Every day things happen that are out of our control; pandemics run wild, buildings burn, jobs are lost, and relationships struggle. But through all of those difficulties, to remain calm through this turmoil is a true talent. As we all navigate the ocean of existence, we must learn how to take control of the boat and keep it stable through the storms that we face.
Many people tend to cope with these stressful situations by working through the difficulties and surviving on a constant adrenaline rush. But over time, stress can wear you down physically and mentally, leading to a domino effect of health issues. Your mind and body are intimately connected, so when you experience chronic stress it can also lead to physical health problems as well. However, by putting some strategies in place for self-care and learning how to tame your mind in difficult situations, you can begin to take back control of your life and weaken the effects that stress has on you.
1. Practice the Mindfulness STOP Technique
One of the most effective ways for taming your mind is the mindfulness method called the STOP technique. The word STOP is actually an acronym that is an easy way to remember this powerful method. Essentially, this technique involves four steps which are Stopping, Taking a breath, Observing, and then Proceeding. This technique uses components of mindfulness as well to guide you through self-regulation. So, in any difficult or stressful situation that you face, you can practice pausing for a moment, taking a few deep breaths, observing your surroundings and yourself, and then proceeding or taking some mindful action to diffuse the situation. With this method, you can learn how to gain back control over your mind and react to situations more calmly. Learn more about How To Halt Stress With The STOP Technique.
2. Use Breathing Exercises
Whenever you get stressed or angry, it is common for your breathing to become short, fast, and labored. When this happens, you can use your breath to your advantage and utilize it to help you regulate your emotions. Since your emotions have a direct effect on your breathing, then in the opposite direction, your breathing can also have an effect on your emotions. By practicing some basic breathing exercises, such as alternate nostril breathing, square breathing, or abdominal breathing, you can regulate your breath and eventually tame your mind as well. It is best to try practicing some breathing exercises every day to master these techniques so that in situations of difficulty, you can easily practice them during those times as well.
3. Improve Your Awareness of Your Body
Whenever an emotion arises, it often has a direct effect on your body. Often, it will cause heating or cooling in certain regions of your body, such as your forehead, cheeks, neck, or abdomen. By gaining awareness of your body, you can begin to notice when these emotions are arising and then put some strategies in place before they get too out of control. A good metaphor for understanding this interaction is by thinking of a thermometer versus a thermostat. A thermometer senses the temperature of a room, whereas a thermostat changes the temperature of the room. But in order to change the temperature of the room, you first must be able to sense the change as well. So, likewise when you are able to sense a change in your body or in your mind, you can begin to take some steps to change it or prevent it, or change the temperature of the room like a thermostat. The best way to improve your body awareness and create these changes is through practicing mindfulness meditation and yoga.
4. Instill a Mindset of Compassion
Compassion towards yourself and towards others is an essential component of every self-care strategy during difficult times. Although many people think that being critical towards ourselves and towards others can be beneficial and can promote change, it can also be extremely harmful. Criticism can destroy your resiliency and can lead to a cascade of negative emotions. So, rather than jumping to criticism when you or someone else makes a mistake, try to practice compassion instead. Often, the stress we experience in our daily lives is due to the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve at a certain level. But remind yourself that it is ok to relax, and it is ok to take care of yourself sometimes. Allow yourself to truly feel your feelings compassionately and gently, taking care of yourself as if you were your own mother.
5. Connect with Others
Connection with others is a fundamental human need. As babies and even when we are older, we rely on others to care for us. Often, we get caught up in the struggle for independence in the teenage and adult years that we forget that it is ok to ask for help and connect with other people. Asking for help and sharing your difficulties is not a sign of weakness, in fact being vulnerable takes quite a lot of courage. By connecting with others, you may get some valuable advice as well to help you change your path. You may even realize that you are not alone in your struggles and find some companionship along the way. Human connection is an essential component of self-care and it is important to not only find someone who can support you, but to support other people in your life as well.
By cultivating a mindset of compassion and mindfulness while also utilizing breathing techniques, body awareness, and your support systems, you can begin to tame your mind and relieve the negative effects of stress. Difficulty and struggle in life are inevitable, they cannot be avoided. But you can put some of these methods in place to begin to gain back control of your life. So, try using some of these techniques in your own life and share them with your friends and family so that they can benefit from these helpful practices as well!