A woman sitting on a pier, practicing mindfulness in winter.

A simple way to reduce stress this holiday season

December 10, 2021 Written by Sarah Goldring, Extension Agent - Family and Consumer Sciences

Stress affects people in their daily lives and can reduce memory and emotion processing as well as mental connections. Persistent stress can increase incidence of depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular disease. Stress can be reduced by utilizing coping techniques such as taking care of emotional health, meditation, deep breathing, stretching, and more. These are all examples of mindfulness exercises, which are effective ways to manage stress and stress related symptoms. Setting aside time during your day to practice mindful skills or techniques can increase your productivity and decrease stress; overall, making your day more positive.

 

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mental state of full awareness and full acceptance of the present moment. Two key components of mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. When we are aware we recognize the thoughts, feelings, sensations and surroundings that one may experience in a specific moment. When we practice acceptance, we are not passing judgement on those thoughts, feelings, sensations and surroundings.
 

Mindfulness has shown to affect our body and mind by:

Decreasing

Increasing

Negative thinking

Positive thinking

Anxiety and depression

Self-regulation skills

Pain sensitivity

Brain activity, attention and focus

Blood pressure

Regulation of sleep patterns

 

These factors can help to improve a person’s overall wellbeing. They can create an enhanced sense of self-awareness and a better ability to cope with difficult situations, which helps to decrease stress.

 

Let’s Practice!

Take a moment to yourself and practice an activity that will decrease your stress. 

 

Breathe

Box Breathing: This breathing technique is called box breathing because the amount of time you will inhale, exhale, and hold your breath is all equal. You can picture a square box as you move through the breathwork. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and make sure that you back is straight. Roll your shoulders up, back, and then relax them down, away from your chin. Feel free to close your eyes as you practice your breathwork. Now, to begin the box breathing - inhale as you count for 4 seconds, hold your breath for a count of 4 seconds, control your exhale for 4 seconds, and hold your breath again for 4 seconds. This is one round of box breathing. Feel free to repeat this for as many rounds as you are comfortable. Once you are finished, return your breath to normal and notice how you are feeling.

 

Stretch

Arm Movement: For these stretches you can be sitting or standing. Start by doing 3 shoulder rolls moving in one direction (forward, up, back, down) and then reverse the direction and do 3 more shoulder rolls (up, forward, down, back). Lift your arms 90 degrees, creating a “T” position with your body. In this position, create shoulders with your arms moving forward 3 times, and then switch directions and move backward 3 times. Lastly, take a big inhale as you lift your arms above your head, stretching upward. Exhale slowly as you bring your arms back down by your side. Continue to do 3 more arm movements, stretching up on the inhale and bringing your arms back down on the exhale.

 

Focus

5 Senses Experience: For this activity, you will be prompted to recognize and become more aware of your senses. You can do this activity anywhere, but it is always nice to get some fresh air if that is available to you. It is suggested that you complete this activity outside if possible. Sit in a comfortable position take a few deep breaths before moving through each prompt. Try to mindfully experience each sense. Notice the following in the present moment:

  • 5 things that you can see (try to find new things that you may have never noticed before)
  • 4 things that you can feel
  • 3 things that you can hear
  • 2 things that you can smell
  • 1 thing that you can taste

 

Want to practice mindfulness with your family?

Kids love mindfulness, too! Try any of these activities with your family members, regardless of their age. Another fun activity can be drawing or coloring. Kids love to express creativity through artwork, and it can also help adults focus their mind away from stressful thoughts. You can look up drawing tutorials online, print out a coloring page, use a coloring book, or freehand a doodle on a scrap piece of paper. A Not only is this quality time spent with your family members, but it can decrease your stress as well.

 

The Takeaway

Next time you feel yourself stressed out or overwhelmed, try one of the mindfulness activities. You can practice these alone, with a friend, or in a group setting. Take a minute to breathe or set your timer for 10 minutes and work on your stretching. No matter what activity or how long you practice, it will be a moment you took time to focus on yourself — which is always a plus!

 

GEM: Get Experience in Mindfulness Program

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension offers GEM (Get Experience in Mindfulness) as a program. You can learn more techniques and skills to further your mindfulness journey!

 


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