate it with things like yoga or tai chi (and be a tad put off by that), but it’s actually a fairly straightforward practice, at its core about conscious awareness rather than new age-y concepts like chakras. By incorporating some techniques into your day to day life, you can learn to become more mindful and reduce your stress levels.
Get Into the Mindful State of Mind
First, gain a general understanding of mindfulness by focusing on how you feel in the present. Tune into your body and concentrate on the sensations: do you feel tense or relaxed? Any twinges of pain? Are you feeling energised or lethargic? What about emotionally? Are you happy? Peaceful? Despondent? Angry? Is the feeling accompanied by a bodily sensation? How is your mind? Are you agitated? Open to experience? Preoccupied? If so, what with? Close your eyes, really focus and explore yourself internally. This exercise in itself is fairly straightforward, but you may notice small changes in your energy levels, or feel more connected to your body afterwards.
This is all mindfulness really is, with the goal being to apply this state of heightened awareness of the present to everyday life, both to yourself and the diverse stream of information you pick up through your senses at every moment. It’s being able to focus on your current self and present surroundings with a non-judgemental open-mindedness. You can remember the acronym “STOP” for a brief moment of mindfulness:
Stop: take a moment to be still and stop what you’re doing.
Take a breath: focusing on the slow inhale and the gentle exhale.
Observe: pay attention to your body; your thoughts, feelings and sensations.
Proceed: continue with what you were doing.
Tips for Mindfulness in Day to Day Life
The real challenge is taking the state of mind you achieve in these mini-meditations and bringing it into busier or less comfortable situations. We all get caught up in day to day stresses from time to time, so don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t get into the daily practice of mindfulness straight away – it takes time to turn things into habits. These tips give you moments of mindfulness throughout your day, so treat them like a stepping stone to a incorporating the techniques into more of your life.
- Stretch and do some simple breathing exercises when you wake up. This gives you time to focus and calm your mind before getting on with your day.
- Listen to some music in the day. Calming music is ideal, but whatever you enjoy will help you improve your mood.
- Go outside on your lunch break. If you’re in an office all day, just taking a walk outside can help clear your mind and relieve stress
- Take a moment to reflect on yourself. Think about things you’ve accomplished recently and how they contribute towards your personal goals or reflect who you are.
- Be grateful. Taking time to think about or note down the things that you’re grateful for has been shown to increase appreciation for life. Write a few things down to look at when you’re feeling low.
- Sleep well. Wind down before bed (have a bath, read a book or whatever works for you), turn off your phone for an hour beforehand and try to get at least seven hours, preferably more.
Incorporating little moments of mindfulness into your day can bring down your stress and anxiety levels, whether it’s a normal reaction or something associated with a long-term psychological issue. However, if you’re still having problems, anxiety or stress management counselling helps you gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on and learn new ways cope with challenging situations.