Stress and anxiety have become a part of life in modern living. Whether you are a college student, working professional, entrepreneur, or homemaker. Stress is a common factor.
We live life in a fast-paced world, and we want to have it all – success, fame, good health, wealth, appreciation, and more.
We want to be successful in our careers, relationships and have bodies like supermodels. But keeping such high expectations in times where the economy is so volatile is bound to create stress and anxiety.
The worst part is that we have normalized and accepted ailments like stress and anxiety. I have a history of terrible anxiety, and it did not serve me in any way. It did not make me productive. It did not empower me in any way.
All it did was debilitate me to the extent that I withdrew myself socially for a long time. Even today, I’m at my creative best when I’m calm and relaxed. Many people like me don’t require stress to be productive. All they need is a little love and compassion.
Talking meds was not an option for me (I’ll explain that later). So I explored natural ways to deal with stress and anxiety. And that’s where mindfulness came into life.
It took some time to build healthy habits, but the results were astonishing. These are straightforward things that don’t take much time of day. If I can do it – so can you.
So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a practice that teaches us to be aware of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions and allows an easy and effective way to manage them.
It helps us to keep an open and compassionate attitude towards our afflicting thoughts and emotions.
Whenever we encounter a tense situation, we tend to get carried away by emotions and react unreasonably instead of assessing the situation calmly. Such behavior generally results in us behaving rudely with other people.
Mindfulness gives us the space required to assimilate our thoughts and formulate the most appropriate response.
Keeping the concept of mindfulness in mind, let’s take a look at eight easy tips that help us to reduce anxiety naturally and bring happiness to our lives.
Tip #1: Go For A Mindful Walk All By Yourself
Whenever I feel stressed, this is the first thing I do. It’s important to disconnect from your immediate environment and bring your awareness to this very moment.
For example, if you feel restless or irritated while working, acknowledge that feeling and go for a change of scene.
Go outside of your building or home to a nearby park, or someplace quiet, where you can take a walk alone for the next 10 to 20 minutes. When I say alone, I mean you should be alone, i.e., not carrying your smartphones. Also, don’t ask anyone to come along.
Walk slowly and take small steps. Take deep breathes while walking and keep your shoulders straight and aligned. Let all that nonsense chatter come up in mind; don’t try to block it, simply observe. Try to figure out the source of what is bothering you.
After a few minutes, you will notice a sense of calm prevailing over you. Once you identify the source of those afflicting thoughts, all of the anxiety goes away. Also, the change of environment generates more awareness.
For me, it usually takes 15 minutes of this exercise to calm down. You can do it for the amount of time you feel comfortable.
If you are highly stressed, you might want to spend a little more time walking. Mindful walking is a simple way of de-stressing yourself and can be practiced at any time of the day.
Tip #2: Focus on only One Thing at a Time
Multitasking is a myth. Consider the fact that even computers cannot multitask. They give the illusion of multitasking by switching between multiple processes very rapidly.
Computers can do this rapid switching very well, but our brains are not designed in this way.
When we say that we are multitasking we are generally switching between different tasks rapidly and as a result, it gets difficult for us to properly prioritize our work.
We tend to focus more on things that are not as productive because our brain is burning out constantly by multitasking.
In such a scenario, it is evident that we will not be as productive and creative while multitasking as we hope to be.
The next thing you realize is that you are stressed about the fact that not much has gotten done by your constantly doing multiple things at one time. And this results in stress and anxiety.
Human beings are not machines and they get true satisfaction by being creative and doing things that really matter to them. Therefore, it’s important to be more mindful and focus on only one thing at a time.
Most of us tend to think of ourselves as superman or superwoman, and we believe we can do everything simultaneously, but that my friend is an illusion.
Tip #3: Slow Down the Pace of Your Work
Have you ever noticed yourself feeling stressed out while doing routine work such as cleaning the dishes, organizing things in your closet, mowing the lawn, changing bedcovers, and many more?
It happens to all of us, but these are crucial things and need to be done. So what can we do about it, so that these jobs don’t seem like a chore?
The way I practice mindfulness while doing such activities is that I slow down the pace of my work. I plan these activities when I have abundant time (mostly weekends).
When you slow down, you put full focus on the work you are doing, and as a result, it doesn’t feel like a chore anymore.
In fact, with regular practice, you will eventually start enjoying these jobs. It’s not the job that is bothering you, but the thoughts and feelings that arise inside you whenever you do them, and also the fact that you do these jobs unconsciously.
When you are conscious and fully immersed in the work you are doing, there is a higher chance that you will enjoy each and every part of it.
Tip #4: Reduce Your Screen Time
The other day I was reading an article in Psychology Today, which said that neuroimaging research shows that excessive screen time damages the brain. Let’s understand what is the problem here.
Most of us work in our desk jobs, where we continuously work for hours on our laptops. Since this is a part of our job, we can’t do anything about it. But take a look at what happens at the end of the day when we reach home?
We either start watching television or start engaging with our phones. We consume mind-numbing content in the name of entertainment and later on wonder why we don’t feel good.
Some of us even bring work home. I don’t blame you because I’ve been there myself. In this fast-paced life, we want to excel in everything we do, and therefore, stress is a natural consequence.
You must understand that it’s essential to reduce your screen time. Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of your actions. We get to know how much of our screen time is productive.
Nowadays, we have phones which report the amount of time you are spending on them. But what about you spending time on laptops and television? That’s where you need to be careful.
Screen addictions physically change our brain and result in gray matter atrophy (shrinkages in tissue volume of gray matter in the brain).
There’s also a loss of integrity of the brain’s white matter (tissue in the brain composed of nerve fibers), impaired cognitive functions (all cerebral activities that lead to acquiring knowledge), and much more.
Tip #5: Eliminate Distractions and Disturbances
This is something I struggled with for an extended period. For years together, my productivity was low, and I couldn’t figure out why I could not complete my tasks on time.
I used to take up new entrepreneurial projects to gain financial independence and quit my horrible 9 to 5 job. But guess what?
I could never finish those projects on time, or I used to give up on them whenever I was nearing completion.
Every time I checked my social media feed and heard about a new thing that was out there and was said to be the next big thing, I immediately changed my direction.
I was suffering from the shiny object syndrome, where you get distracted by new shiny things that you feel would be more promising as compared to what you are doing today.
Most of us don’t even realize the amount of information that floats around, and the kind of impact it has on our minds. That’s why it is crucial to shut down all sources of distraction for a few hours every day.
I keep my smartphones and tablets away from myself whenever I’m working. I log out from all social media sites so that I’m not tempted to check my timeline every few minutes.
Also, I keep my phone on Do Not Disturb mode while I’m sleeping.
Apart from all this, I have cut my cable subscription because I don’t want to be bombarded with content. However, I do keep Netflix and Amazon subscriptions so that I can choose to see what I want.
Some of you may find this very hard to do, and I understand because I’ve been struggling with these distractions for many years.
But once I learned to stay away from distractions, life was in top gear, and a lot of things started getting done.
My focus levels improved significantly, my mind is more active, and I can work for extended periods without getting tired.
Tip #6: Be Mindful of What You Eat
Diet plays a significant role in how you feel throughout the day. If your diet is poor, your brain will be foggy, and your productivity will be low.
It took me a long time to understand the link between our mood and the diet we consume. Whenever I was stressed, I used to crave junk food, and that food had two main ingredients; white flour and sugar.
It was never enough. At times, I was eating two meals within one hour. I was getting severely overweight and depressed.
Practicing mindfulness, I understood the reason why I was craving this type of food. I learned what was right for me and what was not.
I was more mindful of which food items to consume, and slowly I started losing weight (lost 50 pounds), felt more vibrant and energetic. In case you want more information on mindful eating, check out this post.
Emotional distress causes us to overeat foods high in fat and sugar content. Once we ingest this type of food, we feel comfortable for a short time. This way, we get hooked on stress-inducing foods.
By reinforcing this pattern of stressful eating, we get addicted to such foods and lose our ability to focus and concentrate properly.
Therefore, one aspect of mindfulness is to learn to eat your food mindfully. We should know what to eat and how much to eat.
Food is essential for us and provides nourishment for our bodies. But if we consume the wrong items or eat them the wrong way, it harms the body and makes the mind dull.
Tip #7: Practicing Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to help manage feelings of stress and anxiety. It helps by slowing down the overactive mind, generating relaxation and calming sensations, and relieving our worries.
Meditation can be practiced anytime and anyplace, but I prefer doing it once both in the morning and evening.
Early morning time is best for meditation because the world is fast asleep, and there are practically no sources of disturbance like phone calls, text messages, etc.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to achieve a state of stillness in the mind such that you become a mere observer of your troubling thoughts and emotions. You observe these thoughts without passing any judgment or reaction to them.
Some of these thoughts will be troubling, initially, but with time, we start acknowledging them and remain unaffected.
Your thoughts will not stop because our brain is designed to produce them, but they will not affect you in any way. And that my friend is a superpower.
Here are a few steps to getting started with your meditation practice:
- Pick a comfortable and quiet spot in your house where no one will disturb you for the next 5 to 10 minutes.
- You can either sit on the ground in a cross-legged posture. If you are not that flexible, feel free to sit on a chair. The most important thing is to keep your spine straight while meditating.
- Now slowly and gently bring your awareness to your breath. Don’t try to force your breathing, but maintain your natural rhythm. Observe the flow of air in and out of your nostrils.
- If your mind starts wandering, just bring it back gently to your sensations of the breath.
- Notice all the bodily sensations.
- After about 10 minutes, open your eyes, gently get up and get on with other activities.
Tip #8: Take Help of Some Herbs Found in Nature
There are some amazing herbs that can help you in your mindfulness and meditation practice. I have been personally consuming these herbs for quite some time now and have greatly benefited from them.
I don’t use or recommend supplements as most of them are not approved by the FDA.
But if you live in regions where these herbs are not easily accessible, you may try a few supplements. Be cautious and read the labels, and if possible only buy supplements that are FDA approved. Never overdose with supplements.
Also if you have any type of medical condition, or are pregnant, you must consult your physician before consuming any of the herbs mentioned below.
Some of the most amazing herbs which help with stress and anxiety are as follows:
- Tulsi (holi basil) – is one of the most powerful herbs out there. I have a Tulsi plant in my backyard at home, so I pluck a couple of leafs and put them in my tea during morning time. Tulsi has a host of benefits and fights against diabetes, acne, hormone imbalances, respiratory disorders, and many more.
- Ashwagandha – is considered to be an adaptogen and helps in reducing physiological and psychological stress, and promotes relaxation and peace. It’s antioxidant properties protect the brain cells from decay associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, and fosters longevity.
- Brahmi – is a unique herb, which often known for its brain boosting properties, and is said to promote subtle awareness.
What Does Science Say About Using Mindfulness to Relieve Anxiety?
Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, created a program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (also known as MBSR). It is a stress reduction program that utilizes mindfulness exercises to combat stress and anxiety.
The program has gained widespread popularity with thousands of practitioners successfully implementing MBSR techniques on their clients.
Stress is the typical response of the body when it thinks it’s under attack. It is associated with a decrease in the activity of a region in the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This is generally a cause of concern in the medical science community.
Studies have also shown that focusing on the present moment through the regular practice of mindfulness can also reduce the production of cortisol (the stress hormone).
Here’s a 5 minute guided meditation for anxiety relief.
In this article, we learned about a few mindfulness tips that can help us to reduce anxiety naturally.
A little disclaimer here. I’m not against taking medicine. If your condition is bad, please consult a medical professional.
Adopting a mindfulness-based lifestyle and combining it with a daily meditation practice can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It’s not necessary that you start practicing all of these exercises together.
The best approach would be to start with one – say going for a walk. Once you get used to it and form a daily routine, move on to the next one.