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How to Assess Your Stress with Mindfulness

The first step in using mindfulness to help with stress is to know when it is happening. How do you know when you’re beginning to get stressed about something? What are your early warning signs? Does your eye start twitching, or do you begin to get a headache? Perhaps you lose patience easily, or begin worrying.

By becoming more aware of your early reactions to stress, you can begin to take appropriate action before the stress spirals out of control.

Regular mindfulness meditation and doing your daily activities with a mindful awareness makes you more aware of your own thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. You’re more likely to be aware when stress levels begin to rise and you can then take appropriate action.

Take a few moments to reflect on the last time you were stressed. What did you notice happening to your body? Which parts became tense? How did your behavior change? What emotions did you feel? What thoughts were going through your mind? Bear them in mind and look out for these changes when facing your next challenge. Then, you can use mindfulness to reduce your stress to more acceptable levels.

You may find using a stress diary a useful way of assessing your level of stress from day to day. Stress diaries make you more mindful of the areas in your life that cause you stress in the short term, as well as your own reaction to the stress.

This knowledge makes you more aware of the onset of stress and your response to it, allowing you to make more helpful choices to lower your stress levels if they’re too high.

Designate a notebook as your stress diary and try the following. Write down:

  • How stressed you feel on a scale of one to ten, with ten being extremely stressed.

  • What caused the stress.

  • The thoughts going through your mind, your emotions, and bodily sensations like headache or tense shoulders.

  • How you’re responding to, and handling, the stress.

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