Original source: http://cdn.coverstand.com/40958/407393/93391fbcddb5269124dce5845bdc6769187b5270.pdf
By Elizabeth Hivner, BS, CHES, Penn State PRO Wellness project coordinator
We all experience stress. Stress can be helpful in situations like recitals or job interviews by helping us perform better and stay focused. But, too often we are stressed in ways that hurt our overall well-being.
In ancient times, people needed to respond to animal predators and other stressful physical situations. Sensing danger, their bodies would go into fight-or-flight mode. Their heart rate and blood flow would increase. Their pupils would dilate. Their response time would get faster, so they could escape from the danger.
The fight-or-flight response is still with us. It triggers the body to respond physically to stressful situations. You may feel it when your palms get sweaty or your heart races. Persistent stress can make health problems worse and contribute to disease, smoking and overeating.
One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is mindfulness. Mindfulness—a mental state in which you become aware of the present moment—not only helps you cope with stress, but also can help you avoid it.
What Is Mindfulness?
It is as simple as noticing how you feel, without judgment. Mindfulness allows you to observe a problem, approach it with curiosity and choose how to respond. This practice is simple, but consider how often in the day stressful thoughts distract you from being aware in the present moment.
Recent studies show that mindfulness and meditation can help treat and prevent chronic pain, stress, depression and high blood pressure. They could help improve sleep, boost immunity and improve your outlook. Mindfulness is powerful enough to change the parts of your brain that help with pain tolerance, memory, attention and happiness!
Take a minute to pause and consider where you are. Notice your breath. What is around you? How do you feel? There is no need to decide if these things are good or bad. Just practice this awareness. Consistency is key. Consider making mindfulness part of your daily routine.
Here are some ways to be more mindful:
- Spend 10 to 15 minutes at the end of your day meditating. You may consider watching a YouTube video or using an app, such as Headspace, to guide you.
- Take a minute in the middle of your day to breathe and notice how your body feels.
- Do a body scan starting with your feet. Notice any tension starting from your feet up to your head. Allow yourself to breathe and relax each of those parts of your body.
- Simply sit and notice your emotions. Practice identifying them without judgment. Are you feeling happy, frustrated or content?