Managing Stress Through Mindfulness
Topics Discussed in the Videos:
- Managing Stress
- Mindfulness Strategies
Mr. Jordan Shuler presents the concepts of mindfulness along with several strategies to help those who experience the stress of farm life. He will also help distinguish helpful and less helpful ways of managing stress.
Mr. Jordan Schuler with the Marriage and Family Therapy Program presents “Managing Farm Stress” as part of the Mental Health for Framers and Ranchers webinar series.
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Farmers live with stress day in and day out. The pressures of planting and harvest season, equipment failures and repairs, economic threat, worries over unfavorable weather conditions, and troubles with family members can all add pressure to farm life. Many of the common ways that people use to lessen or avoid feelings of stress involve emotionally, mentally, or physically avoiding people, places, or activities that we often feel stressed around. While this may be helpful in some circumstances, prolonged or increased amounts of this kind of avoidance can become problematic. Examples of potentially problematic avoidance of stressful circumstances include drinking too much, overeating or undereating, getting too much or not enough sleep, or avoiding people and places we feel stressed about to the point that it becomes detrimental to relationships. Using other tools to manage feelings of distress, such as mindfulness, can help you to feel less threatened and driven by them and engage in the things that matter most to you.
Mindfulness is essentially the skill of being aware of your thoughts and feelings without being overwhelmed by them, or letting them dictate what you do with your time and energy. There are a wide range of techniques that can be used to soothe tensions and feelings of anxiety, become more aware of what is happening in our bodies, and examine thoughts and emotions in a way that helps us be more intentional with our actions in response to them. More important than learning all of the techniques available is to pick a few that seem doable to you and practice using them. Some of the mindfulness techniques that you can try to use include mindfulness, box breathing, and focusing on surrounding physical sensations.
Meditation and Other Mindfulness Techniques
Meditation has a wide variety of forms and can be applied in a number of different ways. One meditation technique that can be useful for soothing anxiety and becoming more aware of and less driven by distressing thoughts and emotions involves a simple formula. To begin, sit in a comfortable place in an upright position and breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. Many people find that when doing this, their minds begin to race through a kaleidoscope of different images, thoughts, memories, and a variety of accompanying emotions. Especially when these are distressing, it may be tempting to try and force the thoughts from your mind, but doing so may actually make it more difficult to benefit from meditation. Rather than trying to force thoughts away, gently notice the thoughts that spring into your mind when you begin meditating and allow the thoughts to drift away when they seem ready to.
In some situations that may not seem feasible to meditate in, intentionally slowing and focusing on your breathing can have a calming effect that can make it easier to get carried away by distressing thoughts and emotions less often. A helpful strategy to do so involves mentally tracing a square in your mind and counting to four as you breathe in through your nose and imagine one side of the square being drawn, holding your breath as you mentally imagine the second side appearing for four seconds, letting your breath go through your mouth for four seconds while you image the third side appearing, and holding with no breath for a final four seconds while you imagine the fourth side of the box appearing. Repeating this “box breathing” technique several times can help calm natural reactions your body has to increased stress.
A third technique that you can try to increase your mindfulness involves paying close attention to what your senses are detecting around you, again to slow down and give you greater awareness of your thoughts. One way to do this involves identifying five things around you that you can see, four things that you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and naming one positive attribute about yourself can help you become more aware of yourself and become more intentional with your actions.
These and other mindfulness techniques that you can try share an end goal of helping you to be overwhelmed and carried away by distressing thoughts and emotions less often. Additionally, using mindfulness techniques can help you make more conscious decisions about engaging in actions that you personally value rather than using other methods to avoid distressing circumstances that can become detrimental when used too often.
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