Use Mindfulness Techniques to Combat Stress
Americans are more stressed out than ever, according to recent data from the American Psychological Association (APA). In 2021, the average reported stress level for U.S. adults is nearly six on scale of 10, which is significantly higher than the national average of four-point-nine on a scale of 10 in 2019. Increasing stress levels likely have to do with multiple factors, including increased anxiety around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, rising political and social divides and the challenges of working from home with little division between work and home life.
However, the effects of stress don’t just affect the adult population. In addition to the omnipresent threat of COVID-19, young people are experiencing an increase of pressure to juggle school, sports, college admissions, and peer and family relationships, along with balancing their increasing connectivity to technology and social media. A recent APA survey found that teens experience stress levels higher than the average adult. This finding is significant, because stress is a major instigator of mental health conditions.
It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of adolescents globally now experience mental health conditions, and 50 percent of all mental health conditions begin by the age of 14. Given these alarming statistics, we must find ways to protect ourselves and our children against stress, overwhelm and mental illness.
Research suggests that one way kids, teens and adults can mitigate the effects of stress and improve their overall well-being is through mindfulness; the practice of paying attention to the present moment with curiosity and openness. Recent studies extol the benefits of mindfulness for reducing stress and anxiety levels, encouraging positive emotions, and bolstering social connections and emotional intelligence—which are good habits for all of us to form. Mindfulness can be practiced individually or as a family. Here are some mindfulness strategies to support stress resilience, mental health and overall well-being.
Name it to tame it: Taking the time to notice and name how we are feeling is a key skill of mindful awareness that can promote healthy emotional processing. Once we're aware of what’s happening within, we can engage in proactive steps to feel better, like taking a few moments to breathe or pausing and feeling our feet on the ground.
Do one thing at a time: In the age of 24/7 connectivity, we are all used to multitasking. Unfortunately, multitasking not only decreases productivity, but also creates a false sense of anxiety and panic in the brain. Try the radical practice of single-tasking to promote calm and focus.
Cultivate mindful community through mindful listening: Taking time to check in with close family, friends and people in the community can bring a sense of connectedness. Take a moment to ask someone how they are doing and listen wholeheartedly to their response though open and engaged body language.
Practice mindful gratitude: Research suggests that practicing gratitude can have a powerful effect on wellness, including managing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Take a few minutes a day to practice gratitude by writing in a journal, sharing one thing we're grateful for around the dinner table or even creating a gratitude group text with friends or family to share what we're grateful for each day.
Start small: Practicing these mindful strategies daily for short periods of time is more powerful than occasional long practices. Select a regular time for a brief practice that suits our schedule and practicing mindfulness will be just as habitual as brushing our teeth.
Dorsey Standish, MS, and Amanda Dominguez own Mastermind Meditate, a mental wellness firm based in Dallas. For more information, visit MastermindMeditate.com.