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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Reduce Mental Stress Quickly (And Naturally)

How to Reduce Mental Stress Quickly (And Naturally)

Mental stress has become pandemic, and for many it is a default state in everyday life.[1] Learning how to reduce stress, then, is becoming more and more important.

Mental stress can be defined as:

An inward tension or pressure caused by the inability to manage the incoming information of outside stimuli.

In one of my recent (active) meditation sessions on how to reduce stress, a participant said they often got stressed quickly for no apparent reason and asked for a quick way to reduce stress. I said there is a way to learn how to reduce stress, but to be able to do it, you need to understand how and why stress builds up so quickly.

If we get stressed often and quickly, it means that we are harboring many internal conflicts and are not conscious of them. This makes it impossible to get rid of stress quickly. First, we must learn what causes mental stress.

What Causes Mental Stress?

Its origin is triggered by a signal from outside stimuli — a piece of information of an objective or subjective nature, or both at once. The mental stress develops very slowly at the beginning. We cannot observe its development because of our lack of understanding of mental energy.

The information we receive from the outside (which we dislike), creates a feeling that evolves into a negative emotion (negative mental energy). For example, the inability to understand or accept other people’s point of view can cause mental stress.

My Personal Experience with Mental Stress

In my late twenties, I struggled consistently with mental stress. I was happy to work in a global corporation and also excited to be responsible for many projects at once. Despite the work load I had, I was a victim of mobbing because of my keen engagement towards my tasks. I was physically and mentally exhausted because of the many complex purchase orders I had to place for the projects assigned to me. On top of that, there were certain people in the organization giving me hard time because of my desire to strive to improve.

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There was an immediate disharmony between me and these people that generated a feeling of intolerance and non-acceptance. This grew into feelings of disappointment and frustration, which ended up creating emotion of anger and anxiety over not performing well or losing my job.

Day in, and day out, I was stressed. I understood that the people and the circumstances causing my mental stress wouldn’t change, so I had to understand that, accept it, and find a way to approach my stress and conflicts efficiently. I saw it as a challenge and was grateful for it. I not only reduced my mental stress but found a way to never let it develop again.

How to Reduce Stress

There is many techniques you can use when learning how to reduce stress quickly and naturally. The sooner you can make it your own, the quicker you’ll be able to reduce your mental stress.

A technique is applied successfully when its essence is really understood and absorbed. If a technique is to be applied quickly, there must be extensive knowledge of the situation in which the technique is required.

In the context of mental stress, for example, we get scared and anxious in (sometimes normal) situations because we don’t know what is happening or what is going to happen. The uncertainty of the result causes tension and mental stress. The longer we move in that uncertainty, the greater and heavier our mental stress becomes.

The accomplishment of being able to deal with challenges and stressful life situations boosts our self-confidence and makes life meaningful and successful. However, this requires a certain expertise, and that expertise starts with self-inquiry and the development of a technique. To own a technique, we must develop activities into tools and apply them.

Activities + Tools + Practice = Technique.

Stress Relieving Activities

Starting with some stress relieving activities is a good way to get moving on your journey to learning how to reduce mental stress. Below are some examples of stress relieving activities:

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  1. Observing and enjoying nature
  2. Taking long walks in the park
  3. Talking with those we are close to
  4. Doing sports
  5. Listening to music
  6. Singing
  7. Dancing

All of the above are great stress relieving activities. However, they are not techniques that can teach you to understand the nature of mental stress, reduce it successfully, and even eliminate it entirely.

Being busy complying with daily duties, we have almost no time to devote to these stress relieving activities. We use them out of necessity as tools to reduce stress, and after the activity is finished, the mental stress crawls back and overtakes us again.

Then, most of us find simple activities like eating, entertaining, shopping, gambling, drugs, etc. as a shortcut to temporarily relieve stress. These generally end up creating negative long-term consequences like obesity, fatigue, boredom, depression, and so on.

As a result, mental stress clouds our mental clarity, withdrawing our creativity, not letting our intelligence to expand, and leaving us without motivation to deal with the root-cause of it all.

The technique I am about to describe here uses the activities mentioned above to create tools, the main elements of your own technique. As mentioned before:

Activity + Tools + Practice = Technique

Simple Tools for Creating a Technique to Reduce Mental Stress

Apply one of the greatest mental energies as tools to any of the above stress relieving activities to create your own individual technique:

Gratitude

When you evoke the emotion of gratitude to any of your activities, you switch your mental state from stressful to peaceful (grateful). When you consciously acknowledge gratitude toward the present, you send information to your brain that immediately soothes your central nervous system, producing positive hormones like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones reduce your mental stress and create a good feeling, a feeling of reward for having reached a goal.[2]

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Also, try to be grateful for the stressors that challenge your efficiency and signal an opportunity to improve.

Conscious Breathing

Support this activity though rhythmic, conscious breathing and intensify your gratefulness and the feeling of that reward. Use your conscious breathing to create a breathing pattern that will identify the moment as one in which you’ve created safety, peace, and self-respect within yourself.

Use these two tools to approach the seven activities listed above or any other activities you find as stress relieving, and practice integrating them in ways that work for you.

Once you merge the tools with the activities, you’ll be able to create your personal technique to reduce your mental stress quickly and naturally and apply it in literally any activity.

A Comprehensive Stress Management Technique

Apart from calming a busy mind, where you apply the techniques physiologically to reduce thoughts and calm the mind, here we need deeper expertise and the application of subtle energies to create specific thoughts to reduce and eliminate mental stress.

For fast results, one thing is to keep the mind calm and reduce stress, but more importantly you need to train the mind to stay busy and efficient. We will work with a two-in-one technique here.

Step 1

Identify the stressor (the root-cause of your stress). You can discover this by being aware of your surroundings and of your reactions to it; is it the person and her/his actions/behavior that are causing my stress? Is it the idea I have about how things are happening around me (at work or at home)?

Be realistic with yourself in identifying the root-cause of your stress. No one can do it more quickly.

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After you have identified the stressor, generate specific thoughts, such as, “I am grateful for this challenge, and I will find a way to accept it as is and work on changing my approach and reaction to it.” Once you achieve this, the stressor has no longer the same level of influence on you.

Step 2

Develop/apply the stress relieving activity together with the tool, and approach the stressor when you’re ready (don’t forget the specific thoughts from Step 1).

For example, your boss, your husband, your wife, or your teenage children are giving you a hard time. It takes only minutes to understand and accept that they can’t do better than that. Be grateful for this realization. They are a part of your life. You have paved your way, step by step, and you are partially responsible for being in this situation with them. If this situation is not life threatening, then it is nothing but a challenge, an opportunity for growth and development.

Apply gratitude and practice breathing exactly when the stressful situation is happening and not only when walking in the park or when you know that you are safe from the mental stress.

Step 3

Practice these tools and this approach consciously in stress reliving activities, but most importantly in stressful situations, and do it continuously. This way you will develop your own individual technique and become an expert in dealing with your personal stressors.

You will begin to notice a change, and you’ll see how your approach is characterized by gratitude, patience, and tolerance. Communicate these qualities to your challenger and let him/her see your approach and good intentions as they are the main elements of your technique.

Final Thoughts

In a matter of days, by simply applying your own technique, you can reduce mental stress quickly and naturally. The technique that you create will make you the expert of your own actions and eventually of your own life.

The technician always owns the technique that is to be performed. Be the technician of your stress and of your life. I salute the spirit in you!

More Tips on Reducing Stress

Featured photo credit: Haley Phelps via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science Direct: Mental Stress
[2] Healthline: Serotonin

More by this author

Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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