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Mindfulness and Stress Management

Mindfulness-based stress management techniques have been proven effective in the treatment of stress- and anxiety-based disorders, according to studies published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and the American Journal of Health Promotion, among others. When incorporated into a well-rounded mental health or addiction treatment program, the practice of mindfulness through mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) can provide patients with a useful tool to control the effects of anxiety, fear, agitation, phobias, panic and other stress-related mental health issues.

How Do I Practice Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness” is another way of saying “noticing the small things in the moment.” Actively being in your present moment can help you to avoid obsessing over the past, worrying about the future, or otherwise drowning in emotional responses to stressful issues. To some, it may be easier said than done. Shutting off the mind can be difficult. So how do you do it? There are a number of different techniques. According to Duke Medicine, paying attention to your breath and breathing is a great place to start. Focusing on nothing but the breath coming and going from the body, feeling it enter the nose, fill the lungs, and leave the body can be a positive initial practice in mindfulness. During this period, there should be no active thoughts in your head. You are to do nothing but notice your breath. Another way to describe the practice is to define it as a form of meditation in which you quiet your inner dialogue and focus solely on the sensations of the body.

What Disorders Benefit From the Use of Mindfulness?

Any mental health disorder that is characterized by insomnia, a decreased ability to manage stress, increased anxiety or depression would benefit from a treatment plan that includes the practice of mindfulness for stress management. This includes:

  • Eating disorders. Self-awareness, acceptance and self-criticism all decrease for women struggling with bulimia, anorexia or eating disorders after MSBR treatment.
  • Anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder has been shown to improve with mindfulness treatment.
  • Panic attacks. Panic attacks can be mitigated when MSBR techniques are used.
  • Phobias. The overwhelming nature of phobias can be reduced when mindfulness is practiced during the stress period.
  • Depression. Improved mood has been associated with MSBR techniques as well.
  • Substance abuse. A number of issues related to substance recovery – insomnia, emotional outbursts, depression, anxiety, etc. – can be improved by the practice of mindfulness.

How Quickly Does the Practice of Mindfulness Produce Results?

The peaceful and calming effects of mindfulness and meditation increase over time. The more you practice, the more lasting the positive effects in your life and the more quickly you will begin to see a lessening of the impact of stress.

Is Mindfulness About Sitting Still?

Though the goal is to still the mind, it is not necessary to still the body. Many people find that they best benefit from mindfulness techniques learned in stress management when they do something to occupy their hands. Focusing on the breath while practicing a passive activity can increase the calming effects and decrease the chances that your inner dialogue will drown out your peace. While practicing mindfulness, some people enjoy:

  • Gardening
  • Walking or jogging
  • Knitting
  • Cleaning the house
  • Listening to soft music (usually without lyrics) or playing music

Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Right for You?

Almost everyone can benefit from incorporating the techniques and philosophies of mindfulness into their lives, but most who are struggling with issues like an eating disorder or substance abuse will almost always find that their experience in treatment improves when they practice mindfulness. If you would like more information, contact us at Futures today.