How To Reduce Anxiety And Feel Calmer Wherever You AreMay 25, 2017
It’s no secret that stress levels are on the rise in Singapore. According to a survey “Working In Asia” conducted by leadership institute Roffey Park, workers in Singapore spend more time at work as compared to their Hong Kong and China counterparts, and more than half say their stress level has gone up over the last six months.
It’s not just corporate professionals who are facing fatigue and burnout. According to a recent report in The Straits Times, experts note a rise in the number of stressed-out youths and children in Singapore.
Perhaps this is why more schools are exploring avenues that help students alleviate stress and increase emotional resilience. One such approach is implementing “mindful breathing” sessions into the school day. In another report by The Straits Times, it revealed that several schools have introduced mindfulness to their students, citing benefits such as increased focus, better mood regulation, and greater self-awareness.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment. It’s most definitely not about clearing your mind or emptying your thoughts.
“The mind will always produce thoughts so it never gets boring,” Helen Clare Rozario, founder of Nirvana Mind, explains, “When we practice mindfulness, however, it helps us become more aware of how various kinds of thinking arise and to notice whether it is nourishing or depleting us.”
Mindfulness In Your Daily Life
The great thing about mindfulness is; you can practice it anytime, anywhere. You don’t need to sign up for classes or chant any special mantra. It’s simply bringing awareness to your present moment. However, for many of us—who go through our day-to-day life in autopilot mode—this can seem daunting.
Rozario shares some tips on integrating mindfulness into your daily life:
During mindful eating, pay attention to your food and the process of consuming it. Allow your senses and sensations to be the centre of attention during this nourishing process of eating. Listen to your body – are you still hungry or are you just eating for the sake of eating? One good way to practise mindful eating is to put the phone away or on silent mode, so as not to get distracted.
Replying to emails and messages
We are constantly assaulted by a drip-drip-drip of notifications, both from our email inboxes (some of us even have more than one!) and social media accounts. In order not to get overwhelmed, it’s important to set healthy boundaries. For example, before reading an email, try to pause for at least 10 seconds to pay attention to your breath. Before hitting “Send”, it can also help to take another pause to check in with your breathing and re-read your email.
Another thing to consider is switching off your email/text/social media notifications, so you’re not being constantly distracted throughout the day. This way, when you do look at your phone, it’s when you choose to pay attention to these notifications. It may still be several times a day, but at least it’s when you purposefully choose to do so.
In the shower
Being mindful in the shower allows you to bring awareness to your body and the sensations that arise when contact with the water is made. Try to bring attention to the parts of your body that may be aching or painful, without judgment or reaction. Over time, you’ll get a sense of respite from no longer being caught up in the pain and struggle.
On your commute
When we’re on the bus or train, our default action would probably be to flick through our phone. Why not take this time to practise mindfulness instead? Pay attention to your breath and your surroundings. Simply observe the environment and people around you, without placing judgment. Plus, it probably ensures you’re less likely to miss your stop!
It can be easy to throw on some music to distract yourself from the task at hand, but the next time you have chores to do, try practising mindfulness and see what arises. Pay attention to the sensations you experience when you make contact with the water and soap (while doing the dishes), or the heat from the dryer (as you do your laundry). When thoughts arise, simply notice them and then mindfully choose to go back to whatever you’re doing.
Rozario says, “For those new to mindfulness, I would suggest choosing one activity a day to be mindful about and having one mindful meal a week. The daily mindful activity could be any of those mentioned above or even more simple actions like brushing your teeth, putting on your socks, going down the elevator, or waiting in line at the food court.”
The more you practise bringing mindfulness to your present moment—without judgment—the more insights you get into how your mind works. Over time, you’ll become less reactive to the thoughts that pop up in your mind, and are able to deal with stress and anxiety with a lot more equanimity.