Mending the Mind: Using Mindfulness Practices to Cope with Stressful Times

In times of personal struggles or increased stress, it isn’t uncommon to experience heightened levels of anxiety, irritability, and sadness.

When we dwell on negative emotions or allow our minds to fixate on circumstances that are simply beyond our control, it can be overwhelming. As a result, we may resort to unhealthy coping behaviors like drinking, smoking or overeating that put our mental, physical, and emotional health at risk. Learning to deal with stress in a healthy way by utilizing simple mindfulness exercises can build cognitive resilience, relieve stress symptoms, and mitigate future risks to our mental and emotional wellbeing.

The Effects of Stress on the Mind

Stress can affect a person’s physical and emotional health in a variety of ways. Dealing with high levels of stress on a daily basis—a pattern called chronic stress— can cause:

  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Feelings of fatigue or exhaustion
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too often
  • Depressed mood or feelings of sadness
  • Anxiety and/or frequent panic attacks
  • Impaired cognitive function (poor memory, recollection, or focus)

You may be more prone to chronic stress if you have a physically or emotionally demanding career, too. Health care providers, for example, are commonly affected by chronic stress.

Stress might not feel like a reason to call your health care provider but when symptoms like these occur, don’t think twice before calling your primary care provider.

Mindful Exercises for Stress Relief

Meditation for the Body Meditation for the Mind
Lowers blood pressure Boosts mood
Decreases muscle tension Relieves anxiety
Promotes healthy sleep Increases focus

Maintaining good mental health involves following the same guidelines you would for physical health – getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and staying physically active. Although optimizing overall health certainly lays a firm foundation for mental wellness, it isn’t always enough to help us cope in times of tremendous stress.

Incorporating mindfulness exercises like meditation, self-affirmations, or participating in dedicated psychotherapy groups can reinforce your physical health efforts while strengthening and conditioning your mind to respond to stress in a healthier way. These exercises can prove effective for managing stress symptoms, alleviating anxiety, boosting your mood, and improving focus.

Making Mindfulness a Habit

Mindfulness exercises can be extremely beneficial when it comes to managing stress and recovering emotionally after enduring a hardship or going through a tough time. Of course, these exercises work best when they are done consistently. Incorporating mindfulness exercises into your routine can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes each day, or even just a few times throughout the week to meditate, exercise, or simply allow your mind to slow down for a moment whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Visit the Main Line Health website to learn more about mindfulness and behavioral health support, and to see how Main Line Health is helping our community prioritize their mental health during this time and moving forward.

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