Although feeling bouts of stress is fairly normal, extreme stress is increasing nationwide. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) survey on stress levels, at least 84% of all surveyed adults reported feeling prolonged stress at least once in a two-week period. All in all, these spikes in stress are also said to have caused physical and mental concerns among 4 in 5 respondents. This has caused many people to try to actively avoid stressful triggers.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to avoid these triggers. In Maryville University’s feature on the future of psychology, it’s revealed that there are now more stress-inducing factors than ever before. For instance, current climate change conditions are believed to change a person’s psychology. Research has shown that those who live in pollution-heavy cities have a higher risk of mental illness. At the same time, the rapid shifts in workplace conditions have increased burnout and depression. Today, conditions in the workplace are considered factors that influence a person’s stress and psychology. Last but not the least, the APA says that the COVID-19 pandemic has also been an inescapable stressor. Presently, this has caused nearly one-third of all adults to have difficulty even making everyday decisions due to swelled bouts of stress. Consequently, this impossibility to steer clear of stressors has instead encouraged many to learn how to manage them instead.
While there are many ways to manage stress, should it arise, mindfulness has become of the most effective and accessible options.
How Does Mindfulness Address Stress?
In a previous article on the site called “Mindfulness Meditation 101”, it’s explained that mindfulness is an intentional act of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. When practicing mindfulness, awareness, focus, acceptance, and observation are significantly heightened. As such, it helps the body and the mind to find a peaceful stillness. Through this, individuals can better center themselves and it becomes easier to block out any noise and pressing triggers. Depending on the person and the situation, this focus and stillness can then be channeled so that you can focus and appreciate one task at a time.
Furthermore, the greater present-moment awareness that mindfulness delivers has been reported to help individuals better come up with stress-managing strategies. More targeted studies have even found that people who are mentally present when stressed have a greater sense of core values, resilience, and the ability to navigate through the circumstances. In the long run, mindfulness can help a person switch to a peaceful mindset, which in turn can keep stress at bay and nourish healthier coping strategies.
How To Start Practicing Mindfulness For Stress
Another reason why mindfulness is becoming more popular in the mainstream is because of its accessibility. Virtually anyone can practice mindfulness anywhere at any time. Since it does require some practice, though, it’s better to dedicate short but regular exercises. In this way, you can slowly but surely attune your body and mind while making it a habit. For beginners, here are some mindfulness exercises to try:
A much-loved practice for a reason, meditation is a purposeful exercise that is anchored around stillness and breathing. When combined with mindfulness, meditation becomes an activity that teaches focus. This can be a body part, a sound, or even just the breath. Thanks to the simplicity of this practice, you can apply mindfulness meditation while sitting, standing, walking, or laying down. As per a study on workplace mindfulness on Frontiers, mindful meditation can even be done at work. This has been found to potentially lower perceived stress and increase engagement. Over time, this can help you develop an enhanced awareness that decreases stressful reactions.
People often think that mindfulness is a solitary exercise. But, in reality, it can also be applied to how we interact with other people. Since mindfulness is also rooted in being free of judgment, VeryWellMind’s article on mindful interactions notes that doing this can help you enjoy deeper and more meaningful connections. To do this, try to focus only on the person you’re with and to sincerely accept what they say. By doing this, you’re able to better absorb what they’re saying. Eventually, this can teach you to not just hear but to also listen in order to sieve through stressful conversations.
Granted, mindfulness is not a flawless cure for stress. However, it is a convenient, inclusive, and holistic practice. Though it may take time and effort for its benefits to truly be felt, when practiced regularly, mindfulness can become a powerful tool to manage stress and bolster overall wellness.
Penned for awakenbreath.org by Annette Sue Trevor