By: Nina Smiley, Ph.D., Director of Mindfulness Programming, Mohonk Mountain House
Stress can be experienced in any part of your life—at work or even at home with loved ones. The feeling of stress is familiar—shallow breathing, tensed body, pounding heart. But mindfulness meditation is a powerful stress-fighting technique that we can apply to handling stress no matter where it occurs.
Mindfulness at Work
You’re in a meeting and—Big Surprise—the colleague who pushes your buttons does it again. As you know from experience, your body reacts instantly.
When we feel a “fight or flight” reaction, our bodies actually go through hormonal changes that make rational decision-making more difficult. When you begin to feel stressed, you can challenge these changes and stay centered by focusing on your breath as an object of meditation. As you take long, full breaths, think about the physical sensations of breathing in and out and let go of other thoughts until you feel more calm and centered. Becoming mindful—simply present in the moment in a gentle, non-judgmental way—can break into the stress response and provide an alternative. In providing an alternative, it also offers the possibility of a different perspective. The thought, “Maybe I don’t have to get so angry about this,” can provide a bridge to a more balanced response.
Mindfulness at Home
Even conversations with loved ones can become heated, and we find ourselves in danger of being overtaken by emotion and reacting in unskillful ways. Using mindfulness meditation, we can take a step back from our emotions to identify what we are feeling and then choose to express our thoughts in a constructive way. In the heat of the moment, the goal can become wanting to feel that you are right, but a mindful approach reminds us that mutual understanding is more important.
If you begin to feel angry or defensive in a home life interaction, take a few moments during the conversation to clear your mind and be ready to listen—really listen—as well as speak. Take several deep, centering breaths to ground yourself before responding. Your partner will feel heard and you’ll be more aware of your own emotions as you respond in a calm manner.
About the Author
Nina Smiley, Ph.D. is co-author of The Three Minute Meditator and the CD, Mini-Meditations That Will Enhance Your Life. Nina’s work has been seen in O, The Oprah Magazine, Shape, Real Simple, and Marie Claire. In her work at Mohonk Mountain House, Nina leads group programs and private classes that teach and share simple techniques related to mindfulness, wellness, and stress reduction that can be used anytime and any place—one moment at a time.