Mindfulness and how it can combat stress
- 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, used as a therapeutic technique.
In our daily lives, we often become over encumbered with various worries and stress that can have a huge impact on how we deal with day to day tasks such as how we manage our work and home life, our relationships with others, our overall mood and how well we sleep.
As the above description of the term suggests, mindfulness is the act of being completely in the present and fully aware of your feelings, so that you feel enlightened and in control of them, which helps you take the necessary action to step out of a confused haze and into a more reasoned and pragmatic frame of mind to combat your feelings head on with the knowledge of how and when to tackle them successfully.
Adopting just a few simple techniques can really help combat some of this and leave you feeling lighter and more clear minded to enjoy your days and get things done.
It’s understandable that not everyone can afford to take an hour out of their day for any sort of full meditation, or simply do not have the means to perform some more focused exercise, so at TFS we have instead scoured the internet to bring you a few ideas that we feel really adapt well to the typical rigours of daily life, whether it be in your career, with your family or just how you approach each day and that you can fit into a schedule no matter how busy or stressful.
Always make your bed in the morning
Our first tip isn’t strictly to do with mindfulness but more to do with setting yourself up mentally for the day and – whilst this may sound a little silly initially and leave you thinking ‘how on earth is that going to finish that report at work, or take the kids to football practice’ – the real issue at hand is setting your mental state to accept challenge and deal with stress and to enable you to become mindful. By simply making your bed that morning, you would have already completed your first goal of the day. A quick win.
Take a look at this snippet from a motivational speech by Admiral William H. McRaven, from his book ‘Make Your Bed’, to see further into the mental approach:
Making your bed is a simple act with powerful consequences. To rise in the morning and complete the first task of the day will give you motivation to do more; to accomplish more. The bed also represents you. Few things in your home are more personal. Making your bed is a reflection of your discipline, your pride and your personal habits. If you can’t get up in the morning and make your bed, what else are you incapable of doing? If you want to change the world, or just make yourself a little better, start off by making your bed.
After setting this as your first task, designate yourself another quick goal to achieve, then another. After some time, you will be starting the morning already in the mind-set of accomplishment, setting you up perfectly to continue in this vein and translate that to work and other tasks that need to be done.
Write Your Problems Down On Paper
Quite often, our minds can become so cluttered with thoughts that you lose sight of where one problem starts and another problem ends. This leaves a huge ball of mixed up worry and concern, as if you have a huge insurmountable issue that is impossible to deal with. The truth of the matter is that you have probably just lost sight of how and when to deal with each one and that’s a very important aspect – the timekeeping of your problems.
So, write them down. For an easy example, let’s call it a list of 10 problems you consider to be troubling you. First things first, buying that present for your mum’s birthday next month? Put that to one side, you can deal with that later. A driving test coming up in a few weeks? Again… that’s not important right now.
That’s 2 things off the current list. Is there another couple of things you can get assistance with? Send an email across to a co-worker for some input or a nudge for help. You’ll be amazed to see that after prioritising your concerns, that you may only be left with less than half what you thought you did, so get cracking on with them. Prioritise them by time and/or importance and hit the first item on the list.
Before you realise it, you will have completed all you can on that first concern and be well on to tackling the next. Immediately things should become clearer for you and any new problems that arise, you will have the mind-set to tackle them head on and prioritise them, rather than absorbing them into an ever growing ball of confusion in your head.
Take a time-out to breathe and think…
Really think about certain things. Some of us literally spend 40hrs per week sitting at the same desk, or on the same sofa in the same environment. This may be your usual place of work or rest, but sometimes familiar surroundings can leave you feeling a little trapped and can stifle creative and positive thinking.
If you are at work, head out to get a tea or coffee and take a seat somewhere different by yourself. If you are at home alone, take a stroll out and start to think things through. If you have put yourself in a good frame of mind and adopted an approach of writing your problems down on paper, then you will already be in a clearer position to calmly and positively think things through, without the distraction of your usual environment.
Whilst doing this, focus on steady breathing which can bring a calming effect on you. Some even close their eyes to focus, which takes on much of the traits of actual meditation.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
You’re human, you’re imperfect, you get things wrong and you make mistakes. Guess what… so does everybody else and that’s ok! If you have made a mistake or you feel you have fallen short of what you’d expect from yourself, then try not to berate yourself too much. Often, our own insecurities or shortcomings are blown way out of proportion by our own levels of unfair criticism, which will only leave you feeling worse about yourself and in a negative mood, believing you’re not good enough.
Everyone makes mistakes and everything is a lesson. Movement in any direction is progression and by being mindful, you can learn to use this to your advantage and take the lessons from this.
Why did it fail? What did I do wrong? What can I do to improve next time?
There are a number of ways you can adopt daily techniques no matter where you are or how busy you are and in time, you will find yourself naturally falling into positive thought and action.
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