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Stressed? Practicing Mindfulness Can Help
By Pauline Krutilla, Director of EAP at Aurora Health Care
 
People are more stressed today than ever before. Adopting some simple mindful practices can help alleviate some of that stress. Studies show that incorporating mindfulness practices into everyday life can play a role in improving health and wellbeing.
 
Why are we so stressed? The top reasons people today feel stressed are:
1.  Job pressures
2.  Money problems
3.  Health issues
4.  Relationship problems
5.  Poor nutrition
6.  Media/technology overload
7.  Sleep deprivation
 
What’s the negative impact of living a stress-filled life? We tend to develop unhealthy coping skills — often resulting in numbing, frenetic lives, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle. As a result, we are becoming the most obese, over-medicated, addicted generation of Americans, ever.
 
Newly gained evidence about the negative impact of chronic stress on health has led to widespread research showing that incorporating mindfulness practices can play a significant role in coping with stress and improving overall health.
 
Mindfulness can be described as an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, and being present in the moment in a non-judgmental way. This means developing an openness to all experiences and an acceptance of all feelings and sensations — whether good or bad.
 
Substantial research shows that mindful-based interventions can help:
• decrease stress and psychological distress
• enhance mental health and functioning
• increase emotion regulation and self-control
 
How can you incorporate mindfulness into your own life? Here are three simple exercises to incorporate mindfulness practices in your daily activities:
 
• Mindful Eating: This means spending time actually looking at what we eat, noting the colors, the smells, etc., and taking time to fully enjoy the flavor by eating slowly and deliberately, rather than by inhaling the food while we doing something else.
• Mindful Listening: This means truly focusing on what another person is saying. Look the other person in the eyes and listen to what they are saying, without attempting to come up with a response before they are done speaking. It means not interrupting, and being able to summarize what they just said. This is not easy for many people.
Mindful breathing: Focus your attention on your breath — concentrating on both the inhale and the exhale. Eyes may be open or closed. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by other thoughts. That’s OK. Just bring your attention back to your breath.
• Present Moment Awareness: This means being truly present in the moment. Like mindful eating, being present in the moment means being aware of all our senses in our surroundings. What do I see? What do I smell? What am I able to touch and feel? Am I aware of my breathing?
           
Running on autopilot (in too many directions at once)

The impact of all of this stress is that many people are living from “the neck up” — the mind becomes isolated from the body. One research study estimated that during 47% our waking hours we are thinking about everything else, except what we are actually doing. Mindfulness brings the mind and body together in the same place at the same time.
 
How can you begin bringing your mind and body together? Start with short activities. You can learn to: S.T.O.P.
Stop, pause.
Take a breath and tune in.
Observe what is happening in your body. Calmly acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and sensations.
Proceed mindfully. Practice patience and persistence.
 
Mindfulness can teach us a different way to relate and a new way of seeing things. Our circumstances don’t change, but our way of seeing them does.
 
Want to learn more about mindfulness?

Try a Mindfulness App:
• Insight Timer (available for iOS and Android)
 
• Aura (available for iOS and Android)
 
• Mindfulness (available for iOS and Android)
 
• Stop, Breathe & Think (available for iOS and Android)
 
• Calm (available for iOS and Android)
 
• Mindfulness Bell
 
Read a book
• Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness – Jon Kabat Zinn
• A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) Paperback – March 1, 2010 - Bob Stahl, Elisha Goldstein
 
Check out a Mindfulness website

• https://msw.usc.edu/mindful-living-resources/
 
• https://www.pocketmindfulness.com/6-mindfulness-exercises-you-can-try-today/
 
• https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/06/09/7-easy-ways-to-be-mindful-every-day/
 
 
Pauline Krutilla, director of EAP at Aurora Health Care, is available to talk about what makes an effective EAP program, and what every employer needs to know. Visit www.auroraemployersolutions.org
 
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