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  • Sara

The Calming Effects of Mindfulness

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

If you are anything like me, you have probably struggled with handling the complex emotions and overwhelming thoughts that everyday life throws at you. Perhaps you are running late for work, or you forgot to submit a paper that was due last night, or your dog is whining to go out for a walk, or you promised yourself you would do some yoga this morning but decided to sleep through your alarm for that extra 30 minutes of peace. All of us experience this and, trust me, most of us have a difficult time finding opportunities for balance. If you feel this way, you are not alone.

Our brains are incredibly powerful, but sometimes they can get so loud and cluttered with to-dos that we start to feel a sense of task paralysis. Essentially, we have so much on our plate that we don’t know how to begin tackling everything, so we shut down and maybe scroll on social media for a while, zone out to our favorite TV show, or take a nap. While taking breaks throughout the day when permitted is healthy and can help our minds to reset, this cycle can continue until we have built up such a long to-do list that we eventually snap and experience a flood of emotions. In other words, short breaks are great, but task paralysis only makes things more overwhelming.

So, what can we do about it? When we feel so stress out that we "snap," how can we regain balance? Perhaps we can suppress these emotions long enough that they won't matter anymore?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Ah, in a perfect world. However, in reality, that flood of emotions is going to happen. There's no way around it. Ever here the only why around is through? There's so much truth to this.

I wish I could say that there is a fool-proof way to avoid feeling overwhelmed altogether. It can be tricky to find that. However, fear not! There are a multitude of ways that we can help ourselves tackle life in bite-sized pieces so that we can avoid that feeling of task paralysis and perhaps alleviate some of life’s everyday anxieties.

One way in which we can be proactive with our coping mechanisms, and potentially subdue the effects of life’s stressors, is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about recognizing our surroundings and being fully present in the moment so that we can ground ourselves and feel calmer. When life throws curveballs, if actively practicing mindfulness, these routine-blasting events won't seem so difficult to overcome.

Mindfulness relies heavily on us tapping into each of our senses, such as what we hear and what we can feel in the present moment without worrying about the past or the future. It is counterintuitive, unfortunately, to everyday thinking. We tend to want to ruminate on the past and prepare for the future rather than appreciating the present. And just because I'm flooding this post with common sayings: The present is called the present for a reason. It's a gift that shouldn't be clouded by forward (or backward) thinking.

Mindfulness is often used for people that experience mental health challenges, such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression, and it has been been found to be incredibly helpful in alleviating some of the effects that come with these challenges. Penciling the practice into your day can help you manage the rest of the tasks on your calendar. Mindfulness is a great solitary activity or you can practice it alongside family or friends. If you’re not sure where to start, try one of these suggestions:

1. Practice mindfulness through yoga or meditation. Deep breathing is clinically proven to calm our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping us feel safe in high-stress or in dangerous situations. Being stuck in a heightened state of 'fight or flight' long after a perceived threat has passed is unhealthy. Mindful meditation can help the nervous system return to center after the threat has ceased.

2. Pick out 5 things you hear, 4 things you see, 3 things you smell, 2 things you feel, and 1 thing you taste. Walking yourself through all five senses will allow you to focus on your surroundings in a tangible way.

3. Experience nature. Nature can have incredibly calming effects and going for a walk could have the added benefit of body movement. When we move our bodies, we release endorphins which then help us feel lighter and happier. You can also simply remove your socks and shoes and venture outside barefoot, feeling the earth beneath your toes.

Mindfulness can be practiced in any amount of time, whether you have 5 minutes or an hour. There is always something that you can do to help yourself in a stressful situation. Try one of the suggestions above or see if there is another healthy activity that you find grounding!


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