When people discover that I’m a mindfulness coach, they tell me stuff.
Friends, family, clients, and the barista at my favorite coffee shop have mentioned how overwhelmed they are feeling right now. After a year and a half of pandemic, fear, isolation, and disruption, who wouldn’t be burned out and seeking release?
The fact is that many of us are in a state of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and have been for quite some time. Many people don’t recognize this because they think PTS is only for severe trauma, but it is much more common than we think.
Everyone responds to PTS differently. We may get depressed, lonely, frustrated, and angry. The Journal of American Medicine reports a dramatic increase in alcohol use associated with the pandemic, which can lead to worsened mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Some of us adopt avoidance behaviors like watching endless reruns on streaming services, getting lost in books, or physical exercise. Some dive into creation, taking up baking sourdough, remodeling, knitting, crafting, or writing. We all have our own way of trying to cope.
The thing is, many of the ways we try to cope avoid looking directly at the problem and so it does not get resolved. We live soaking in the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol can affect our memory significantly, even after minimal exposure to stress. Long-term it can lead to heart disease and a number of other issues.
We need to face our stress and manage it so we can move out of PTS and get on with living our lives with joy and fulfillment!
My answer to reducing the effects of all that stress? Mindfulness is an excellent form of self-care. When we are mindful, and living in the present moment, we have an opportunity to step away from the stress and change perspective. To see with fresh eyes.
Being here, now.
Being in the present moment has been demonstrated to help reduce stress in general by helping to mitigate our relationship with avoidance and negative thinking to traumatic stress.
When we are in the present moment, we are not reliving the past or worrying about the future. When are caught up thinking about the past, we can have a set idea on what is going to happen. This stops us from having the actual experience of that moment. We get stuck on autopilot, and we miss out on what is likely to be the unique experience of this particular moment.
Take a breath
When anxiety hits we tighten up. Our body becomes stiffer, our hands may clench, our mind too becomes less flexible, and our breathing can be short and not fully filling our lungs. We need that oxygen!
Take a moment to notice the tension in your body. Be aware of how you are experiencing this anxiety. Are you restricting or holding your breath? Are there areas of tightness or restriction? Are you clenching your jaw or your hands?
With your attention on your breath, breathe in fully. Feel how you experience this breath. Your chest rising, your belly expanding and contracting. Where do you feel it the most? How does it feel to fill your lungs with air?
Now exhale with a long slow breath. Feel your body relaxing as you exhale and visualize the stress leaving with the air.
Often one or two breaths like this will calm your nerves and activate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping to calm and relax your body and mind.
When we are proactive about our self-care it instills a sense of agency. We are not without the ability to control our mindset and emotions. And that, my friend, is amazingly powerful!
These small actions are microdoses of mindfulness. Drop by drop they add up to help you be more present, mindful, and happier in your life. The more microdoses you enjoy, the more you will begin to be mindful throughout your day, and better able to handle the stressors in life.
Give these small but mighty mindfulness practices a try and let me know how it went for you!