In moderation, stress is a normal human reaction which is essential to our survival. It releases cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which help to focus the mind and make split-second decisions.
Too much stress, however, can be bad for you. It can cause high blood pressure, interrupt sleep patterns, and cause anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness practice is helpful if stress is overwhelming you. Even one minute of mindful breathing and grounding can help you to feel calm and refocused. Here are some ideas:
• Do a body scan using the STOP sequence:
• stand up
• tune in and notice how your body feels – what sensations you are aware of, or the temperature of the room
• observe – look at your environment and find something to be grateful for within it
• open yourself up to possibility – what might be new, or be a different way to approach a problem?
• Kick off your shoes and socks and stand outside feeling the ground beneath your feet. Paying attention to how your feet feel on the bare earth is a soothing way to feel grounded.
• Practice ‘square’ breathing. This involves inhaling deeply, holding your breath, exhaling, then holding your breath again. That’s four steps, and for each of them, you should mentally count to four as you’re doing it.
• Do a ‘sense scan’ to calm a hectic mind: notice five things that you can see around you, four things that you can feel, three things that you can hear, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste.
Cultivating a mindfulness practice makes it easier to ride the waves of stress and to undo the deleterious effects of ‘bad’ stress. If you want to find out more about what mindfulness can do for your mental wellbeing, our free Enhancing Your Studies with Mindfulness course is a great way to start.