Mindfulness Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Working and living in the fast pace of Silicon Valley can be stressful and anxiety-producing. Mindfulness skills can help people lower anxiety and cope better with stress. Even spending a few minutes a day practicing mindfulness skills can make a difference. Keep in mind that mindfulness skills become more effective as you practice them more often (just like learning any other skill).
Mindfulness exercises often direct your attention to your breath, body, or imagination. Focusing your attention on your body and breath activates a part of the brain that helps you feel more present in the moment and therefore less stressed and anxious.
In therapy, you can get more personalized tools. The following mindfulness exercises will work for some people but not for everyone. Please don't feel discouraged if an exercise does not work well for you.
Deep breathing- Notice your breath. Gently allow yourself to begin to breathe deeper. Breathe deeply so that your abdomen expands when you inhale and contracts when you exhale. This breathing pattern allows your lungs to expand more fully with each inhale. Breathe deeply for several breaths. Breathe gently and comfortably, not forcing your breath. Notice any changes in your body and mind. Let your attention go to where you feel the most comfortable or peaceful. You can continue to feel relaxed, comfortable, and peaceful as you go about your daily life. Deep breathing gets easier with practice. (Deep breathing is a common therapy technique to reduce stress and anxiety.)
Grounding- Feel your feet on the floor (or feel your feet in your shoes). Notice how the bottoms of your feet feel. Notice the contact between your feet and the floor (or your shoes). Let your attention drop down to your feet. Knowing that you are part of the universe, imagine your feet connecting to the earth. Sometimes people do this by remembering a time when they were hiking or walking outside. Sometimes people imagine roots growing from their feet into the earth (much like tree roots). Sometimes people simply feel the floor or ground supporting their feet. Notice how you feel. You can practice this grounding tool as often as you wish.
Centering- (Centering is an important concept in martial arts and can help people feel calmer and stronger.) Focus your attention on your lower abdomen, about an inch or two below your navel. Notice how your abdomen feels and how it moves with your breath. Sometimes people simply continue to notice how their abdomen feels, allowing any comfort and peace to deepen. Sometimes people imagine a light beginning to glow in their abdomen, slowly spreading throughout their entire body. Notice how your body feels. Notice how your center (abdomen) feels. (With centering, sometimes people feel nothing at all; other times they feel a sense of peace, a calm strength, more in their body, or more in touch with their gut decisions.) The more you practice the easier this tool is to use.
Healing light- Healing light can be used in a variety of mindfulness skills. One possibility is to imagine a healing color of light flowing into the top of your head and slowly flowing down through your body, washing away any tension and tightness as it flows, flowing down through your whole body, out through your feet into the earth. Do this as long as you need to. (This exercise might be easier with someone guiding you through it.)
Guided meditations- I plan to record several free guided meditations. Check back for a link to them.
There are many other mindfulness exercises, as well as many variations of the ones that I have described. Use what works for you.
If any of these exercises make you feel anxious or distressed in any way, please stop doing them and find something else that works for you. This blog is not intended as therapy or advice. Sometimes, reading about and practicing mindfulness skills on your own is all that is needed. Other times, therapy is more effective. I encourage you to get all the support that you need and find what works best for you. Life is so much more enjoyable without constant anxiety and stress.
(My writings should not be taken as advice. This blog does not create a therapist-client relationship. If you are interested in therapy, I encourage you to call me or find another licensed therapist to talk with.) LMFT Lic # LMFT40414