New Leaf Counseling Group
How Mindfulness Helps Stress and Anxiety
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Stress is something that comes up in everyone's daily life, and everyone deals with it from time to time. Some days are, of course, are harder than others. In most cases, we can handle our daily stresses but when pressures of life keep piling on, it can be challenging to manage. Mindfulness is one way you can manage your stress, recognize the triggers, and work through that stress to remove it from your life and move on with your day. If you aren't sure what mindfulness is, check out our previous post, Mindfulness 101, to get a better understanding of what it is and how it can help.
Work Through What Matters
Stress can come from a variety of areas in your life. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by our long list of to-dos or worries of the day. One way to reduce your stress with mindfulness is to focus on the items that are important and need your focus at that moment versus the things that do not. An example of this would be having your mind cluttered with what someone said about you and letting it affect your day. These are things that can and need to be reduced from your life because they can cause unnecessary stress. Removing thoughts from your mind can feel overwhelming, so think of it more as a refocusing. Focus on the things that do matter like the meeting you have later this week or the event you need to prepare for this evening.
Take Time to Breathe
This may sound like a very basic concept, but taking time to breathe can help you reduce the stress in your life. The trick to this is to actually learn breathing techniques, which we will talk more about later on in this post. Breathing techniques can help reduce your heart rate and keep your body and emotions in check. Once you learn a few breathing techniques, you can apply them at the appropriate times and help refocus yourself, reduce the stress, and deal with any fallout from that stress effectively.
Changing Your Reaction
Often stress is caused by our immediate reaction to the pressure of the thing causing the stress. Remember, emotions are indicators, not dictators.
When you’re feeling stressed, you don’t have to let it control your reaction. You get to take control.
When you take in your immediate response and make it explode in your mind, it can cause a massive amount of panic over something that likely doesn't need that sort of reaction. An example of this would be reacting to a new item on your to-do list that is unexpected. You may be panicking because you are wondering how you will complete that task along with all of the other things you have listed. A different approach would be to use mindfulness to refocus and realize that the job can be worked in with another task or handled quickly and moved to your completed list.
Though mindfulness does take some time, because it is a practice, it can help you with the stress in your life by reducing it into manageable categories. As you practice mindfulness, you will start to find new ways in which it can help you along with discovering new methods that work for you.
How to Use Mindfulness For Anxiety
Anxiety is different than stress but can be a result of it; it is something that an increasing number of people battle with. A significant cause if this is primarily because we, as a society, live and operate such hectic and busy lives. We have work; some have school, children, and a full calendar of things we have to do. Daily stressors combined with the issues that arise with family, personal life, financial problems, and so much more, can eventually lead to anxiety issues.
As mentioned early, breathing techniques can be helpful when dealing with stress or anxiety. When you become anxious about something, your body responds by increasing your heart rate. You can become panicked, distracted or withdrawn. When this happens, it can be harder to focus and more difficult to calm down.
Breathing techniques help you slow your breath, lower heart rate, maintain your blood pressure and send a message to your brain saying, “we’re okay, we can calm down now.”
An easy breathing technique is called box breathing. Imagine that you are tracing a box in your mind while taking deep breaths in and out. You breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe it out for 4 more seconds, hold again for 4 and then start over until you feel your heart rate regulating.
Another breathing technique that is also really helpful for children with anxiety is called tummy breathing. Lie on the floor and place a small stuffed animal or pillow on your stomach. Take a deep breath in through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth. Watch the stuffed animal or pillow rise and fall on your stomach while you practice your breathing.
Focus on the Issue at Hand
Mindfulness techniques help you focus on the issue at hand. It enables you to use and find methods that can take jumbled up thoughts and work them into one connected view.
Focusing on one thing will help create a clear path to a goal that has a starting point and ending point.
In the long run, this can help with anxiety because you’re building a plan of action that is attainable. Mindfulness can help you find joy in the task at hand, even if it is merely the joy that comes from completing something on your to-do list and being able to move on to the next one. Being able to focus on the issue at hand can prove to be helpful when wrestling with anxiety.
Find New Healthier Focuses
A bonus of mindfulness is that it helps you remove negative thoughts and refocus on healthier replacements. Instead of panicking you can have confidence in yourself that you know how to calm down through breathing. Instead of being upset about the day and feeling hopeless, you can replace those thoughts with gratitude for at least one experience from that day. You can find that you're happier first, healthier later and change your overall life outlook.
Though mindfulness will help you with anxiety issues, it can take some time. If you are having severe anxiety symptoms, you may want to consult a physician for further assistance as well. If you have any questions about managing stress, dealing with anxiety, or mastering mindfulness, we would be honored to help you through it.