LIFESTYLE: Mindfulness and Stress Management

Someone may have told you: be mindful!  You realize that it has something to do with paying attention. You are right! Mindfulness is paying attention to your experience, to your body, feelings, mind and world around you. In this way, you develop an awareness that helps you see everything more clearly.

You cultivate this awareness in your daily life by regularly practicing:

  • Mindful breathing – being aware of your breathing
  • Body scan- focusing your attention systematically on different regions of the body
  • Mindful sitting -sitting with awareness and paying attention to your breathing,  body, feelings, sounds and thoughts
  • Mindful walking -focusing on the sensations of your legs and feet making contact with the ground or floor
  • Mindful movements- gentle stretching and strengthening exercises while being aware of your breathing.

What is stress? Stress is your mind’s and body’s response to life’s challenges, demands and pressures.  These demands and pressures or stressors could be environmental (e.g., weather, traffic), social (e.g., conflicts, finances), physiological (e.g., nutrition, illness) and psychological (e.g., worries, anxiety). You may experience stress as muscular tension, headaches, insomnia, perspiration, abnormal heartbeat, stomach discomfort or restlessness.

How can mindfulness reduce stress?  Mindfulness enables you to:

  • Achieve a calm and collected mind
  • Become more aware of how stress affects you
  • Make choices that promote your inner balance and well-being.

You can be more stress resistant by building your external and internal resources.  External supports include supportive family members, friends and membership in groups which you care about. Inner resources include your level of mindfulness awareness, your beliefs about how you can handle adversity, and your attitudes.

You can become more stress-hardy by:

  1. Viewing life as a challenge
  2. Anticipating life changes and planning for them
  3. Realizing that life is always in flux; everything is only temporary and constantly changing
  4. Looking at stressors as learning experiences
  5. Observing stressful thinking without making it part of your identity. You can say: “This is only a thought and it will pass.”
  6. Obtaining a reality check from your support system: “What is at stake here?”, “What is the best way to handle this?”
  7. Not rushing, taking the appropriate amount of time to make decisions
  8. Resisting habitual reactions and behaviors: working too much, spending hours on the Internet, substance abuse…
  9. Assuming an active role to achieve meaningful control of situations when it is possible
  10. Accepting what you cannot control, for example, by saying “I’m learning to deal with it; I’ve come to terms with what is happening.”
  11. Being optimistic: holding positive expectations for  the future
  12. Being confident to grow, to believe that even in the most difficult circumstances, you can take care of yourself.

Submitted and prepared by Wally Lazaruk