With such a full calendar, it’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed. But while you might feel there’s little you can do to regain control of a busy time, there are a few tactics you can try anytime, anywhere to make your to-do list seem a little more manageable.
“It’s easy to get pulled in many different directions, and the stress of juggling so many commitments can be overwhelming. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, is a program of techniques that can be used anywhere and at any time to reduce anxiety, improve focus, and calm the mind and body,” says Mary Holt-Paolone, MSRN, mindfulness practitioner for Mirmont Treatment Center, part of Main Line Health.
The next time that you find yourself with an extra long to-do list, a busy day, or dealing with a stressful situation, try using these MBSR tools:
Focus on your body and your breathing
Even in a busy area and for even just a few moments, pay attention to the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Allow your exhale to be a bit longer than your inhale. Mentally scan your body for places where you may feel tension and consciously release the tensions as you breathe out.
A yoga class or yoga DVD can be especially helpful in teaching you proper breathing and recognizing and releasing tensions in the body.
Focus on one task at a time
Multitasking might seem like the key to getting everything done at home, at work, and for the loved ones who depend on you, but spreading your efforts too thin can cause you to feel more stressed and be less productive. Instead, try focusing on completing one activity at a time.
Do something in silence
If you’re the head of a busy household or spend most of your day in a busy and loud area, this might seem like a difficult task. Try to carve out 10–20 minutes per day of time for yourself, whether it’s eating a meal alone, reading, taking a walk, or meditating. During this time, you can focus on your breath as it enters and leaves the body or notice your five senses of taste, touch, sight, smell and sound.
Have regular check-ins
You’re quick to ask how others are doing, but how often are you checking in with yourself?
Each day, ask yourself how you’re feeling, what stressors affected you today, and whether or not there were times of day or specific issues that caused you to feel particularly anxious. Determine ways that you might be able to prevent these issues in the future or, if these stressors are long-term, how you can cope with them in a healthy way.
Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help
We often think of ourselves as a party of one, but accepting help from others is another important aspect in trying to manage stress and anxiety. Whether it’s planning a carpool with other parents, saying ‘no’ to a professional or personal commitment that you just don’t have the time to tackle, or allowing yourself the ability to ask for help from a partner with tasks like cooking, cleaning, or other household activities—don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help in any form.
Using these MBSR techniques can be effective in helping you manage your stress levels, but they have other benefits, as well.
“MBSR has been shown to be beneficial for patients who have long-term chronic health issues, like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, chronic pain, and/or depression,” says Holt-Paolone. “Incorporating mindfulness practices into a daily routine can be an important component of treatment for patients with health conditions like these and many others.”
MBSR is easy to start and effective in reducing anxiety for many individuals, but if your anxiety or stress feels out of control, talk to your doctor about your concerns. You may benefit from a visit with a counselor or therapist, who can help you find additional techniques to cope with these issues.
Main Line Health is committed to providing a holistic approach to health care that includes the mind as well as the body. Our staff includes psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, therapists and other behavioral health specialists with expertise in diagnosing and treating mild to severe disorders and problems. Visit our website to learn more about our behavioral health services.