Stress manifests for each of us in different ways. Whether you experience stress in a very physical way in your body or more of an overall attitude slump, the cause is always your mind.
Our thoughts create our feelings. So if we’re feeling stressed, we’re having stressful thoughts.
Or perhaps we’re just having too many thoughts in general. What do you notice about your thinking patterns when you’re stressed?
Noticing your thoughts is the first step towards creating some mind space for yourself. If you can notice or observe your thoughts, you are not your thoughts. There opens up some gap where you can be the observer and be less attached to the thoughts.
That’s why mindfulness and meditation are so helpful in reducing stress. These practices help create more of what I like to call mind space.
Today I’d like to share with you 4 different practices that can help you to create more mind space and reduce your stress. You can easily integrate all of these practices into your routine, but if you are starting out, maybe just try implementing one practice for a few weeks to start with.
- Download your thoughts
Write your thoughts out. Get them out of your mind! You can do this by journaling or simply by doing what I call a thought download. You can choose a specific project/goal to write about or focus on your current situation generally. You basically write all of the thoughts you have about that situation down. All of the thoughts, without editing. This gets rid of all the thoughts rolling around in your mind clanging like marbles and creating noise.
You can’t overestimate the value of meditation to your short and long term mental health. I say start today if you don’t already meditate! If you’re a beginner, it might be best to start with a guided meditation and then over time progress to just focusing on your breathing and not thinking. This requires practice. The whole point is to focus your awareness in the present moment and spend less time thinking.
- Use the Focus Technique
This is a very simple but effective exercise. Again, it has similar principles to meditation. You are to focus your attention and observe without thinking or feeling. Here are the steps:
– Select a small personal object that you like a great deal. It might be an item of jewellery, an ornament or a favourite tool for your hobby.
– Focus all your attention on this object as you inhale and exhale deeply for 1-2 minutes.
– While you’re doing this exercise, try not to let other thoughts or feelings enter your mind. If they do, just return your attention to the object. Observe it closely and breathe.
4. Find your out-of-mind activity
There are many activities that help us to become more present in our bodies and/or be “in flow” when we are not thinking at all. These activities are usually a physical or creative practice eg. running, yoga, dancing, cooking. Think of an activity that you can get so wrapped up in that you are no longer thinking or taking in information. You are just in the moment and there is no mind chatter going on. When you find your activity, you simply need to do it regularly! This will help you to remain present, as well as create and maintain mind space.