To practice mindfulness for stress is to practice being fully present in the moment. When you do this, it’s not possible to be stressed. Unless of course, you’re under immediate physical threat. There is rarely anything to fear in the present. Most stress, anxiety, and fear is tied up with imaginings about the future.
Initially, It’s good to practice mindfulness when you’re not particularly stressed. Do this and you’ll be able to use it to reduce high stress levels when you need to.
The Short-Term Physiology of Stress
When you bring your awareness to whatever you’re experiencing you’re being mindful. That can be via your physiology, your senses, or your mind. Some of that awareness isn’t going to support you in bringing down your stress levels. Not unless you work with it. If you’re feeling tense, nauseous, or have racing thoughts, for example, focusing on those things isn’t going to help your stress levels unless you can unravel them.
The physiological effects of stress can be frightening, e.g. an increasing heartbeat, hyperventilating. If you focus on those things you’ll probably make yourself more stressed. By understanding that the physiological effects of stress are your primitive brain setting your fight/flight response into action, you can calm yourself.
Your Thoughts May not be your Friends
Your thoughts, when you’re highly stressed or anxious are likely to be negative and unhelpful to your wellbeing. Mindfulness experts often recommend you focus your awareness on your thoughts without judgment, or getting caught up in them. But it’s very difficult to do this when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.
Challenging the validity of your negative thoughts is an effective approach. Or better still, replacing them with more positive ones that you can believe. You’ll also feel less stressed if you distract or redirect yourself into something that is positive or at least neutral. Yoga, meditation, walking in nature (with headphones if necessary), gardening; anything that you can direct your full attention towards, is likely to bring your stress levels down.
Mindfulness is beneficial as long as you can stay aware of your body in a holistic way. Focusing on stressful and negative thoughts isn’t going to help you feel better unless you can separate from your thoughts and become an observer. Letting go of your thoughts, or offering something to them such as curiosity or compassion can be mindful and bring you peace.
People who learn to do this often report lower levels of stress. When stress is managed properly it opens up the ability to feel all the good things in life: joy, happiness, clarity, peace and satisfaction. It’s also a lot better for your long-term health.
If you’d like to develop more awareness about the underlying causes of your stress, we have an online course you may like to consider. Click the button if you would like to learn more about that.
A very Mindful YouTube Channel
There are lots of tools around to develop mindfulness. Sam Harris has his Waking Up App, which is highly recommended by a lot of people. Personally I don’t like structured mindfulness meditations. I much prefer to bring mindfulness to whatever I’m doing. And I’ve found someone else just like me.
She calls herself the Cottage Fairy and she has created a very mindful YouTube channel which I love. It deals with mindfulness on three levels. It shows beautifully how she (I don’t know her name) lives mindfully, it shares what she’s learned on her journey and it’s very difficult to watch it and remain stressed. Enjoy 🙂