Responding to Stress with Mindfulness

By Heather Vrbanac, Coordinator of Occupational Therapy Services & Mental Hygiene

The human body responds to stressful events, situations, and environments with:

  • Shallow Breathing

  • Muscle Tension

  • Racing or negative thoughts

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Nausea

  • And more

 

Mindfulness is a way of coping during times of stress by focusing on parts of the stress response that can be controlled – breathing, unhelpful thinking, and tense muscles

  • Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention to what is happening around you and within you

  • There are many ways that you can practice mindfulness, including techniques that focus on your breathing, your thinking, or your muscles – like the activity below

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or laying down, and close your eyes if you’d like.

 

For each body part, tense that area until you feel some tightness, hold it for a few seconds, and then relax it. Remember to breathe – inhale as you tense the body part and exhale as you relax it.

 

You can adapt this activity by moving through the body a second time holding the tension for longer, or by only focusing on certain body parts that you feel are most tense.

1. Right foot

(Curl the toes tightly)

2. Right leg

(Lift the leg and flex your foot towards the ceiling)

3. Left foot

(Curl the toes tightly)

4. Left leg

(Lift the leg and flex your foot towards the ceiling)

5. Stomach and chest

(Suck in your stomach, tighten your abs, fill your chest with air)

6. Right hand and arm

(Clench the fist and tighten muscles in arm)

7. Left hand and arm

(Clench the fist and tighten muscles in arm)

8. Back muscles

(Pull shoulders back like you’re trying to make them touch)

9. Neck and shoulders

(Tilt your head back to face up towards the ceiling)

10. Face

(Scrunch up the muscles in your face tight)

 

Finish by taking a few more slow, deep breaths, feeling a new sense of relaxation wash over you.

 

For any questions about mindfulness and occupational services, please contact:

Heather Vrbanac, OT Reg. (Ont.)

Coordinator of Occupational Therapy Services & Mental Hygiene p: 613-828-8586

e: heather@thisishealthful.ca www.thisishealthful.com

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