With the events of the past year, high levels of stress have become commonplace. While stress is a normal part of life, chronic stress has been shown to have profound impacts on physical and mental health. Over time, lasting stress can have people feeling depressed, anxious, or just generally
overwhelmed. While we can’t change the world around us overnight, we can use some techniques to help improve how we feel right now.
A More Mindful Approach
Research has been mounting over the last several decades on the benefits of mindfulness to physical and mental wellbeing. While the benefits can be wide-ranging, mindfulness practice is particularly effective in helping us cope with stress and enjoying life more fully. Additionally, it’s free, simple to
practice, and only takes five to ten minutes each day.
Putting it into Practice
If you’re interested in trying mindfulness for yourself, here’s a basic outline to get you started:
1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit where you won’t be distracted. Set a timer for five minutes for the first time you practice.
2. While sitting with your back straight and feet firmly on the ground, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Now let yourself breathe normally and focus your attention on the sensation of your breath. With each inhalation and exhalation, notice those sensations. Also notice any sensations in between breaths.
3. Your mind is going to wander. That’s okay! When you find that your mind has wandered to something other than your breath, acknowledge it, and gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
4. When the timer goes off, you’re done!
Mindfulness is most helpful when practiced regularly. I recommend starting with five minutes a day for the first week and then increasing your time to ten minutes a day. The more you practice, the lower your baseline stress level will be, and the easier it will be to deal with the extra stress when it comes.
Think of it as a vitamin; take it once a day to stay healthy. When your mind wanders, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone’s mind wanders during this practice. It’s part of the process. When you find that it has, just acknowledge the wandering and come back to breathing. The important part is that you’re doing it.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be just about your breath. It is really about focusing your attention on one stimulus at a time, and returning to it when your attention strays. Other ways to practice include slowing walking and attending to the sensations in your legs and feet, immersing yourself in the process
of washing dishes, or intently focusing on the texture of the fabric as you fold clothes. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the process, you can incorporate mindfulness into a variety of everyday tasks.
Mindfulness is an effective tool to help manage stress. However, if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other overwhelming mental health symptoms, I recommend getting more help. Therapy offers a more comprehensive approach to feeling better, and a therapist can suggest a wider variety of skills and tools to aid you in the process. Often, I recommend mindfulness to my clients, but always in conjunction with other strategies to suit their specific needs. If you find yourself struggling, please give Oakland Psychological Clinic a call and we can help you on the path to feeling better.
If you have any questions, call us at Oakland Psychological Clinic 248-393-5555
Spencer Mister, LMSW