Health Advocate Blog

Reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm with mindfulness

If you’ve been feeling stressed or anxious lately, a simple mindfulness technique–like focusing on your breath–is a convenient way to focus on the present moment and task at hand, slowing down body and mind to help you better cope with stress and reduce overwhelm. As a result, you’ll feel a little more in control of your life.

What are the benefits?

Studies show that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can be profoundly relaxing. It reduces anxiety, helps lift moods, improves attention and performance, and increases an overall sense of well-being.

How does it work?

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. The simplest is to focus on your breath.

Focusing on each inhale and exhale slows down your breathing and your heart rate, helping anxious, stressful feelings fade away. Your thinking becomes clearer. With practice, you will feel more focused on the task at hand and able to withstand life’s challenges a little better.

Here’s how to do it

• Find a quiet place to sit for 5 minutes or so, and close your eyes if you want.

• Relax your stomach, shoulders and jaw and begin to focus on your breath flowing in and out.

•Don’t force it. If your mind wanders from your breath, bring it back by saying to yourself “I breathe in and I’m calm,” and on the exhale say, “I breathe out and I let go.”

• If intrusive thoughts arise, observe them like clouds drifting by without judgment, and return your attention to your breathing.

Additional mindfulness techniques include focusing your full attention on everyday objects like a tree, or on simple activities like eating. On your lunch break, try eating mindfully. Take an orange or clementine, for example, and peel it very slowly, noticing the texture and color of each wedge and the fragrant aroma of the fruit. As you take a bite, savor the sweet-sour taste of the juice on your tongue, and so on. This classic mindfulness technique is a good way to practice focusing your mind on the moment.

For more focusing tips…

Place a “FACE” reminder within your sight to pull you back from distractions. Here’s what it stands for: F=what’s in your control, A=Acknowledge Your Thoughts, C=Come back to your body, E=Engage in what you’re doing.

Finish a task completely—or as much as you can—before moving to the next.  Bouncing back and forth between projects reduces your ability to mindfully focus on one project at a time.

If you feel you need more coping strategies to control anxiety, reach out to your healthcare practitioner or licensed professional counselor.