Grace Under Pressure
Pressure is a common occurrence that everyone may face from time to time. Deadlines due for work or school, jam-packed schedules that require attentive managing, and responsibilities to family, friends, and other groups can all make a person feel as though they are under a great deal of pressure. One way to potentially minimize the adverse effects that excess amounts of pressure may cause, such as stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, relational issues, etc., is through a technique called mindfulness. Mindfulness is a process that leads to a mental state of nonjudgmental awareness of one’s present moment experience, including sensations, thoughts, bodily states, consciousness, and the surrounding environment while encouraging curiosity, openness, and acceptance (Hofmann & Gomez, 2017). Unfortunately, it often seems that people are pretty comfortable going throughout their day, mindlessly moving from one task to the next without considering to stop and think or allow themselves to feel their emotions when unpleasant events occur. There are even those who find themselves unable to enjoy their victories or happy moments because they cannot seem to relax or stop thinking about “the next box that needs to be checked.” Often, this may be due to a fear that in slowing down and being present-minded, everything will unravel, and all of the weight of the pressure will become unbearable and begin to crush them. It may seem more straightforward to keep moving without thinking since society values being productive and staying busy, but that can have maladaptive repercussions.
One mindfulness exercise that may be helpful to practice is sitting in a chair or lying down, closing the eyes, and paying attention to one’s breathing, recognizing the rise and fall of the abdomen as breath enters and exits the body. After focusing on breathing for a little while, one can begin to give attention to their thoughts and feelings, refraining from being judgmental and allowing whatever they may be experiencing at that moment to have the space to be explored. This may often lead to enhanced self-awareness in which learning to accept “what is” may help foster a sense of peace.
Hofmann, S. G., & Gomez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions for anxiety and depression. Psychiatr Clin N Am, 739-749.
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