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Mindfulness exercises: Empower Counseling in Birmingham, Alabama. Mindfulness is one facet of Acceptance Commitment Therapy, an evidenced based therapy proven effective for anxiety and depression, offered by Empower Counseling.

I wanted to share this helpful article by Amy Rigby, (a freelance writer who shares evidence-based advice that helps you do your best work),  to which I contributed. The article is entitled 9 Mindfulness Exercises to help you Manage Covid Stress. However, these exercises are beneficial for every day stress as well. 

Mindfulness exercises are the gold standard for managing (Covid) stress for a reason.

53% of adults in the U.S. say their mental health has worsened because of Covid-related stress and worry.

From the pandemic that brought you the terms “social distancing” and “Zoom fatigue,” here’s another one to add to your vocabulary: Covid stress. Google Trends shows that searches for the term were nonexistent in February, peaked at the end of March, fell at the start of summer and are again on the rise as we head into winter.

And it’s no wonder. With many of us facing our ninth month of juggling work, family and schooling from the chaos of our homes—we need a label for the overwhelming stress that we’re feeling.

If these unprecedented times have you feeling unprecedentedly frazzled, we’ve got some mindfulness exercises to help you deal with Covid stress. But first, let’s look at how pandemic-related stress has affected people and what science says about how mindfulness might help.

5 promising statistics on mindfulness exercises

What is mindfulness? My favorite definition comes from the meditation app Headspace:

“Mindfulness is the idea of learning how to be fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment.” 

With so many of us worried about the future during this pandemic, learning how to be more attentive to the present could help. And there’s plenty of research supporting mindfulness as a way of improving well-being. Let’s go over some studies below.

1. Mindfulness may reduce stress. 

Participants who did eight weeks of a guided body scan mindfulness practice showed decreased signs of biological stress compared to participants who listened to an audiobook. [8]

2. Mindfulness meditation may help decrease dwelling on negative thoughts. 

Twenty novice meditators took part in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. Compared to the control group, which did not do any meditation training, these 20 meditators showed decreases in rumination and depressive symptoms. [9]

3. Mindfulness meditation may help you sleep better. 

A study of older adults (average age of 66) looked at two groups: One group completed a mindful awareness practices (MAPs) intervention, while the other completed a sleep hygiene education (SHE) intervention. 

The mindfulness group ended up showing improved sleep quality, with fewer insomnia symptoms and less fatigue. [10]

4. Mindful acceptance may reduce feelings of pain and negative emotions. 

A study published in 2019 tested how mindfulness training might affect emotional regulation in people who don’t meditate. Researchers subjected participants to negative images and painful temperatures and asked them to either react as they normally would or practice mindfully accepting what was happening. 

Mindful acceptance was linked to a decrease in reported pain and negative emotions. [11]

5. Mindfulness meditation may reduce anxiety and depression. 

A literature review of 47 trials and 3,515 participants found that mindfulness meditation displayed “moderate evidence” of improving anxiety and depression. [12]

9 effective mindfulness exercises to try today

With substantial evidence pointing to the benefits of mindfulness, you might want to give it a try. To get you started, below are some favorite mindfulness exercises from various health care professionals. Test them out to shake off that Covid stress!

Please note that the following is not medical advice. Consult with a physician or other licensed health care professional if you’re experiencing any symptoms of anxiety, depression or overwhelming stress

1. The big shrug

“If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic and noticed you were gripping the steering wheel tight, or your shoulders were creeping up to your ears, you know what it’s like to have your body react to stress,” says Dr. Nicole Byers, a clinical neuropsychologist in Alberta. “When our bodies react with tension, this signals our brains there is a reason to be stressed, which keeps our minds racing with worry and puts our brains on high alert.” 

Dr. Byers has a favorite mindfulness exercise to ease this pent-up tension.

  1. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Focus on the muscles in your shoulders and neck, where many of us hold stress. Notice how they feel.
  4. Tighten your shoulders, bringing them as close to your ears as possible. Think of it as a big shrug.
  5. Hold this position while counting to five. As you count, notice the feeling in your shoulders. 
  6. Relax and drop your shoulders as low as you can. Focus on how different your shoulders feel now.
  7. Repeat this five times.

“You will likely be surprised how relaxed your shoulders and neck feel after,” Dr. Byers says. 

2. The four questions

Kathryn Ely, a national certified counselor in Alabama, does the following mindfulness routine every morning, which she also recommends to her clients. Before beginning the day, she asks herself these four questions:

  1. How do I want to show up to those I love today?
  2. How do I want to treat myself today?
  3. What do I want to accomplish today?
  4. What actions will it take to accomplish this?

“We feel good about ourselves when we like who we are and we feel a sense of accomplishment,” Ely says. “Clients have found this exercise to help them cut down on worry about the future and things outside of their control.”

For the entirety of the article click here

Empower Counseling offers in-person and online counseling for the entire Birmingham area, as wells as, online counseling for anyone in the state of Alabama. Kathryn Ely is advanced trained in Acceptance Commitment Therapy, proven effective in the treatment of anxiety, depression and difficult life transitions for college students, young adults, and professionals.

Call Empower to schedule your appointment today 205-730-6570.

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