Mindfulness is a fancy way of saying that you are paying attention to the moment you are in. What you focus mindfully on can aid you into not only managing stress, but enjoying your life, and letting go of worry.
There are a vast number of techniques, tips and tricks to stress management. But if you lack mindfulness, they will all be lost on you. To understand what it takes to beat your stress, you first have to have an understanding of what makes you tick. Some people have the ability to self-evaluate, but for others it is much harder to do this and will take some practice. Start by identifying the main causes of what makes you stressed out the most. Indentifying what causes you stress and how you react to it will help you counteract the unhealthy responses and help you replace it with more helpful habits.
Here are some real life examples so you can get a better idea of what I mean:
The tension headache can be helped if not completely eliminated if you can catch it in time. If you suffer with frequent headaches, it’s important to consult with your doctor to find out if they are, in fact, tension headaches. Migraines and the dreaded cluster headache happen for completely different reasons, and therefore, require a different approach. The tension headache, however, is caused when muscles are continuously contracted for long periods of time without being relaxed. The muscle tenses and pain can begin to radiate up your neck into your head. If you can identify situations that cause you stress, and are mindful that this stress causes you to tense your shoulders, neck, and back, you can then begin to counteract your stress by practicing relaxation techniques.
Another example is feeling rushed. Many of us have to multi-task through our day and sometimes are required to hurry to get everything done in a short amount of time. For some of us, feeling hurried and feeling stressed is one in the same. The kids need to get to the bus on time, deadlines can’t be moved, and sometimes we’re just plain running late. When feeling rushed becomes your constant overriding feeling despite being in a hurry or not, you are a ‘habitual rusher’. There is a better way. Begin to be mindful of your state of mind and movements. Are you rushing about for no reason? Are you feeling overwhelmed but are just about your normal business during the day? You may be a habitual rusher and as you become mindful of when you are hurrying unnecessarily, you can begin to take steps to bring back relaxation. Taking a deep and slow breath, dropping your shoulders and reminding yourself that you aren’t in a hurry will retrain your thinking and behavior against rushing.
Ever notice that on the days you have too much to do and not enough time to do it in are the days that you misplace your keys, can’t find your purse, and forget where you parked? It’s not a coincidence and the Universe is not conspiring against you. Your stress is snowballing into a lack of mindfulness which causes you to rush and not pay attention because you’re hurried and stressed which creates more stress from carelessness and forgetfulness. Just today I let out an exasperated sigh in the store as I couldn’t find my list, “Why is it on the days I’m stressed, I can’t find anything!” My husband replies with a sardonic yet playful tone, “Aren’t you writing an article about being mindful today?” I’m a student as well as a teacher of stress management. What I once learned is forgotten in the hustle and bustle. Good habits can slip away and be replaced with stressful responses. We all need to be reminded of the simple truths like living in the moment we have and remembering to take a deep breath.
Mindfulness is part of how we enjoy life. When you are enjoying something, chances are you aren’t thinking about the past, or planning for the future. Enjoyment happens when we find happiness in the moment we are in. Directing our mind back into the present will allow us to enjoy life’s smaller moments – moments that we may take for granted otherwise.