It’s no surprise that people are stressed. The pandemic, the ups and downs of daily life, and plenty of issues on the global stage have all increased the stress levels of just about every American — even teens and kids aren’t immune.
We may not be able to control what’s going on in the “outside” world, but there are things we can do in our own lives to reduce stress and the health problems it can cause.
At Affordable & Restorative Health, Winston Griner, MD, helps patients in Nashville, Tennessee, learn important self-care techniques to minimize stress and maximize wellness. If you’re feeling stressed out, here’s how mindfulness exercises can help.
First, a few words about stress
In its most recent data, the American Psychological Association (APA) says more than 80% of Americans report feeling stressed out. With the pandemic going on, that’s not surprising.
What is surprising is that Americans’ stress levels have remained pretty constant over the years — even in years where there was no pandemic to worry about. For instance, a 2017 Gallup poll found that about 79% of Americans reported feeling stressed on a regular basis — three years before the pandemic, and almost a decade after the end of the Great Recession.
Stress doesn’t just make life unpleasant. It can take a major toll on your health, increasing the risks of heart disease, heart attack, diabetes, obesity, and other medical problems. Plus, it has a major psychological toll, contributing to depression, moodiness, and relationship problems — and that’s just for starters.
How mindfulness exercises “work”
The concept behind mindfulness is simple: To be “mindful,” we need to be present in the moment and focused on where we are now, not on worries about the future or regrets about the past. Mindfulness exercises help you “tune in” to what’s going on around you and inside your body and your mind.
Being mindful reduces stress and the hormones and other chemicals released during a stress reaction. As a result, research suggests that mindfulness as a stress-reduction tool may provide benefits for heart health, weight loss, immune function, sleep habits, digestive health, migraines, and depression. It may even help you manage chronic pain more effectively.
One of the simplest ways to get started with mindfulness is simply to focus on one task: for instance, brushing your teeth or sipping a cup of tea. Be aware of all the sensations you’re experiencing in that activity, and tune out external stimuli.
The goal is to become “hyper-focused” on the experience at hand, without multitasking or using the time to plan future goals. Being in the moment is the overarching goal, along with tuning out any negative or intrusive thoughts.
You can find tons of online resources for getting started with a mindfulness routine, but Dr. Griner can help you implement the simplest, most effective techniques for your lifestyle.
Like any new habit, mindfulness takes some practice. Starting slowly with daily mindfulness activities can help you let go of troublesome thoughts that fuel your stress and anxiety. At the same time, you’ll learn important ways to live each moment with greater joy and happiness.
To learn more about mindfulness exercises and other self-care options that can help minimize stress and improve your health, call our office at 615-903-2401 or use our online form to request an appointment today.