Our final self care PD was focused on Mindfulness with Renée Lewis from UCSD who joined us to give some suggestions on managing stress. One of the points that Renée made was about not being able to be completely free from stress but instead focusing on skills and strategies that will better help us manage our stress. The ideas and practices that we learned during our PD will not work for everyone every single time but they are strategies to try out and get into the habit of especially when times get stressful. Knowing yourself and having ideas for how to manage stress is important and actually utilizing those strategies and making them part of your regular self care routines is equally as important.
One of the first things that we did was watch a video from Happify which is a free* (*with a premium version available) program that offers different “tracks” that will support you with self care and mindfulness goals. You can create a free account by going to the Happify website and answering a few questions about your personal goals. Each track has activities that you can complete that match your personal goals. The tracks have videos and activities that you can complete at your own pace.
During the meditation practices that Renée guided us through, she mentioned the idea of “falling awake.” This is where you are able to focus without your mind wandering. During this conversation, it was brought up that people who have a wandering mind are typically less happy (according to this Harvard Gazette article). This study resulted in the development of an app that can actually “track your happiness,” so it is appropriately titled, Track Your Happiness.
When we are falling awake, we are making sure that we are giving ourselves the ability and permission to be totally present on what is in front of us. By getting ourselves into the habit of being able to focus and limit mind wandering, we are more likely to increase our happiness in general. This can be done by getting into the mindset of “falling awake” and practicing mindfulness skills like meditation.
The researchers estimated that only 4.6 percent of a person’s happiness in a given moment was attributable to the specific activity he or she was doing, whereas a person’s mind-wandering status accounted for about 10.8 percent of his or her happiness.
Stress Reaction Cycle and Stress Reduction Practices
There are several ways that people deal with stress – maladaptive behaviors are strategies that are sometimes used which can be negative if done too often or without self control, these maladaptive behaviors often end up causing more stress. When we look at managing stress, we want strategies and skills that are sustainable and that can be done anywhere. The stress reaction cycle is having a thought, feeling a physical change and responding to the thought. The order of the stress reaction cycle (thought, feeling, reaction) can be different for everyone and will vary in intensity for everyone. It is how we manage this stress reaction cycle ourselves that can have an impact on our general health and wellness.
Instead of developing habitual maladaptive behaviors, we can practice:
- Mediation where we practice being aware and doing breathing exercises
- Biofeedback where we learn how to control some of our body’s basic functions like heart rate and breathing
- Stretch breaks where we take a few moments and get blood flowing or just loosen up tight areas
Please note that not all of these stress management strategies will be effective for you and there are many other ways of managing stress besides what was addressed in our PD and what has been suggested in this blog. If you know that something does not work for you, do not do it and work to find other safe and healthy ways of managing stress.
Stress is about how we react to a situation. We can develop skills within ourselves that will help us better manage stress. When we are able to manage our stress, we are in general happier and ready to face more challenges. Please share what works for you when managing stress; it might not work for everyone but it might be something that others have not yet considered!