Eliminating Stress with Mindfulness
Our daily lives are filled with looming deadlines, screens, and dozens of commitments. These leave very little time for us to reconnect with ourselves, to other people, and to nature. It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that more and more people suffer from the physical and psychological symptoms of stress, which are often both subtle and profound on our bodies.
Since it may be impossible for many to abandon all of these factors, the most effective way to deal with stress is to treat it with a clear headspace. And the only way to achieve that is to practice mindfulness.
The effects of stress
Many people admit that stress helps them to perform better, so why is being stressed such a bad thing? For one, stress weakens your immune system. It stimulates the release of stress hormones that can be life-saving under the right circumstances. However, too much of these hormones place the body in a constant state of alert. To add to that, a Michigan State University study sheds light on mast cells, which act as a defense mechanism against threats. When these cells get overwhelmed, they become unstable, rendering the immune system ineffective against illnesses. This helps explain why being stressed makes people sick.
Stress also takes its toll on your psychological wellbeing. It’s easy to become irritable and develop anxiety or depression when you’re constantly under pressure. Cognitive function becomes affected, too, with Maryville University discussing the connection between mental health and learning success. Students who receive pressure from their parents, teachers, or peers might get too overwhelmed and underperform, as stress can impede their ability to learn. Moreover, a review by researchers at the University of Hamburg indicates that stress actually impacts memory retrieval, which might contribute to poor marks in school. And even for those of us no longer in an academic or professional setting, life teaches us something new everyday. Allowing stress to interfere with that learning is robbing us of a fulfilling life.
What is mindfulness and how does it work?
Think of mindfulness as meditation in practice — meaning it doesn’t have to be done on a yoga mat in a quiet room. Meditation teacher and molecular biologist Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.”
To be mindful means to be aware and accepting of your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and surroundings. Be in the present moment because ruminating over the past stirs up unnecessary stress that affects your daily life. Similarly, anticipating the future can generate anxieties that prevent you from living your life to the fullest.
The great thing about mindfulness is that it’s free and available to anyone at any given moment. Whether you’re in a meeting, a cramped subway, or in the shower, you can deepen your awareness. Connect with your senses and try to observe what goes on in your body and your surroundings. Notice the sounds, smells, sights, feelings, and even tastes, if it applies. Breathe deeper into your belly, as previously recommended here on Enlightened Beings, as it this allows you to let go of negative feelings and take in positive vibes. Whatever you do, try to do it with a clear intent.
Stress is often a knee-jerk reaction to things. Being mindful, on the other hand, means learning how to take a step back and assess the situation objectively so that you can come up with solutions to a problem. Practicing this can change the way you react to certain situations. It’s about reshaping your perspective so you no longer feel encumbered by small things, like the state of traffic or the amount of work you have to complete.
This article was written exclusively for enlightenedbeings.com
By Anna Matthews