Try these Mindfulness Exercises to Reduce Stress
It’s no secret that we are busy people these days. It’s virtually impossible to avoid the constant stress of life. So how do you manage your day to day activities without it ending in burnout? According to studies reviewed by Shamash Alidina at Mindful.org, the practice of mindfulness can play a key role in reducing stress and enabling you to handle that stress in a healthy way.
“Mounting scientific evidence from hundreds of universities—including dedicated centers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the United States and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom—strongly suggests that mindfulness not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being.” – Shamash Alidina, at Mindful.Org
If you think “mindfulness” sounds like a pie-in-the-sky idea when it comes to your crazy schedule, take a moment to consider these five mindfulness exercises. You can do them anywhere and fit them into any schedule.
“Meditation brings us out of fight or flight by activating the body’s natural relaxation response. In fact the term ‘Relaxation Response’ was named by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, and it refers to our ability to release chemicals and brain signals that make our muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain.” –Dina Kaplan, at Forbes.
Meditation is more than just closing your eyes and feeling all woo-woo. It has a proven physical effect on our minds and bodies. If you’re searching for a way to drop the tension and get rid of that frazzled feeling, try a quick 5-minute mediation. You can practice this at home, in your office, sitting in your car, or while you’re waiting for your next meeting to begin.
“With guided imagery, you hear directions spoken by someone on a recorded CD, audiotape, or coaching you in person. The words guide you through an imaginary story, helping your mind to become more peaceful, calm and relaxed. Guided imagery helps lower anxiety, stress and blood pressure, reduces the severity of headaches and even strengthens immune functioning.” – Healthy Woman Magazine
Practicing guided visualization can take some getting used to, but if you struggle with anxiety, it can be an incredibly useful resource. When you can’t seem to settle or calm your mind, visualization can help harness that energy and bring focus. Soon enough, your brain will settle and so will your body. You can download any visualization practice on iTunes or stream one on YouTube, so that you have it ready when you need it. A great time to practice this is at the end of the work day, when you’re transitioning into your evening.
“Deep breathing also goes by the names of diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises. Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.” – Harvard Health Publishing
Deep breathing is one of the most practical mindfulness exercises you can try. You don’t need anything but your breath and 30 seconds. You can even try it right now while you’re reading this. Take a slow, full inhale, feeling the air fill your lungs and stomach. Then take an equally slow exhale, feeling the air completely leave your body. Repeat three times and observe how you feel. This is a great practice for those stressful moments when panic threatens to kick in, or the tension becomes too much. It’s also a great exercise to practice right before a big meeting or interview.
“Mindful walking involves an extra focus on all the senses, exploring both internal and external landscapes, and their interconnectedness. It’s walking more slowly than usual, less concerned with the final goal, more engaged with the sensations of the body, and savoring the impact of the external world on the inner experience.” – Suzanne Kane’s interview with David Lynch, at Psych Central
Going on a mindfulness walk is a great practice to help clear the mind and ease tension. You might feel like you don’t have enough time for a leisurely stroll, but be creative. If you live close enough, walk to work or walk to the local coffee shop on your lunch break. You can even make this a family activity in the evenings to help everyone let go of the day. It doesn’t need to take hours at a time, even a 15 minute walk will do a wealth of good.
“A fundamental principle of yoga is that your body and mind are one and connected. Stress in one domain will affect the other and vice versa. Many of us live primarily in either our mind or our body, which creates imbalance and even a lack of awareness. Yoga also trains your counter-stress response system called the parasympathetic nervous system. With regular yoga practice, your chronic daytime stress hormone levels drop and your heart rate variability increases, which is measure of your ability to tolerate stress.” – Marlynn Wei M.D., at Psychology Today
A little yoga goes a long way. Just 10 minutes a day can help you manage stress in a healthy way and maintain your overall wellness. You don’t have to be super flexible or even knowledgeable about the poses. There are tons of yoga videos for beginners, of all lengths, that will ease you into the practice.
You don’t have to have tons of extra time to begin implementing these mindfulness exercises into your daily routine. Pick just one at first and set aside 5 to 10 minutes in your day. Keep an open mind and trust that these exercises will benefit your wellbeing. Find what works best for you and make it your own.
Have you tried any of these mindfulness exercises? Share your experience with us in the comments!
Feature photo: Rakicevic Nenad / Unsplash