Mindfulness and Stress
Stress can arise in so many different areas of our lives, and finding a balance between your personal life, professional responsibilities and the things you need to do to take of yourself can seem overwhelming at times.
In our personal lives, relationship and family issues and conflicts are often a great source of stress. We can also experience stress due to concern about the well-being of people we care about and they are going through.
Stress at work can take many forms including being overworked or underpaid, lack of structure and supervision, poor management and lack of recognition or appreciation, and having to deal with difficult co-workers. Similarly, commitments and pressures related to school can be a great source of stress for students. And if you're not working, looking for work, or unable to work, these are some of most stressful things for anyone to experience.
Additional stress can arise from struggling with things such as loneliness and isolation, lack of meaning and purpose, going through periods of change and transition, as well as uncertainty and worries about the future, and planning and having to make decisions. Other common sources of stress include concerns about health, financial difficulties, the expectations of others, and simply having too many things going on and being busy all the time.
Stress also contributes to things such as anger, irritability, depression and anxiety, and has a toll on our physical health. Stress is associated with increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Stress can also lead to tension or pain in our heads, neck and back, and be responsible for digestive disorders and difficulties sleeping.
Mindfulness for Stress Reduction and Stress Management
Mindfulness is one of the most effective strategies for stress management and stress reduction, and in recent years mindfulness has become integrated into western medicine and health care for a wide range of physical and mental health issues in which stress plays a role.
There are a number of ways that mindfulness helps you manage and reduce stress:
- Mindfulness teaches you to clear your mind of unnecessary clutter and chatter, and focus on one thing at a time instead of being pulled in many directions at once.
- Clearing you mind helps bring fresh perspectives to problems you've been struggling with, allowing you to find alternatives and new possibilities instead of going in circles over the same things again and again.
- Mindfulness increases your awareness of what is going on in the present moment, allowing you to acknowledge and attend to things as they are happening, rather than letting them build until they become overwhelming.
- The awareness that comes from mindfulness helps you consciously choose how you respond to difficult people and situations, helping you generate more effective responses and new behaviours rather than automatically reacting out of habit.
- Mindfulness can bring about deep states of relaxation, giving you the chance to unwind and let go of the things that are causing your stress. Even just a few moments of mindfulness and following your breath can release great amounts of stress.
- The reduction in stress that mindfulness brings leads to numerous health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, improving stomach and digestive problems, decreasing pain and muscle tension, and improving sleep, concentration and energy levels.
For more about how mindfulness can help you manage and reduce stress, see the notes from my talk on mindfulness and stress reduction
at the Guelph Public Library. You can read more about mindfulness and stress reduction and stress management
on my blog, where you'll also find posts about some simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.