Mindful Methods to Break the Cycle of Stress
Do you ever have moments when you feel like your thoughts have been hijacked by your emotions?
Living through a pandemic, along with the noise and negativity that now dominates our newsfeeds, it’s no surprise that we sometimes experience uncomfortable emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, and worry.
One reason we have survived on this planet for so long is that our brains have adapted to constantly consider “what if” scenarios. But in modern humans, “What if a lion is in this cave?” has been replaced with a never-ending playlist of fears, from worries about COVID-19 to apprehension over global warming and natural and political disasters.
Ages ago, checking to see if a man-eating feline was in the cave before we entered had real benefits for our survival. But today, constantly ruminating on things over which we have little control creates chronic stress that can harm our health and sap our joy in life.
Fortunately, there’s a wonderfully simple tool we can use to break the cycle of stress and refocus our attention on what’s most important to us. That tool is mindfulness.
Any time we pay attention to what we are thinking, feeling, and doing in the moment, we are practicing mindfulness. When we practice being present, observing and accepting our thoughts and feelings without judgment, we give our overworked nervous systems a break. This calms the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing fearful or threatening stimuli. By reducing the flow of stress hormones in our bodies, mindfulness also helps reduce inflammation and boosts the immune system.
For October, Emotional Wellness Month, here are some mindful methods you can practice throughout your day to help you stay calm in the chaos: