How Mindfulness reduces Stress

How Mindfulness reduces Stress

Mindfulness not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being.

1. You become more aware of your thoughts. You can then step back from them and not take them so literally. That way, your stress response is not initiated in the first place.

2. You don’t immediately react to a situation. Instead, you have a moment to pause and then use your “wise mind” to come up with the best solution. Mindfulness helps you do this through the mindful exercises.

3. Mindfulness switches on your “being” mode of mind, which is associated with relaxation. Your “doing” mode of mind is associated with action and the stress response.

4. You are more aware and sensitive to the needs of your body. You may notice pains earlier and can then take appropriate action.

5. You are more aware of the emotions of others. As your emotional intelligence rises, you are less likely to get into conflict.

6. Your level of care and compassion for yourself and others rises. This compassionate mind soothes you and inhibits your stress response.

7. Mindfulness practice reduces activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is central to switching on your stress response, so effectively, your background level of stress is reduced.

8. You are better able to focus. So you complete your work more efficiently, you have a greater sense of well-being, and this reduces the stress response. You are more likely to get into “the zone” or “flow,” as it’s termed in psychology by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

9. You can switch your attitude to the stress. Rather than just seeing the negative consequences of feeling stressed, mindfulness offers you the space to think differently about the stress itself. Observing how the increased pressure helps energize you has a positive effect on your body and mind.

Beating the Winter Blues

Relaxation techniques 

Relaxation – how can it help me in a moment of dilemma? I imagine your life as a container, a glass jar perhaps that sometimes gets cracked with fear or unpleasantness, or at times the lid can come off completely.  How do I get this jar repaired? I look to relaxation and mindfulness.

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness” has become quite a buzzword in the West in recent years, but in fact it is an ancient Buddhist concept in origin, based on the Zen Buddhist idea of bringing the mind’s attention as fully as possible to everything we do. The alternative is that we do things on “automatic pilot” while thinking and then get caught in unhelpful thinking habits.

Change

We all live with change.   Changes are happening all the time and we usually cope with the daily changes in our lives with small adjustments.  A change in the weather may mean we put on more suitable clothing or change our plans for the day.  Be like the sky and just notice the weather changing and drifting by, don’t struggle with things out of your control, the only thing you can control is your behaviour.

Walking for mental health

In these rain soaked days, it is difficult to imagine that the sun will come out again and help us feel that spring is really on its way. Often all we want to do when the weather is unpleasant is stay indoors and watch TV, and we crave sweet or stodgy foods. Walking mindfully using all 5 senses gives you time to heal and boost energy.

Beating the mid-winter blues

For many people, January is a difficult month; it is still mid-winter, the days are still short, and the weather is often cold and bleak. Even those who may have looked forward to Christmas or other mid-winter festivals and enjoyed the family gatherings these festivals entailed now find the festivities behind them. Every day is a new day to start again on your new year’s resolutions, goals and change of lifestyle.

Positive Psychology

I wonder if, like me in the past, when you read something that goes along the lines of “Just practising doing this (insert word, thought or action) three times a day will change your life forever” puts you immediately into a “rubbish, it can’t be true” state? However, there is evidence that Mindfulness can rewire your brain patterns.

What is Acceptable in a Relationship and What is Not?

What is Acceptable in a Relationship and What is Not?

This simple guide will help you know when to bail before you get the life sucked out of you. For each item under “Unacceptable” there is a counterpart below in the “Acceptable” list that allows you to compare similar occurrences.

Unacceptable:

  • Lies of any kind.
  • Dating you or attempting a relationship while still married.
  • Hurtful anger directed at you.
  • Chronic anger of any kind.
  • Putting you down, derogatory remarks.
  • Ridiculing you in front of others.
  • Refusing to discuss problems in the relationship.
  • Withholding affection or physical contact as punishment.
  • Telling you there are no problems when you have identified one, saying you are crazy for thinking that.
  • Having no interest in your life, career, friends, dreams. Only interested in themselves.
  • Flirting or handling other people in an inappropriate way then saying you are crazy when you bring it up.
  • Not willing to discuss finances in relationship, elusive about money issues.
  • Being chronically late or cancelling things frequently at the last minute.
  • Secretive behaviour that doesn’t make sense.
  • Physical abuse of any kind. (There is no acceptable counterpart below)

Acceptable:

  • Waiting till the appropriate time to tell you something important.
  • Papers are legally filed in divorce court, they are not living with spouse.
  • Situational anger directed at themselves.
  • Infrequent upset with themselves or others.
  • Playful teasing that doesn’t leave you feeling badly.
  • Playful teasing that doesn’t leave you feeling embarrassed.
  • Refusal to discuss problems until they have a chance to think calmly about problems.
  • Withholding physical contact due to a need for some space to process, not ongoing.
  • Truly not understanding the problem but willing to listen and try to understand your side.
  • Being too tired or busy to talk sometimes.
  • Greeting someone with a cheek buff or handshake.
  • Financially open if appropriate.
  • Having to cancel things or be late occasionally due to work or something important.
  • Secretive behaviour around your birthday or other holiday.

Learn to listen to yourself. Don’t settle for any of the above behaviors and don’t look for reasons why the person is that way or make excuses for them. It doesn’t matter if they are a narcissist, if they were abused as children, are a control freak or if they have an alcohol problem. None of that is something you can fix and it does not enhance your life in any way, shape or form. If you really love the person and they get help that sticks and corrects the problem, fine. In my experience, the individuals who exhibit the above unacceptable behaviors are usually not open to change.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) — Interview with Therapist Ian Disley & Katya Kroupnik RingMD

Acceptance Behavioural Therapy leverages mindfulness and other techniques to help people deal with depression, anxiety, and communication difficulties — inside and outside of the workplace. UK-based Ian Disley MAC is a Cognitive Behavioural Coach and ACT Trainer (Acceptance Commitment Therapy), who has used his experience and background of working within a Community Mental Health Team to form his own private practice. This is an excerpt from a recent conversation we had with him, discussing counselling, life coaching, and the successes of ACT in the corporate setting. Katya: It seems that corporate wellness is becoming a standard offering at many companies. What sort of workplace therapy do you provide for your corporate clients? Ian: I use my background in working within community mental health to relate common emotional and personal issues that can interfere with workplace performance and in the stresses of everyday life, such as anger issues, depression, anxiety, and communication difficulties. As a qualified Life Coach specialising with a Cognitive Behavioural approach, at the core of all my work is Acceptance Behavioural Therapy, having gained over 20 years of experience of working with vulnerable clients.  I have spoken nationally on a variety of Mental Health & Wellbeing topics, and work within a strict ethical framework as a long-standing member of the The Association for Coaching. Q: What topics do you present on and what sorts of businesses have benefited from your counselling and coaching expertise?  Ian: My primary focus has been to offer practical, “hands on” strategies to boost emotional resilience, self-empowerment, enhancing personal and workplace wellness. With my insights about the common issues and challenges that people face as a foundation, I have spoken extensively on topics including assertiveness, positive thinking, communication and managing stress effectively.  I have also provided interactive presentations to all types of workplaces, from small businesses, government agencies to charities and community groups. Katya: You have run your own practice for some time. What does your group focus on? Ian: My interest in the importance of Workplace Wellness led me to form MindWorks Coaching (Private Health & Wellbeing Practice) where I apply my insights about people and personal issues to the world of work by offering seminars, consultation, Career Coaching and troubleshooting to the workplace. I am passionate about empowering others to help themselves, living by the motto of “Helping You to Help yourself, to Help Others”. I have also taught and delivered Personal & Social Development programmes around the country. Including Wellbeing Skills group, Life Skills workshops and courses teaching DBT Skills training (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), CBT Skills training (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT Training (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) providing a Wellbeing Support Group in the community for the last 6 years. Katya: What is Acceptance Commitment Therapy? Ian: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your control, and commit to valued based action that improves and enriches your life. Katya: What concepts or affirmations are at the core of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy? Ian: The four key pillars we work through in this type of therapy are: acceptance, choice, commitment, and taking action. Here’s what some of the meditations I take clients through would follow: >> Accept your reactions

  • Breathe, take slow deep breaths focusing on your breathing
  • Observe what is going on around you: be mindful and present – right now
  • Let the Thoughts come and go.  They are just words, pictures, images, it’s what the mind does it is a thought machine.
  • Connect to your Feelings and Emotions are a normal response, we are only Human. They will pass, like clouds in the sky and the weather changing, just be the sky and watch them float on by.
  • Control what you can and except what you can’t, remember the ‘Serenity Prayer’ be wise to know the difference.

>> Choose and Commit to your valued life direction

  • Consider your values, what is important to you, what are your hearts desires, what do you want to be remember for?
  • When taking any course of action or decision ask, is it workable and what is helpful, its not whether its true or false, right or wrong, but is the action taken ‘Helpful’ and true to your values.

>> Take Action

  • What’s the best thing to do, right now, in line with my chosen Values?
  • What will I be leaving behind as a legacy, what will people say about me on my 80thBirthday or at my funeral.

Katya: Is ACT a new type of therapy? What is the history of this method? Ian: Derived from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (DBT) Act is known as one of the “third generation” models in Psychology used as a talking therapy and in group work. ACT uses a contextual approach to challenging people to accept their thoughts and feelings and still commit to change by sticking to their values with committed action steps towards their lifelong goals and purpose. With many years of evidence based research and Random Controlled Trails it has a 30 year history of helping people from all walks of life, ages and ethnic groups. For those suffering from Anxiety, Anger, Depression, Addiction, Trauma, Chronic illness and in even resolving relationship difficulties. Katya: What is the difference between CBT and ACT? And why is ACT more effective? Ian: Although originally derived from CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) the major difference is rather than trying to change unhelpful and intrusive thoughts and feelings as we do with in CBT, Acceptance Commitment Therapy or Training is about accepting them just as pushing a beach ball in the water it just pops up again, likewise pushing thoughts and feelings, running away from them, hiding from these normal feelings and distracting yourself with addictive habits, these negative thoughts and feelings  will just come back with a vengeance. Katya: Is Acceptance Commitment Therapy the same inside and outside of the workplace? Ian: ACT in the corporate world  is known as Acceptance and Commitment Training used in the workplace for continuing Professional Development, Staff Training and within Executive Coaching. The six core process of ACT are the same, however due to possible stigma of therapy, the terms ‘Training and Coaching’ is more acceptable to the corporate world, the result being the same, individuals and teams living and working with life and work in balance, a more fulfilling and meaningful personal life and career, rich and rewarding as you take action in line with what is important to you in rising aspirations. Katya: Can you talk about a use case/use cases where ACT is proving to be beneficial? Ian: We facilitate Health & Wellbeing groups for a wide range of individuals suffering from social anxiety, loneliness, panic attaches and low moods and this has resulted in them forming and maintain new friendships with one another, gaining more confidence, higher self-esteem and learning life skills to manage their mental health condition sometime without the need for medication, resulting in less hospital admissions and GP appointments. We have had referrals from Medical Centres, Community Mental Health teams, Doctors, Addiction centres and other therapists. We have successfully secured funding from NHS (National Health Service) through the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) and funded for 3 years by the Big Lottery. ACT is increasingly getting more popular as an alternative to medication and several clients have been able to use their new found skills, strategies and techniques to be able to reduce and be weaned off their medication under the supervision of their GP (General Practitioner, Doctor) Thank you, Ian, for your time — it was a pleasure speaking to you! If you would like to learn more about ACT or consult with Ian, you may message him directly through his profile (here). 

What is ACT? (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy)

What is ACT? (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy)

What is Acceptance & Commitment Therapy?

 Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. It’s one of a new generation of CBT approaches.

The aim of ACT is to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life. ACT (which is pronounced as the word ‘act’, not as the initials) does this by:

  1. a) teaching you psychological skills to deal with your painful thoughts and feelings effectively – in such a way that they have much less impact and influence over you (these are known as mindfulness skills).
  2. b) helping you to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you – i.e your values – then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life for the better.

The ACT View Of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a “hot topic” in Western psychology right now – increasingly recognised as a powerful therapeutic intervention for everything from work stress to depression – and also as an effective tool for increasing emotional intelligence. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a powerful mindfulness-based therapy (and coaching model) which currently leads the field in terms of research, application and results.

Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, focus and openness – which allows you to engage fully in what you are doing at any moment. In a state of mindfulness, difficult thoughts and feelings have much less impact and influence over you – so it is hugely useful for everything from full-blown psychiatric illness to enhancing athletic or business performance. In many models of coaching and therapy, mindfulness is taught primarily via meditation. However, in ACT, meditation is seen as only one way amongst hundreds of learning these skills – and this is a good thing, because most people do not like meditating! ACT gives you a vast range of tools to learn mindfulness skills – many of which require only a few minutes to master.

ACT breaks mindfulness skills down into 3 categories:

1) defusion: distancing from, and letting go of, unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and memories

2) acceptance: making room for painful feelings, urges and sensations, and allowing them to come and go without a struggle

3) contact with the present moment: engaging fully with your here-and-now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity

These 3 skills require you to use an aspect of yourself for which no word exists in common everyday language. It is the part of you that is capable of awareness and attention. In ACT, we often call it the ‘observing self’. We can talk about ‘self’ in many ways, but in common everyday language we talk mainly about the ‘physical self’ – your body – and the ‘thinking self’ – your mind. The ‘observing self’ is the part of you that is able to observe both your physical self and your thinking self. A better term, in my opinion, is ‘pure awareness’ – because that’s all it is: just awareness, nothing else. It is the part of you that is aware of everything else: aware of every thought, every feeling, everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and do.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a unique and creative approach to a change in behaviour which alters the very ground rules of most Western psychotherapy. It is a mindfulness-based, values-oriented behavioural therapy, that has many parallels to Buddhism, yet is not religious in any way; it is a modern scientific approach, firmly based on cutting-edge research into human behavioural psychology.

With thanks to Dr Russ Harris for this content

Reduce Your Work Stress & Burnout Risk Using ACT!

Reduce Your Work Stress & Burnout Risk Using ACT!

Work related Stress

  • Reduce Your Work Stress & Burnout Risk Using ACT!

Do you know someone in a high stress job, with difficult hours, systems, customers, colleagues and red tape?

These challenges mean that anyone can be susceptible to burnout, so is there anything we can do to help you to help yourself to lower their stress levels?

As accredited members of The Stress Management Society and Mental Health professionals we can help you to help yourself, to help others. One of the key parts of stress are the psychological effects of working with difficult clients, customers, friends, work colleagues and even family. In particular “stigmatising attitudes” are particularly difficult for those suffering from mental health or addiction issues. If we could decrease these psychological effects for individuals in the work place we could also decrease their stress, and degrees of burnout, resulting in increased performance and motivation.

There has been a number of evidence-based studies comparing the impact of ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy), in using the model in executive coaching and training for work life balance, burnout and stigmatizing attitudes amongst employees and executives.

The ACT intervention significantly reduced stress with one on one follow-up sessions and burnout through group work and seminars. In addition, reductions in sick leave, absenteeism and poor performance significantly exceeded those attained ACT training and coaching.

Studies have showed, amongst those significantly stressed, ACT significantly decreased levels of stress and burnout, and increased general mental health compared to a waiting list control.

The specific ACT intervention the study used was six 2-hour group sessions. The intervention included information about stress and relevant lifestyle factors (e.g. work-life balance, sleep, and exercise), behaviour change strategies, communication and assertiveness skills, and training in ACT techniques for managing stressful thoughts and feelings, values clarification, and mindfulness practice.

In short, the just 12 total hours of intervention covered:

-information about stress, sleep, exercise, behaviour change strategies in communication and assertiveness. ACT skills defusion, acceptance, values focus and mindfulness.

 Here are some stress tips that we use.

Keep in mind that stress isn’t a bad thing.

Stress motivates us to work toward solving our problems. Reframing thoughts to view stress as an acceptable emotion, or as a tool, has been found to reduce many of the negative symptoms associated with it. The goal is to manage stress, not to eliminate it.

Talk about your problems, even if they won’t be solved.

Talking about your stressors—even if you don’t solve them—releases hormones in your body that reduce the negative feelings associated with stress. Time spent talking with friends and loved ones is valuable, even when you have a lot on your plate.

Prioritize your responsibilities.

Focus on completing quick tasks first. Having too many “to-dos” can be stressful, even if none of them are very big. Quickly knocking out the small tasks will clear up your mind to focus on larger responsibilities.

Focus on the basics.

Stress can start a harmful cycle where basic needs are neglected, which leads to more stress. Make a point to focus on your basic needs, such as eating well, keeping a healthy sleep schedule, exercising, and other forms of self-care.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

People who are overinvolved in one aspect of their life often struggle to deal with stress when that area is threatened. Balance your time and energy between several areas, such as your career, family, friendships, and personal hobbies.

Set aside time for yourself.

Personal time usually gets moved to the bottom of the list when things get hectic.

However, when personal time is neglected, everything else tends to suffer. Set aside

time to relax and have fun every day, without interruptions.

Keep things in perspective.

In the heat of the moment, little problems can feel bigger than they are. Take a step back, and think about how important your stressors are in a broader context. Will they matter in a week? In a year? Writing about your stressors will help you develop a healthier perspective.