Mindfulness an easy way to manage stress

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Fingers holding cell phones, constant updates via social media; 24/7 news alerts and demands from work and home help create a world full of noise, chaos and all kinds of stressors that bombard us each day.

As many of us know, stress is a form of mental and physical energy that allows the mind and body to perform everyday tasks.

Stress is not always bad. In fact, sometimes it is actually needed to help us function.

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However, when a person experiences too much stress all at once, or over a long period of time, it is called distress. Distress can be unhealthy and contributes to significant negative health effects over time.

April is National Stress Awareness Month.

When the brain is taxed by real or imaginary concerns (stress), it communicates to the body to “do something” or “get with it.”

More chemicals are produced in the body to keep the brain working at this level when in distress. When this happens, we can allow stress to take control of our behaviors and reduce our quality of life.

Each of us has different responses to stress. Some people experience headaches, stomach problems or loss of appetite. Others overeat or avoid interaction with people.

Stress also affects quality and quantity of sleep, resulting in excessive fatigue.

Stress can cause tempers to flare and relationships to suffer.

Becoming aware of your stress behaviors will help you know when you need to take time and relieve stress.

There are many things that may work to help you cope with excessive stress.

One accessible way to manage stress is to implement breathing and mindfulness techniques. This is something you can practice anytime or anywhere, and you don’t have to be good at it for it to work.

You can use this technique sitting in the middle of traffic or lying in your bed at midnight. You can do it in as little as one minute or take an hour-long class.

Mindfulness requires you to purposely pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. The most common method is to focus on breathing in and out, clearing your mind of thoughts.

You can also focus on your physical self, your surroundings or your movements as you do a normal daily activity such as walking.

Mindfulness helps you re-center, reduces external distractions and allows you to evaluate yourself and your reactions to the stressors around you.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been around since the 1970s, and numerous scientific studies have shown its effectiveness in stress reduction as well as other positive benefits including a decrease in anxiety and depression.

Some studies have shown mindful eating can be a tool for weight management.

Reducing stress is extremely important, as there are many negative effects to improper stress management.

Practicing stress management and self-care sometimes sounds simple, but it is often difficult to actually do when we really need it.

Feel free to contact the Clark County Extension office for more information on stress awareness and self-care tips. You can also check out UK Family and Consumer Sciences Cooperative Extension’s podcast “Talking FACS” at ukfcsext.podbean.com, where there is a great 15-minute chat about stress management as well as some other great resources.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at shonda.johnston@uky.edu.