Mindfulness is “the intentional accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts, sensations occurring in the present moment.” If you are accepting and non-judgmental of your emotions, thoughts and sensations, you are able to evaluate things more calmly and objectively. The most basic mindful exercise is focusing on your breathing. You can also practice mindfulness while taking a shower, driving, or eating. Remember to bring your mind to the present. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, please talk to us during your next appointment.
Take a Breath
Breathing is one of the few bodily functions which, within limits, can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously. When one breathes consciously, it is a mindful exercise. Emotions and breath are closely connected. While sleeping, breathing is slow and deep. While anxious, breathing becomes fast and shallow. Since we can control our breathing consciously, we also can impact our state of mind. Of course, practice makes perfect, so more practice contributes to a better ability to control emotions. There are many exercises that can be used to control and modify breath, including mindful breathing, abdominal breathing, and counting breath. Some of these exercises can also help with the Stress Bucket.
Take a deep or many deep breaths!
We all have events, reactions, gestures, words, memories and even relationships that make us feel stressed and uncomfortable. Taking a few moments each day to assess stress triggers by identifying what exactly contributes to feeling stressed. The awareness of these “triggers” will eventually modulate reactions to stress to become more balanced and effective.
Check Your Mindset
World renowned Standford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, asserts that there are two different mindsets that we all practice throughout our lives. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology to Success she describes the process of how to change from a “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset.”
A fixed mindset is the belief that we cannot change a particular situation, and therefore all of our efforts are fruitless. This leaves us feeling powerless, frustrated and sometimes, even depressed.A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence and talent can be developed through practice and education. A growth mindset allows us to feel empowered, “reaching even-higher level of achievement.” Changing our mindset from fixed to growth requires a mindful assessment of the what, when, where, and how we are reacting.
There are many strategies that can transform feelings of stress to feelings of calm. An easy one to incorporate into your routine is mindful breathing. Take a few minutes to observe and enjoy your breathing. Focus only on the air that is being inhaled and exhaled. Repeat this exercise five to ten times. Another exercise that works is to focus on repeating a word or phrase that is meaningful to you. For example: “Love,” or “Peace.” A powerful phrase recommended by Dr. Eva Selhub in her book The Love Response is “I am enough. I have enough.”
Identify Your Stress Bucket Level
We all contain a constant revolving door of to do lists, fears, worries, and ideas that create stress in our lives. This has been called the “Stress Bucket.” This bucket is constantly being emptied and replenished. Depending on the level in your Stress Bucket, stress can be manageable or intolerable. It is important to identify and become mindful of your stress level, so you can make adjustments when it is getting too full.
The natural stress response is hard wired in our system. It is meant to protect against threats from predators, or other aggressors. That is why we react instantly if a dog startles us by barking. Once we realize that the dog is not a threat, the stress hormone is turned off. Problems occur when this natural response is turned on for long periods of time. Constant stress causes multiple negative effects such as, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and difficulty with memory and concentration.
One of the simple ways stress levels can be decreased is by paying attention to your Stress Bucket. Make a list of all the things in the Stress Bucket and determine which ones are most important. Once you prioritize and purge the list, stress levels will diminish. If you need help in learning how to identify your Stress Bucket level and how to manage it, please call the office and make an appointment to discuss the “Stress Bucket.”