When you’re stressed, your mind has a tendency to generate fearful thoughts – worries about things that probably won’t happen and worries that magnify what things are liable to do. So, a very common sense thing is stress management.
There’s a variety of things you can do for stress. I’ll give you some details about one in particular that’s effective in dealing with ideas that bother you, mindfulness, but first I’ll tell you about what’s easiest of all, controlled breathing.
When you feel you stress go up or get upset, just breathe slowly till you feel OK.
Psychiatrists Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg recommend this simple exercise – 20 min. of this twice a day for stress, anxiety and depression. Lie or sit comfortably so you can breathe freely, with a hand on your abdomen to feel it go in and out. Breathe slowly through your nose, 5 breaths a minute, inhale about 4 sec., exhale about 4 sec. The authors have published 6 papers on breathing exercises and use them in their work.
That breathing exercise can serve as Pre Mindfulness or Intro to Mindfulness. Other things to get started include just washing and drying the dishes carefully, focusing on what you’re doing, what your hands feel and the sound of the water. Or make a cup of tea and drink it very slowly with small sips, focusing on the aftertaste. Tip – brew it strong with tea leaves, and use a mug that holds the heat.
Brown and Gerbard have a book – The Healing Power of the Breath that recommends a 3-way approach – breathing, slow body movement and mindfulness.
You can learn Tai Chi exercise with one or two beginners’ videos on YouTube. Rushing around when you don’t have to and doing things hastily is bad for your nerves. Doing things carefully makes you feel more secure and prevents mistakes and accidents.
This is a habit you should have no difficulty forming, because it’s like medicine – it makes you feel better. Whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation, return to the breath. That means be aware of your breathing, and take at least two slow,deep breaths. Whenever you get agitated, you can just breathe slowly until you feel good. Awareness of your breath makes you aware of the here and now. It puts the past and the future away from you. Look around at the sights, and feel your clothes on your skin, the pressure of the floor on your feet and all that.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, the original mindfulness-based therapy program, teaches meditation so that people can learn to use mindfulness in daily life, which is very good for stress. Palouse Mindfulness is a free online version of that program, taught by a certified MBSR instructor. There’s also a popular app, Headspace.
The first MBSR exercise – Body Scan (below), is very relaxing.
One of the top experts on how lifestyle affects mood, Univ of Kansas psychologist Steve Ilardi, who headed the U of K lifestyle-depression project, has a very good self-help book. it’s all easy if not downright fun. If you go to Metapsychology, you can read a psychologist’s review.
Meditation just made things worse for me. Find a routine and follow it. Think only about the routine and nothing else. When your mind is occupied then your heart will be calm and steady.
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