You know how it feels when you're stressed – your heart is pumping hard, your tummy is upset, and your mind is racing at a hundred miles an hour. If you recognise this, learning some mindfulness techniques can help you to manage stress.
The symptoms above are your body’s natural stress response in action. The adrenaline kicks in, and all non-urgent functions go on hold while survival takes priority. Your digestion slows down, but your legs feel pumped and ready to go.
This system was very useful for our prehistoric ancestors when they had to fight for their dinner or run away from danger. When the danger passed, their bodies relaxed and recovered.
Today it’s very different. We live in a 24/7 society where stress is potentially non-stop. And this constant stress, with no relief, is very damaging.
That's why it's so important to short-circuit the cycle and give your body a chance to naturally de-stress itself sometimes.
Mindfulness is a wonderful way to manage stress. It fits naturally into your everyday life, without becoming just another item on your crowded to-do list.
When you're being mindful, you pull your attention away from that busy chatter in your head and focus on what’s right in front of you. It might mean listening properly to a real-life conversation and paying full attention to what the other person is saying.
Just about every moment in your day is an opportunity to be mindful.
Are you making coffee in the morning? Really savour the smell and take a minute to look out the window while it’s brewing Sit down and enjoy it to the full.
Walking to the bus stop, eating your lunch or even cleaning your teeth are all moments that can bring you fully into the present.
It’s important not to make mindfulness just another obligation, something that you feel pressured to make time for. But if you already have a hobby that you enjoy, this can be a rich and satisfying opportunity to put mindfulness into action. This is especially true if your hobby is an activity that allows you to slow down.
Whatever you enjoy doing, this time is precious. Give yourself over to it and remove distractions.
Most of us who go running do it with headphones and our own personal soundtrack. Unplug and try your run without music. Listen to the sounds around you; hear your own breathing and the pounding of your feet. It's a totally different experience.
Are you a gardener? What a lovely chance to connect with nature. Forget your problems, smell the earth, and give yourself over to the rhythm of digging or the pleasure of just pottering.
Maybe you like doing something indoors, like knitting, crafts or woodworking. Do it mindfully, without the TV or radio in the background. Observe your materials: how do they feel in your hands and how do they smell? What kind of sounds are you making?
Whatever you’re working on, watch how your plan is gradually taking shape and give your handiwork the attention it deserves.
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