Insights & opinion

Mindfulness Matters: Finding Calm Amidst Stress

Mindfulness can be a powerful antidote to the suffering we endure in times of stress. The article highlights the effectiveness of mindfulness as a means to cope with stress and emphasises the importance of accepting and being present with one's experiences without judgment.

May 3, 2024

Mindfulness can be a powerful antidote to the suffering we endure in times of stress. Chances are you have stumbled upon the term mindfulness, but what does it mean to you?

I like this description: a present focus with acceptance, without judgement.

Think of a time in your life when you’ve felt stressed – did you recognise what was going on and accept what was, without judging or did you resist the feeling? Often when our threat systems are activated it can feel so all-encompassing that being with what is, e.g. stresses, feels like the last thing we would want to sit down and welcome in!

A common trap we can fall into when beginning mindfulness practice is feeling we need to get rid of difficult thoughts and feelings. This is a totally normal response – stress (is generally) not enjoyable so why would you want to feel this way? The problem is, stress comes under the continuum of feelings in our human experience and so to try and get rid of its appearance can be futile.

Renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung discussed that ‘what we resist persists’ and this can be helpful to hold in mind when experiencing stress and other difficult feelings. If you are judging your current state of stress, you cannot be accepting of them and thus you reinforce this thought internally: the problem with this, is every time you notice feeling stressed the message that you hear is one of judgement. Mindfulness involves becoming aware of the automaticity of our minds (and recognising the tricky brains we humans have), such as resisting difficult thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

The concept of ‘Stress Awareness Month’ could be seen as being mindful; without awareness of stress how can we know how to respond to it? Take a moment now to consider how your experience of stress would be different if you were allowed to open to your experience as it is.

There are several third-wave cognitive behavioural therapies that utilise mindfulness. One of these is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT promotes the idea of defusion; the aim of which is not to get rid of unwanted feelings but rather is to reduce the influence of unhelpful cognitive processes upon your behaviour. There is an abundance of mindfulness resources out there and like with anything, it’s about finding something that feels comfortable for you and is workable, realistic, and sustainable.

If you have never practiced mindfulness mediation, starting with a two-hour practice probably won’t be the greatest place to start! What can be helpful is
utilising things like guided meditations and starting with a little each day. Much like getting fit looks like progress over time, mindfulness takes practice.

On ‘The Journey Home’ podcast I spoke with acclaimed mindfulness educator, Diana

Check it out here:

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