Stress Management and Mindful Breathing
By: 2SC Staff
Stress is part of daily life for many people in Chicago. If you are like most folks who juggle multiple responsibilities; like work, family and relationships, your level of stress can become compounded. Throw in a dose of difficult Chicago weather and snarling traffic and it’s enough to make anyone feel stressed out.
So what can you do to help reduce your level of stress so that it does not build up to toxic levels? Is there anything you can do naturally to promote calmness? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes with the answer being found through the act of mindful breathing.
Mindfulness is a term used to describe a form of external awareness. Much of the writing about mindfulness is associated with Zen Buddhism and is particularly linked to various forms of meditation. While some people use mindfulness as part of a wider approach to spiritualism, the therapeutic benefits can be found in the physical effects of relaxing the body, reducing anxiety, learning self-acceptance and reducing stress. There is even some evidence to suggest mindfulness helps to treat the emotional and physical signs of depression.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool that you can use in your personal journey of change. One of the best ways you can become familiar with concepts of mindfulness is through simple breathing exercises. If you are currently feeling stressed, this might be just what you need to promote calmness. Highly successful people use mindfulness as a tool to remain calm during times of crisis. What’s more, many celebrities use mindfulness to help ameliorate stress and anxiety, including Chris Evans and Cameron Diaz.
Where to do mindful breathing
What follows is a quick walk-through of how to engage in mindful breathing. All you will need is a quiet place that is free of as many distractions as possible. An empty office while you are at work might do in a pinch or if you work remote, a noise-free living room. If you decide to do this from home, it is OK to have pets around but make sure they do not paw at you for attention.
We encourage you to turn off your smart-phone and other electronic devices during this exercise. Some people find that opening up a window to let in fresh air helps to clear negative energy while promoting harmony. Others find it is best to do breathing exercises early in the morning to help create the foundation for a positive day.
Once you have identified the ideal place for this activity, it’s time give it a try. We encourage you to set aside five minutes a day for a week to see how you feel. If you want to go longer, that is fine but most people find starting slow and gradually building momentum to be most effective.
How to do mindful breathing
1. Sit in a comfortable position for a few minutes with your mind focused on your breathing.
2. Focus your awareness on how you breathe. Are you breathing through your mouth or nose or both? Does it seem like you are breathing through one nostril more than another? Can you adjust anything to make the breathing process more even?
3. What are you aware of as you take in each breath? What does it feel like when you let air out?
4. Are you able to inhale and exhale without judging how you are breathing?
5. What images or thoughts come into your awareness as you breathe? Are the images pleasant? Are they troublesome?
Mindful breathing tips
One of the most difficult things to do when you first start mindful breathing is to not get caught up in the various thoughts that pass through your mind. These thoughts can vary in nature and include things like self-judgment, worries, problems and so forth.
Here are a few tips to consider when these thoughts occur:
– Thank your mind for sharing in a non-judgmental way
– Let thoughts pass through organically
– Use the sound of the breathing process to help center yourself
– Suspend judgment. Don’t evaluate or criticize your thoughts.
Mindfulness Breathing Video
Mindful breathing can also happen in the form of guided meditation. Many people find that by having a verbal guide walk them through calm producing imagery, it helps to promote greater inner peace and tranquility. This approach to mindfulness is also used by some people to help them get in touch with their animal spirit.
The great thing about guided meditation is that you can do it at your computer or really anywhere with a pair of headphones. We are including a 10 minute deep breathing guided meditation video from Eckhart Tolle TV. We encourage you to watch this at least once to see how guided meditation affects your stress levels.
Breathing mindfully carries many benefits. We know from scientific research that awareness based breathing physiologically changes brain chemistry and that it helps to ameliorate other problems ranging from gastrointestinal problems to gender specific stress.
We are including a deep breathing worksheet that you can print out as a quick reference guide as part of your journey on the path to greater wellness. We are also recommending a book entitled, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Some people find that by working with a therapist, they are better able to incorporate mindfulness based tools as part of a comprehensive approach to stress management. The counselors at 2nd Story Counseling employ various forms of mindfulness based stress reduction therapy to assist clients’ live more harmonious lives with the goal of reducing stress at the forefront.
If you are interested in working with one of our helping professionals, give us a call at 773-528-1777 or send us a confidential note using our online contact form.