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  • Kelsey Jean

Self-Care is Not Selfish

Is your endless to-do list keeping you up at night? Do you lay in bed at the end of the day unable to shut off your thoughts? Has the global pandemic and stay home order increased your stress and anxiety?

You are not alone.

If stress is not managed long-term negative side consequences can affect physical and mental well-being. Mindful meditation and other techniques drawn from Buddhism [2] ideology. Since the adoption of western medicine, research has shown that practicing mindfulness helps both physical and mental health.

What does stress do to the body?

Stress can present itself as both a physical and mental sensation in the body. The common analogy is referred to as the flight-or-fight response. Common sensations are described as increased heart rate, sweating, tunnel vision, and your body prepares for actions in either fight mode (tackling the situation head-on) or flight mode (running to safety).

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention [3] found that:

Stress can cause the following:

  • Changes in energy, appetite, and interests

  • Physical reactions such as headaches, body pains, skin rashes, and stomach problems

  • Worsening mental and chronic health problems

  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares.

Luckily these negative side effects can be managed by practicing stress-reducing activity such as mindfulness.

How does Mindfulness help to improve stress response?

Mindfulness is defined by Oxford Dictionary as a “mental state that is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment at the same time as acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts.”

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present at the moment. A practice that may come easier to others and widely accepted as a holistic approach to improving one’s mental state.

Benefits of Mindfulness [1]

  • Reduction in Stress and Anxiety

  • Boost in working memory and focus

  • Increased empathy and compassion to others and oneself

  • Improved sleep quality

  • Help with managing chronic pain

  • Reduced number of headaches and migraines

5 Ways to practice mindfulness

Mindful Meditation

Meditation is a mental exercise to slow racing thoughts and bring awareness to your breath and surroundings. Mediations can either be guided with an instructor or self-guided based on experience and preference.

Some forms of medications include Body Scan, Review of Senses, Breathwork, focused attention, visualization, and reflection.

Therapy

Throughout the past two decades, mindful meditation has been used in the clinical field of Psychopathology. Mindfulness techniques are an effective technique to reduce stress in talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). [4] Reach out to your local clinic to see if therapy would be a good fit for you.

Personal Development

Personal Development focuses on reading nonfiction self-motivation or self-help books, listening to motivational podcasts and or audiobooks. You can also practice personal development with journaling by writing down your thoughts and how you are feeling. This form of mindfulness practice helps with confidence, happiness, and self-awareness.

Creative Arts (art, music, dance, and movement)

Creative interventions are a fun way to practice mindfulness. Research shows that being creative in art, music, dance, or movement helps improve stress management. [6]

Exercise

Physical activity is an effective method to reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being. Physical activity such as Yoga, Walking, Jogging, weight lifting, and cycling are all forms of mindfulness. [5]

Final Thoughts

Research demonstrates that chronic stress can take a toll on the body both physically and mentally. Daily mindfulness practice can help to reduce these negative side effects and help you effectively manage stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practice can help boost working memory, reduce stress, ease anxiety, improve quality of sleep, and help manage or even decrease chronic pain.

Find a practice that you enjoy, every day is a new day to be Mindful.


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