Using Mindfulness Strategies to Reduce Stress

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As the year comes to a close with religious or family celebrations, now is a good time to take stock of the thoughts that continue to whirl through your mind. Are you thinking happy thoughts, or are all of those instances of upset on a constant loop? Do you have strategies in place that will help you reduce your times of frustration, anxiety, or memories of hurt feelings?

This used to be my own personal plague; regardless of what was said or done by others, I simply could not let past exchanges go or stop my worries about interactions to come. And then I learned mindfulness.

Who knew?

Who knew that the same strategies that would free me of needless hours of worry and nights spent tossing and turning would end up being the same strategies that would help me during certification exams, jitters before speaking presentations, or keeping calm during monetary negotiations?

Amazing! Is this how the other half live?

And it ends up that I am not alone. Allen Wei wrote a roundup post regarding the benefits of mindfulness, asking a number of experts what they find to be the biggest benefit of mindfulness or meditation. Teachers, therapists, yogis, writers, and coaches were among those responding, and all found ways to express the gratitude they have found for a practice that has helped them find greater levels of calm and appreciation for the lives they lead.

For myself, mindful listening and mindful breathing have become the strategies I use most often when I find myself in stressful situations. From driving a car with a poor excuse of a spare tire after the real tire picked up a nail, to coping with the loss of a loved one, mindful listening and breathing help me face the typical ups and downs of daily life. They never solve a problem or remove it from my life, but that’s not their goal. They are simply strategies that help calm the reactive centers in my brain so I can act and speak as I mean to rather than resort to knee-jerk reactions.

While these strategies work well when anxiety sometimes slips in during the night, guided meditations have proven to be extremely helpful for me. Choosing a recording specific for falling asleep, I find myself never remembering having completed a single session. It’s not that I haven’t finished one, mind you. It’s just that I’ve always fallen asleep before the session has ended. I wake up sometime during the night with an ear bud still attached to my ear, pull it out, and back to sleep I go! Quite frankly, after describing this experience to others, I am often asked what the tape discussed…and I’d be glad to tell them or you…but I can’t; I have no clue! I only know I fall asleep, and 99% of the time I sleep soundly throughout the remainder of the night. It’s a miracle!

Can I tell you this is the way it’s supposed to be? No, but I can tell you that students as young as early elementary age through high school and college age, young adults navigating social and work realities, and adults of all ages seem to be in the same situation: stressed, and not knowing what to do about it.

Mindfulness will never solve a problem for you; it won’t even help a problem remove itself from your reality. But it will help you develop tools to manage the realities of everyday life.

For what more could one ask?

Be well, and enjoy the holidays.

Dr. W

 

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