Using Mindfulness to Combat Stress

Food plays a major role in stress management but is not the only jigsaw piece to the puzzle. The food we eat can play a prominent role in the state of the mind and vice versa. What does stress have to do with nutrition and wellbeing? Everything! Stress management is imperative to health because it directly impacts on our food choices. If the body is in a constant state of stress, the food choices we make tend not to be the best ones. How many times have we all been in a stressed state and resorted to the Chinese takeaway? Guilty as charged. Avoiding to slow down the mind before eating doesn’t allow efficient digestion. Remember, you are what you eat, but only if your digestive system is equipped to absorb what you feed it.  Mindfulness is a mental state that focuses on the present and having awareness of your surroundings. This awareness includes your thoughts, feelings, environment and bodily sensations. Call it living in the moment. Mindfulness can affect the patterns in the brain so that when stress rises its ugly head, it dissolves itself much quicker. When we are mindful, we observe our thoughts and feelings from a distance and prevent giving the thought more power by criticizing it. It is important to remember that you are not your thoughts.

Practicing Mindfulness

Breathing exercises are so important to allow ourselves enter a mindful state. Breathing exercises: haven’t we all heard that before. Don’t underestimate the power of breathing work. To understand how breathing plays a role in stress, next time, notice how your breathing changes once in a situation you’re not too comfortable with. It will be shallow and inconsistent. Focusing on your breathing can centre the mind and allow us to concentrate on the breathing rather than the project, presentation or other stressful matter on hand. It helps by guiding us to observe without reacting and is an essential element to mindfulness. When focusing on breathing your mind may wander once to fifty times during the exercise. This is normal mind work but when it happens, gently bring your attention back to your breath. If you are finding it hard to focus, try out the breath triangle linked at the end of the page. This can be used on a mobile, iPad or desktop. As the triangle inflates, take a deep breath in through the nose and as it deflates, exhale through the mouth. Do this at your desk, at breakfast or during any part of the day when you are feeling overwhelmed. Once you have the breathing exercises perfected, trying meditation can enhance the mindful state. Studies have shown that meditation reduces the key indicators of chronic stress, including high blood pressure. It may also serve as a booster to the immune system, a function that may suffer in times of stress. Meditation doesn’t have to be rigid in structure, it could be as simple as taking a walk around the back garden or sitting down near a window and observing all that is going on outside. Getting out in nature is usually a sure way to relax the mind but if the drive home is the only few minutes you get to yourself all day, try out mindful breathing here. Try this simple, one-minute meditation to get you started!

1.    Sit straight up in a backed chair. Close or lower your eyes.

2.    Focus directly on your breath as it flows in and out. Observe your breath and the movement of your body while breathing. You can use the breath triangle here for assistance.

3.    If your mind start’s to wander, lightly bring your attention back to breathing. Don’t scorn yourself for getting distracted or pay too much attention to the thought. Focusing on breathing and letting your thoughts float by is an integral part of mindfulness.

4.    You may find that your mind becomes very calm or it may not. Whatever happens, just let it run its course. Mindfulness often takes practice in order to find yourself in a still state.

5.    Open your eyes and take in the room again.

 

Allocating a minute or two a day to this can help to de-stress your life!

x Niamh