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Five ways to use mindfulness to cope with a challenge

For many of us 2020 has been a year full of challenges and uncertainty, leading to prolonged periods of stress, anxiety, and unease.

Today we wanted to share with you some small, simple ways you can practice mindfulness throughout your day to help you keep an eye on your stress levels and look after your mind and body as you navigate this period of change.

Here are the five mindfulness exercises you can use to help you manage strong emotions and feel a little bit more at ease during a challenging time.

#1. Noticing the here-and-now

Part of the reason mindfulness practice has such powerful effects on our well-being is due to the fact that focusing on the here-and-now can help you disrupt the constant stream of thoughts, worries, and fears that we tend to experience when going through a difficult time.

A racing, constantly active mind can affect the way we feel, leading to poor concentration, fatigue, and difficulties with sleep.

Practising coming back to the here-and-now involves noticing when you are going about your day on auto pilot, not being present or focused on what you’re doing, and then gently bringing your attention back and participating fully in the task at hand.

See the next point to help you put this concept into practice.

#2. Tuning into your senses

Sometimes, when we are stressed, focusing on what’s happening right in front of us can be a challenge in and of itself. Our minds are drawn to thinking about the future and all the bad things that are or could happen.

Using your five senses – sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste – can help you bring your mind back and focus, so you can ease those worries.

For example, you could describe what you are seeing around you, tune into different sounds or smells, or savour your food as you’re eating it. You can use this strategy at any point throughout your day to help you feel a little bit more at ease.

The more you practice, the easier staying calm will get!

#3. Recognising the ebb-and-flow of emotions

Being “mindful’ is all about allowing yourself to feel whatever comes up without judging it as ‘bad’ or automatically trying to suppress, escape, or avoid it. Sometimes, the way we respond to our own emotions like sadness, fear, anger, or disappointment, can determine whether these emotions take over or whether they pass by on their own.

All emotions are normal for us to experience and all pass with time. Our behaviours and what we do when we are feeling a certain way is what determines whether our emotions get stronger or ease away.

See the next point for how you can practice mindfully ‘riding out’ strong emotions without getting stuck in them.

#4. Breathing through tension

Your breath is one of the most powerful tools you can use to manage how you feel.

Often, strong emotions bring up a lot of physical sensations, like tension, tingling, knots, or even pain. Learning how to notice when these sensations arise and using your breath to soothe and relax areas of tension can be a great way to ease how you feel.

When you’re feeling particularly under the pump, notice where you’re feeling tense – e.g., in your shoulders and neck – take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, focus your attention on this area and allow the muscles to relax.

You can pair this activity with movement or place your hands on this area and turn your attention to the sense of touch.

#5. Being OK with not being OK

Finally, being kind and gentle with yourself – not judging yourself for feeling a certain way, not trying to force yourself to feel better, and being OK with not being OK is all part of the mindfulness philosophy.

It is about allowing your experiences to unfold and doing your best to stay in the moment and take things one step at a time to get through a difficult spell in a healthy way.

This doesn’t mean being ‘inactive’ and avoiding dealing with the situation, it is all about looking after yourself and your mental health as you tackle and overcome the challenges you are facing.

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and how using simple daily strategies can help you maintain your well-being, check out our online mindfulness-based courses below.

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Online Mindfulness Courses for Your Mental Health

Learn mindfulness tools for managing stress, anxiety, or depression with our self-paced online courses. Click below to learn more!

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