“Negative” or “bad” stress is stress that has become chronic and weighs on you heavily. This stress can result from a busy job, a bad relationship, or a multitude of other situations that have a negative impact on you. Bad stress can manifest itself in many ways. Physically, it can cause body aches, headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach, heart disease, and high blood pressure… just to name a few. Emotionally and mentally, stress is incredibly draining and can lead to instability and breakdowns.
Stress looks different on each person. But regardless of how it manifests, it’s essential to take the necessary steps to prevent it. Some people have been stressed for so long that they think it’s inevitable. But this is incorrect; our lives don’t have to be filled with an abundant amount of unhealthy stress. One of the best ways that I’ve found to help in combatting stress and anxiety is to practice mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is characterized as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”
Mindfulness essentially entails being present in the current moment. It involves noticing our internal thoughts and feelings as well as our external environment. The goal of practicing mindfulness is not to ignore our thoughts, but to realize that they are there, without casting judgment upon them.
So how does practicing mindfulness for anxiety help?
A lot of times stress and anxiety manifest from thinking about the past or the future, instead of focusing on the present moment. But when we’re mindful and aware of our current thoughts, behaviors and actions and how they affect us, we can breed a sense of control; and control generally makes us feel less anxious.
Unfortunately, anxiety is great at playing tricks on our minds. It often makes us so caught up in unproductive worries and wrongful interpretation of thoughts that we begin to believe them. “When you’re lost in worry, it’s easy to mistake your fears and worries for facts, instead of recognizing that they are just thoughts.” Anxiety and stress often stem from irrational and ruminating thoughts. When we’re hyper-focused on something we’ve falsely created in our minds, we’re unable to see the situation as it actually is. This is why, when we engage in mindfulness for anxiety, we can reevaluate our thoughts to discover whether or not they’re true.
Does Mindfulness Help Physically?
Mindfulness has also been proven to alter levels of the chemicals in our brains:
- Increases GABA levels (“a neurotransmitter essential for feeling happy and relaxed”)
- Reduces cortisol (a stress hormone)
- Increases levels of serotonin (making us happier)
And like anything, the more you practice mindfulness for anxiety, the more useful it will become. The more you engage in it, the more your brain chemicals change and the more you’re able to reteach your brain. You can retrain it to automatically think with mindfulness instead of with stress.
Finally, practicing mindfulness for anxiety is also incredibly convenient, as it doesn’t have to be a huge production. It can be done for as little as five minutes per day. It can also be practiced in almost any situation – while driving, taking a walk, listening to music, etc.
When you carve out small amounts of time for mindfulness, you’ll be surprised at the big result it can have on your life.
If you, like many people, like to have personal help and support when you begin something new, I can assist you in beginning the practice of mindfulness meditation. There are many therapeutic techniques I utilize when I help someone overcome anxiety. I’d be happy to guide you to feeling lasting peacefulness.