Mindfulness Exercises for Relieving Stress

By Robert Common, Managing Partner, The Beekeeper

The current global situation has resulted in many of us feeling a little overwhelmed at times. Tiredness, frustration, and lack of motivation are feelings many people have been experiencing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For some, working from home has caused work life to blur with personal life. For others, continuing to work in a regular workplace has its own stressors and worries. Either way, these negative feelings take their toll. Thankfully, there are tools available for relieving these feelings – mindfulness being a major one.


Mindfulness is a practice based on refocusing your mind on the present moment rather than focusing on thoughts that are causing you stress1,2. Instead of fixating on stressors, mindfulness allows you to focus on what’s happening in your body and in your surroundings in order to help you feel balanced emotionally and physically, ultimately promoting different facets of wellness1,2.


Described below are some easy-to-try mindfulness practices that can be used at home or at work while experiencing stress.

Mindful Breathing:
Mindful breathing exercises are an efficient method for centering oneself and promoting wellness that can be done in just a few moments. Also known as breathing meditation, these exercises incorporate both physical and mental approaches in order to repurpose energy to calm your nervous system and bring you into a stable sense of being1,2.To perform mindful breathing: spend a few moments focusing on your breathing. Allow your breathing pattern to be natural. Take big, deep breaths, and begin to count them. While inhaling, think about the physical sensation of breathing, and where you feel your breaths in your body: your nose, your chest, your abdomen. While exhaling, focus on your negative thoughts or emotions and imagine they are parting with you with every exhale. Continue performing this exercise until you feel your mind calming and your heart rate lowering as your mind and body become centered.


5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Reducing Anxiety
One of the most popular methods for reducing anxiety is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique3. This exercise works through mindfulness by engaging all five of your senses at once. To start, close your eyes and begin breathing slowly. Pay attention to your breaths and how they feel as they come in and out of your body. Once you’re feeling calmer, look around and identify five things you see in your surroundings. This could be a table, a piece of paper, or something outside of your window. Any random object will work so long as it is in your line of view. Once you have acknowledged five objects, identity four things you can touch and imagine yourself touching them. Following the same method, think of three things you can hear, then two things you can smell, and finally, one thing you can currently taste. By acknowledging these objects, you are engaging with your brain in a way that allows you to take your thoughts away from whatever is stressing you in the moment3.


Full Body Scans
Body scan meditation promotes relaxation from head to toe1,2. Try this exercise at home when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.Find a quiet area in your home and lay on your back in a relaxed position. Close your eyes and focus your attention on each part of your body. Pay attention to the pressure you feel: your back on the ground, the placement of your hands, and so on. When you’re ready, move on to focusing deliberately on a particular part of your body, such as a place where you are feeling strain or tension – find where in your body your stress is settling. Tune in to any sensations or emotions that are tied to the tension present on this part of your body. Once you have become aware of it, gently let it go, and focus on the next area. Perform this throughout your body, and when you are finished, gently open your eyes, allow your body to breath freely, and move mindfully out of this moment.


Gratitude practices:
Another helpful method is enlisting gratitude practices in everyday life. Gratitude is an essential component of mindfulness4. Practicing this exercise everyday can be very effective in reducing stress and improving mood.Instead of focusing on whatever is causing you stress, think about something positive that has happened today, or that is happening in your life more generally. Take a moment to identify it, name it, appreciate it, and think about how grateful or thankful you are for it. This method utilizes mindfulness to promote positive moods and good mental health. Practicing any of these mindfulness exercises will go a long way toward relieving stress and improving overall wellbeing. Additionally, they can provide you with a new perspective on life, which will lead to long-lasting improvements in your life1,2,5.

References
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6753170/
2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356
3. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23775470/
5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796717302449?casa_token=PeOzm1-qfl4AAAAA:5OwsIc40j0BPDImpzKtkuJpMVuW6ALWr7hKbgXaMROaOuduyQiuExB97TLl5t3DjTie6tPPon98

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