STRESS? GET MINDFULNESS!
Got stress? Who doesn’t! Maybe you have tried the same old
stress management ideas for years – exercising, positive thinking,
reading self-help books, or taking medication – but nothing
seems to help in the long run. But there is some good news after
all for people who struggle with stress and anxiety – and
that good news is an approach called Mindfulness. This approach
does not just teach ways to decrease stress, but instead focuses
on developing a new set of attitudes based upon compassion and acceptance
for one’s self and others. Central to mindfulness is the practice
of focusing attention on the present moment. Sometimes people can
be so stuck in the emotional pain from the past or so preoccupied
with worries about tomorrow that they forget to enjoy living today!
Like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) teaches, “one day at a time,”
– but with mindfulness, it is one moment at a time that is
to be experienced and enjoyed. Some people prefer to call mindfulness
by the term, awareness, because they are more aware of the day-to-day
moments in their lives and the small joys and discoveries that they
make each day.
A key aspect of mindfulness involves breathing. When we are stressed,
our breathing is usually rapid and shallow, our muscles tightened,
and our heart rate and blood pressure increase. If we continue to
react to stress in this way, it could result in a panic attack.
But if we focus on breathing slowly and deeply from our diaphragms
or bellies while at the same time relaxing our muscles, our bodies
can let go of the stress and tension. In fact, learning psychology
teaches us that we cannot be physiologically nervous and also relaxed
at the same time – a classical conditioning principle called
reciprocal inhibition. Research shows that deep, slow breathing
from the diaphragm can actually prevent a panic attack from occurring,
as well as decrease the intensity of a panic attack.
Breathing can help people slow down their own reactive process of
anger or stress and help them “let go” of physical tension
in their bodies. It can also help individuals better handle their
emotions by giving them a few extra moments to think about their
choices and the consequences attached to these choices. Fortunately,
wherever we go, our lungs go with us – making breathing and
mindfulness a possibility at all times.
Other daily mindfulness practices include eating, sitting and also
walking awareness or meditation. For example, instead of quickly
gulping down a meal and rushing off to the next activity, eating
awareness means actually chewing your food and noticing the flavor,
texture and temperature of it. With walking meditation, you can
focus on the strength of your muscles as you move forward and the
various sensations in your feet. Sitting meditation also involves
noticing your physical experiences as you sit in a chair –
perhaps you may be aware of the power of your spine and feel grounded
Mindfulness principles are similar in many ways to AA’s philosophy,
as it teaches compassion for self and others, developing patience,
accepting what cannot be changed and finding the courage to change
the things you can, changing judgmental thoughts, and letting go
of situations without adding negative commentary.
We invite you to listen to a short mindfulness exercise
from our CD: Got Stress? Get Mindfulness! CLICK