Stress is inevitable, it is everywhere, and it is completely normal. A little bit of stress is even positive because it helps you learn to manage and cope with it.
In small amounts, stress can help you sharpen your senses and strengthen your coping skills so that you respond better the next time you’re in a stressful situation. For example, let’s say you experienced academic stress in the past, and you coped with it via self-care activities such as yoga and meditation. Then, the next time you faced a stressful situation, you were better able to handle and tolerate it because you already had a coping skill in your back pocket.
This is how small doses of stress can help you build resilience; however, too much stress can be overwhelming and even debilitating. When not managed well, stress can interfere with your day-to-day functioning and mood, and may contribute to mental health challenges like anxiety and depression.
Managing work, parenting and all of life’s many responsibilities is very challenging for me. Like most of you, I am required to wear many hats. Potty training my toddler, and juggling all the responsibilities from all the different areas of my life can feel overwhelming. To cope with the various stressors in my life, I practice a variety of mindfulness activities.
Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment and to be fully aware of what we are doing without judgment. Some advice for beginners to mindfulness practice is to believe that it will work. The brain is a powerful machine, so if you believe that mindfulness can help you to calm your nerves and get a good night's sleep, then it is more likely to help you do so. If you approach mindfulness with skepticism, you’re essentially closing yourself off to its potential healing ability.
If you’ve already tried mindfulness but it didn’t work the first time, just try again. For most of us, it takes several practices to get the hang of it. One of my go-to mindfulness exercises is box breathing, which I usually practice before bedtime.
Box breathing, sometimes called square breathing, is a deep breathing technique that can help calm your body and eventually decrease stress in your body.
To try box breathing for yourself, first find a comfortable and quiet place, then follow these 4 steps:
Box breathing works for me for two reasons:
Box breathing, as with any mindfulness technique, takes practice. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t notice a big difference right away! With practice, and as part of a broader mental wellness plan, you can add box breathing to your arsenal of coping skills.
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