Stress is something everyone encounters in daily life and the good news is you can learn and use practical practices of mindfulness for stress. I was recently interviewed for a podcast if I had a billboard with a message what would my message be for people and I said, “One word. BREATHE.” Remembering to pause and breathe consciously is the perfect way to hit the pause button when stressed.

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day

is the rest we take between two deep breaths. ~Etty Hillesum

According to the American Psychological Association, “Stress is to the human condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull and raspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps. Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life. The issue, really, is how to manage it. Managed stress makes us productive and happy; mismanaged stress hurts and even kills us.”

When stress begins to interfere with healthy functioning in every day life, it’s time to unplug using the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness for stress is a natural and no-cost antidote.

Here are some practical ways to use mindfulness for stress:

1. Notice sensations in your body.

Develop a habit of scanning your body for places that are holding tension. Notice how your shoulders may creep up toward your ears or you clench your fists. Notice how your palms may become sweaty or your throat dry.  Notice your eye may twitch or your stomach may hurt with no other cause.  Maybe you feel extra irritable or your temper flares more quickly than normal. Maybe you cry more easily. Just notice what your body’s cues are that you are feeling stress. Don’t judge, just notice.

2. Identify what is t triggering your stress response.

Expand your scope of observation. When you begin to notice what is triggering you, you may be able to talk with a counselor or a friend about what you are noticing. Be careful not to blame the triggering stressor; rather use this as information to help you take action. The practice of mindfulness is about purposefully taking note without judgment.

3. Develop some relaxation response exercises

Train your mind and your body to work together to alleviate the stress response and prepare to be more relaxed before facing those situations you know may trigger a stress response for you.  Try progressive muscle relaxation where you intentionally tighten each limb one at a time followed by completely relaxing the limb and then do the same with your hands and your back and your face.

You might learn how to relax the belly and take full, long deep breaths in and slow, long breaths out. Look for a gentle or restorative yoga class geared toward relaxation. Remember, it’s important to practice these exercises regularly rather than waiting until your body is flooded with a stress response.

4.  Cultivate a daily meditation practice.

Research shows regular meditation has powerful effect on stress reduction. Mindfulness meditation has been proven by science to change your brain for the better. 

5. Retreat.  

It is really good to take a little time and remove yourself from the busy-ness of life and all the stressful pulls and go somewhere away from technology where all the senses can be soothed. Perhaps a place of beauty in nature where there are few people and lost of clean, fresh air away from the noise of city or suburban life.

6. Establish a self care plan.  

Whether it’s a ritual of a nightly soaking bath with candles, a relaxing walk with the dog in the evening, nourishing massage or just being sure to get enough deep rest at night, your regular care of self is key to being better equipped to face the inevitable stressors of life.