By Chloe Millard
During stressful times in our lives, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle our stress. Stress and anxiety can make us irritable, lethargic, depressed, and even decrease productivity. It’s important to have ways to cope with your stress, especially right now, during a holiday season in a global pandemic with finals on our heels. Most often, we hear that self-care is the best way to combat stress, and while I absolutely agree with that, I recognize that just saying “self-care” is an incredibly vague statement.
So, what should you do if you’re overwhelmed with stress, but you don’t have easy access to some common self-care methods like face masks or coloring? That’s where mindfulness comes into play. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your current state of being and the things that surround you. It is commonly known as a grounding technique, designed to bring you back into the here and now. Practicing mindfulness daily, even without high stress levels, is found to be incredibly beneficial, and is frequently recommended by therapists and doctors.
“Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your current state of being and the things that surround you.”
One of the biggest benefits to mindfulness is the lack of additional supplies required to practice mindfulness. For example, one of the most useful mindfulness activities that I know about and practice daily doesn’t require anything besides a space for you to sit down on. Try it right now, as you read this.
Sit down in a safe spot, the comfier the better, and close your eyes. Take three deep breaths, breathing in for five counts, holding for six, and out for five. After your deep breaths, open your eyes, and look around you. Can you find five different colored objects? Can you hear four different sounds? How about smelling three new scents around you? Do you feel two new textures if you reach around you? And finally, do you taste anything? Repeat the three deep breaths, and you’re all done.
That mindfulness technique, the 54321 method, is as easy as they get. Regulating your breathing before and after the activity will help relax your body and mind. Another mindfulness technique is to look at an object near you, any object at all, and study it for at least three minutes. Clear your mind of all other thoughts, and just focus all your attention on the color, the texture, the shape and size of the object you picked. Focusing on a tangible object near you like this brings your mind back to reality and can be incredibly useful during panic episodes.
Mindfulness is an easy way to practice daily self-care for your brain regardless of the things happening in the world around you. There is an enormous amount of mindfulness activities you can find online or in books, and you can even make up your own. Practicing mindfulness and the accompanying deep breathing techniques is a great way to take care of yourself, especially during times of immense stress.