Coping with Stress? Four Mindfulness Techniques to Consider
Stress can often be associated with anxiety that you may experience on a daily basis. Today, more and more adults and teenagers feel the effects of stress on a regular basis and need help developing healthy coping skills.
Juggling too many tasks and large workloads and constantly being plugged in only adds to the stress load. Some people are even stressed about being so stressed! Despite popular theory, not all stress is bad. A healthy state of stress is described as the “fight-or-flight” response. The “fight-or-flight” response is an important function that helps you in moments of imminent danger. During this response, hormones are released to help prepare appropriate muscles for flight, while energy is diverted from unnecessary places. If you are trying to run away from, say, a bear, your body will divert more energy to using your legs and less on digesting what you ate for lunch. As the name implies, you either fight off the dangerous situation or your run away from it. This type of stress is a healthy bodily response. Fortunately in the 21st century, most of us are not running away from bears.
Chronic stress, the type of stress many people experience today, is not at all beneficial. A variety of things contributes to daily stress; everyone has different stressors. Often unhealthy methods are used to alleviate stress, actually making it worse. Chronic stress is detrimental to the body, and toxic methods to alleviate it are harmful as well. However, there are many techniques, mindset changes, and adaptations that can help reduce stress in your life or at least help you to develop better coping skills.
- Meditation is a group of relaxation practices that may help reduce your daily stress. This practice may involve silence and self-reflection and can be performed in a variety of ways. Some may prefer a guided meditation as opposed to complete silence. Guided meditations can be found online and on a variety of apps. Others prefer visual imagery as meditation, and still others prefer progressive muscle relaxation. No matter which form of meditation you choose to participate in, taking time for yourself every day is an excellent tool for stress reduction that also promotes emotional wellbeing.
- Knowing a few relaxing breathing techniques can also be helpful. Controlling your breath can help relax the body, thus reducing stress. Breathing techniques are often used in meditation and yoga. Try a “3 x 3 x 3” breathing next time you are stressed: Breathe in for three seconds, hold your breath for three seconds, and then exhale for three seconds. Repeat this three times and see if you can tell the difference in your stress levels. There is a variety of other techniques that you can research online to help you feel calm during stressful moments.
- Exercise is also beneficial for stress reduction. Physical activity helps release nerves, jitters, and anxieties and on a chemical level helps regulate the neurotransmitters associated with stress. Even a simple 30-minute walk outside will do wonders for your stress levels. Try finding a physical activity you enjoy and set aside time to participate in it on a regular basis. Stay consistent, and soon you will notice a reduction in stress.
Like exercise, what you eat also affects your stress levels. Eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables will help reduce stress. Processed foods, such as potato chips, desserts, refined grains, and fast food, cause fatigue and bloating and often result in an increase in stress. Since chronic stress can produce chemicals harmful to the body, including colorful foods high in antioxidants will help reduce the effects of those chemicals. Look for high-antioxidant foods like goji berries, blueberries, and pecans. Keep in mind the phrase “you are what you eat.” If you want to feel less stressed, opt for a healthy diet.
A common habit today is multitasking, challenging your brain to do more than one activity at the same time. It also challenges your body to keep up with all of these tasks at the same time without spiraling out of control. If you want to reduce stress, break this mindset and learn to focus on one task at a time. Sometimes we may need to juggle a variety of tasks, but trying to focus on just one task at a time will help to reduce your stress levels.
Living in the moment
Many people today are incredibly anxious either because they are continuously focused on the future or depressed from dwelling on the past. Trying to live in the moment helps to reduce stress because all that matters is what is happening then and there.
Stress reduction is paramount for maintaining a healthy body. Daily activities like eating nutritious foods, exercising, and meditation are easy to integrate and can help immensely with stress reduction. Try making changes one at a time to reduce stress so you too can live a fruitful and happy life.
- Weissman J, et al. Disparities in health care utilization and functional limitations among adults with serious psychological distress. J Psyc Serv 2017: 653-659
- Jansen, Arthur S P, et al. Central command neurons of the sympathetic nervous system: Basis of the fight-or-flight response. Science. 1995:644
- Horowitz, S. Health benefits of meditation: what the newest research shows. Alter Comp Ther. 2010; 16(4):223-228