Resources for Mindfulness, Stress Reduction, and Anxiety Mitigation

Mindfulness can reduce challenges in our aging brains

 

AES – Thank you for inviting me to your summit. It was a pleasure meeting you and hearing about all your successes!

I promised I would put this song on the page for you. Just listening to it will lower your blood pressure and give you a dopamine hit!

Andrea Bocelli singing with his two children – The Greatest Gift

Taking responsibility for your own well being is an empowering and life-changing step.

  1. BREATHE

“Stress, You Take My Breath Away — Breath, You Take My Stress Away,” John D. MacArthur

Consciously paying attention to breath will relieve some of the stress immediately. Then use the 4-count stress reliever taught to me in my CPR class. As my instructor told us, “You can’t help anyone else if you are wigging out.”  Or words to that effect.

So — As you breathe in, count to 4. Then hold for 4. Then release your breath for 4. Hold for 4.

I imagine a box. I breathe in while going up the left side, holding across the top, breathing out down the right side, then holding along the bottom of the box.

This technique can be used anywhere and doesn’t call a lot of attention to you as you mindfully take control of your jitters and calm yourself down.

Why does focused breathing work? From https://hbr.org/2020/09/research-why-breathing-is-so-effective-at-reducing-stress

Changing the rhythm of your breath can signal relaxation, slowing your heart rate and stimulating the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem to the abdomen, and is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” activities (in contrast to the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates many of our “fight or flight” responses). Triggering your parasympathetic nervous system helps you start to calm down. You feel better. And your ability to think rationally returns.

2. MUSIC

Collect your favorite songs into playlists. Notice when music makes you feel more relaxed and when it energizes you. If there is music that helps you study or read, collect those songs into a separate playlist. Then, when you need to energize, relax, or study, you can play that music that will support your goals.

NCBI.NIM.NIH has this to say about how powerful music is in reducing and controlling stress responses:

Our findings indicate that music listening impacted the psychobiological stress system. Listening to music prior to a standardized stressor predominantly affected the autonomic nervous system (in terms of a faster recovery), and to a lesser degree the endocrine and psychological stress response. These findings may help better understanding the beneficial effects of music on the human body.

And Music has been used as a therapeutic tool.  From the MSU article:

Music can make us feel good. There is solid evidence that music stimulates the production of dopamine, the “feel good” hormone in our bodies. Through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a 2011 study demonstrated that dopamine increased in the brain when listeners experienced positive emotions in the same areas of the brain where pleasure is experienced when food and other sorts of cravings are satisfied. These findings may shed light on why music has played such a significant role shaping culture and is a source of pleasure for human beings throughout our history. Music is an integral part of life’s milestones and just about every significant life event across cultures, including weddings, birthday celebrations, funerals and religious activities.

3. MOVEMENT

MAYO Clinic emphasizes the need for exercise to mitigate stress and anxiety:

They offer three specific benefits – 1) It pumps up your endorphins; 2) It reduces negative effects of stress; 3) It’s meditation in motion. The net result is improvement in our moods. We’ve all felt that high after exercise.

Recently there have been advertisements for “lazy yoga” or similar exercises. Anything is better than nothing. If you travel a lot or have little time for the usual exercises, give this a try. I’ve been doing these kinds of exercises since age 30. It has made a huge difference in my energy and it’s a great way to start the day.

4. LAUGHTER!

Not only is laughter healthy, it’s an internal massage. It helps you learn and retain information better. George Carlin famously said, “Without the HAHA, there is no AHA!”  He also once referred to humorless people as “constipated thinkers.”

As with music, start a file of things you find amusing. Take time occasionally to revisit those things, to watch old movies or sitcoms that make you laugh. Connect with lighthearted people who share your sense of humor. The world doesn’t always have to be dark and dreary. (BTW, this is also a good way to check your mental health. If your sense of humor is too dark or twisted…seek help. Just sayin’)

University of Michigan has a few things to say about all of this:

    • People with a strong sense of humor have a better immune system
    • People who laugh heartily on a regular basis have a lower standing blood pressure than the average person
    • Laughter can be a great workout for your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles
    • Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress

 

5. HEALTHY SELF TALK

Both U of Michigan and Mayo emphasize the importance of being mindful with your self talk. If you are guilty of saying things like, “I am such an idiot!” Or, “well of course it didn’t work, it never does.” Well, KNOCK IT OFF! Yes, none of us wants to be a narcissist who believes we can do no wrong. But a mindful and honest accounting of our mistakes — with a plan to solve them — is a healthy option. “Oops, I really screwed that up. Now, how can I fix that? How can I remedy this? To whom do I need to apologize…”  Like that.

Program this into your brain: “NEXT TIME I WILL…”, “It works better when I…”,”I can make this easier on myself and others if I would just…”

Change your mind, change your life. We all make mistakes. Self-forgiveness is essential to a healthy life and will help you relieve your stress so you can be a problem solver, not a problem causer. Paying attention to the present moment and to your own reactions helps you respond to the present moment. Living in the past is a waste of time and living in the future is an exercise in fantasy. Be Here Now.

 

6. HEALTHY HABITS

Do you need to reduce anxiety and lower your stress? Create rhythms and habits that support you and get you to your goal.

Examples: Follow a routine in the morning, evening, and when you exercise. Get in the habit of clearing your desk before you leave work each day. Have a wake up routine that gets you out the door on time. Put things in the same place each day so you can find them quickly and not waste time looking for them.

“We are what we repeatedly do, Excellence, then, is not an act it’s a HABIT.” Aristotle

The Longevity Center has some great tips and tools for healing yourself.

Use this checklist for processing your decisions and critically thinking about things (click on photo):

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The Bottom Line is a Commitment to Take Care of Yourself. You cannot take care of anyone else if you aren’t paying attention to your own well being. So TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, WE NEED YOU!

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