Chronic stress, stress that continues for a long period of time and doesn’t go away, is bad for your body – it can impair your immune system, lead to insomnia and make other health problems worse. And Australians are currently experiencing chronic stress more than ever. Large studies show there have been marked increases in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. Unemployment and financial stress have also increased, which has been linked to an increase in suicides.
In many circumstances mindfulness can help.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Mindfulness-based stress reduction approaches are proven to effectively reduce stress by drawing a person’s focus to the immediate moment. This brings them to the present and frees them from the distraction of both real and imagined worries. And mindfulness has been associated with good health outcomes, including improvements in pain, body image, mood, sleep, body image, anxiety, depression and even self-esteem.
As always, if you are experiencing any mental health challenges, feeling sad or down, or simply need someone to speak to, contact us or your GP right away. But if you’re feeling like you could really just use some tactics to help you manage the day-to-day stressors in your lives, and combatting chronic stress – we’ve got some great mindfulness exercises here for you.
Top 5 Mindfulness Exercises for Stress
We eat every day, but most of the time we’re not concentrating on what we’re doing. In this exercise, choose something to eat, but before taking a bite, hold the item in your hand. Notice how it feels, and looks. What’s the texture, the weight and colour? Now, smell it. What’s the scent? Think beyond just ‘apple’, for example.
Now eat it, but slowly and with attention. Notice the texture as you take a bite. Is there a snap, or is the item soft and giving? Now taste the flavour on your tongue and feel the texture in your mouth. Think about each of these as you continue to eat.
Time: 4 minutes
Thought observation is designed to help you enhance your awareness of your own thoughts. You start by lying down in a comfortable space, and consciously letting the tension flow out of your body. Then you focus on your breathing and your body (what it feels like, where you are), and then let those go. Now you are free to simply focus on your thoughts.
Be aware of the thoughts that are coming into your head, but don’t label them, judge them or control them. Instead acknowledge them and observe them as they pass by. And if you find that you’re concentrating on a single thought too much, gently guide yourself compassionately back.
Time: 15 minutes
In this exercise the first step is to find something in nature and observe it continuously. This could be a leaf, a piece of bark, a fruit or seed. Take that item and hold it in your hand, and give it your full attention.
Notice the colours, the shape, the patterns, the texture, the smell, the weight and the heft of the item. When your thoughts wander, simply bring them back and keep observing.
Time: 5 minutes
Often people think of meditation and mindfulness as being one and the same. Actually meditation is one type of the overarching mindfulness approach. Guided meditations can be an excellent way to achieve a ‘quiet fixation’ that locks you into the present moment.
One great example is the bell exercise. In this case you begin the meditation audio and then you simply close your eyes and listen for the sound of the bell. When you hear the bell, your goal is to maintain your concentration on that sound without allowing yourself to be distracted.
Time: 5 minutes
The 5-Senses Exercise
This exercise is an excellent way to bring you back to mindfulness in nearly any situation. All you need is your five senses.
To start the exercise, pick five things that you can see. These should be things you might not normally notice – like a crack in the wall or the light coming through the shades of the window.
Next, focus on four things you can currently feel. This can be your clothes, the chair you’re sitting in, your pet on your lap, even the feel of your hair on the back of your neck.
Third, select three things you can hear. Try to focus on sounds you might not typically pay attention to, such as the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of birds in the trees.
Fourth, pick two things you can smell that you might normally filter out, whether good or bad. Maybe there’s a scent of freshly-cut grass coming in on a breeze, or perhaps it’s the rubbish bin next to your office desk.
Fifth and finally, pick one thing you can taste right in this moment. Take a sip of water, eat something or even lick an envelope. Notice the taste in your mouth, spending some time savouring it, even if it’s unfamiliar or not overly pleasant.
Time: 5 minutes
We’re here to help.
As always, contact us if you’d like more help achieving mindfulness or managing stress. We’re here to help.
Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.
Please call us on (07) 3857 0074 to book an appointment with one of our clinicians; or send us an appointment request via this website and we’ll contact you as soon as possible to book a suitable time for you.