Being Mindful During Stressful Times

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Female nurse suffering from headache
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By Marcy Shoemaker

We are living during a stressful time in the history of the country. You may be worried about big news stories such as the coronavirus or the changes in the stock market.

At the same time, you may worry about your future health, economic stability, career, relationships and/or the health of your family. You may ruminate or obsess about certain thoughts all day. Your life may be filled with stressful situations, or you may be an anxious individual.

You may have tried different methods recommended to you by your doctor, friends or family members that have not alleviated your stress sufficiently.

It may be time to begin a mindfulness practice that will help you focus on the present.

The practice of mindfulness focuses on being aware of the present moment while not judging yourself. Mindfulness is important since most of us don’t take a few minutes each day to distract ourselves from the worries in our lives. Mindfulness can help you:

  • Reduce suffering and increase happiness. Mindfulness may help you reduce pain, tension and stress.
  • Increase control of your mind. You will learn to better deal with negative thoughts.
  • Experience reality as it is.
  • Achieve significant reduction with anxiety and depression.
  • Decrease ruminations or constant worries.
  • Achieve a lower stress response during conflicts.
  • Enhance sleep quality.
  • Reduce stresses related to chronic illnesses.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety over the future. It can provide a break from stressful thoughts.

What are mindfulness skills?

Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, at any place while doing anything. It involves intentionally paying attention to the moment.

Mindfulness can be achieved through meditation. It can also be attained by focusing on the present moment and quieting your inner dialogue. Here are some mindfulness strategies to take:

  • Mindful breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body. Let go of your thoughts. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention.
  • Mindful observation. Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower or a tree, an insect or any other object of your choice.
  • Mindful awareness. This exercise is designed to increase your awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks and the results they achieve. You can think about opening your computer, getting in to your car, turning on the shower, etc.
  • Mindful listening. Listen to a song that you have never heard. Don’t pick a song that you associate with previous memories. Listen to the instruments and the words. Think about how it makes you feel. Keep touch with the rhythm of the song.
  • Mindful immersion. The idea is to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar routine task. Pay attention to every aspect of a task that you are performing and are involved with.
  • Mindful appreciation. Notice five things in your day that you don’t usually appreciate. Think about how your refrigerator keeps your food cold, how your electricity lights up your house and how the trees look beautiful and strong outside of your window.
  • Engage in distraction. For a period of time, if you can, avoid areas of your life or environments that add stress, like listening to the news, for example, and substitute this activity with mindfulness or another activity that gives you pleasure and enjoyment, such as listening to music, gardening or talking to friends.

Engaging in a practice of mindfulness helps us stay focused on the present moment, which is especially useful during the current stressful environment of our world. It helps us escape from negative thoughts and feelings for defined periods of time during our day.

And the best part is that it can be applied anywhere at any time.

Marcy Shoemaker is a staff psychologist at Abramson Center.

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