Simple Ways to De-Stress
Stress can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health. Stress can make it difficult to focus, difficult to sleep, and suck the enjoyment out of your everyday activities. We already live in a world of constant bombardment – work, family, social media…it can feel never-ending. And then you add the pandemic on top and it’s enough to push even the calmest and most centered of us over the edge.
So how can we combat stress? There are so many activities and practices you can adopt to help calm your mind and your body. But they can all be boiled down into one word – mindfulness. No matter what you are doing – yoga, reading, driving, dishes, playing with the kids, taking your medicine, brushing your teeth – mindfulness can turn any activity into an opportunity to unwind and de-stress.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is keeping a moment-by-moment awareness of what you’re doing. If you’re washing the dishes mindfully, you are actively feeling the water run over your hands, listening to the clink of dishes against the sink, and smelling the dish soap. Mindfulness is bringing your awareness back to your body and your breathing over and over again to exist fully in the moment.
Mindfulness isn’t easy at first, but it is fully possible to train your mind over time and become more mindful. And remember – it’s not a race or a zero-sum game! No one can be mindful all the time, but increasing your mindfulness can drastically improve your physical and mental health.
Let’s look at some activities and practices that can help you increase your mindfulness and decrease your stress levels.
Meditation is likely what comes to mind when you picture “mindfulness.” The aim of meditation is to increase awareness of yourself and where you are in the present moment and to cultivate a forgiving, accepting, curious, gentle attitude towards yourself and your own thoughts. Many studies have shown that meditating regularly can literally alter the way your brain works. The area of your brain dedicated to regulating your emotions is significantly larger in those who meditate regularly. This indicates that meditation can help you control your emotions and keep you more focused and positive.
Meditation is very simple, although it’s not easy at first. To get started, simply find somewhere comfortable and quiet to sit or lie down. Place a hand on your stomach and focus on moving it with your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly. Try to pay attention only to your breath. As your thoughts wander – and they will! – simply notice that it’s happening and then gently guide your thoughts back to your breath. Do this for two minutes – setting a timer is very helpful.
Repeat this for longer and longer increments of time as you progress – and congratulations! You’re meditating! As your practice develops, you’ll find new techniques and mantras to help you dive deeper, but essentially meditation is just a quieting of the mind. Doing this every day for just two, five, or ten minutes can make a huge impact on your physical and mental well-being.
Have a hard time sitting still? Mindful movement is an excellent way to incorporate mindfulness into your life. Structured breathing and controlled movements are meant to help you focus on the body and quiet the mind. A common form of mindful movement is yoga. But technically, as long as you’re focusing yourself on the activity, any controlled movement can be mindful movement.
Yoga brings you back to your body in a way that our highly digital and cerebral world often de-prioritizes. After yoga, most people feel more relaxed, more optimistic, and more focused.
In today’s world, attention is currency. Advertisers, newscasters, influencers, even your friends and family on social media are all vying for your attention constantly. And this constant bombardment can wear you down and become chronic stress, which has long-term negative effects on your lifespan and mental health.
If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, contact a mental health professional like the therapists at Chenal Family Therapy. We’re here to listen and to help you build a plan to combat the stressors in your life.