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Using Mindfulness Techniques to Manage Emotions and Daily Stressors

There are crises in our day to day life, sometimes they are big such as death, pandemic, terminal illness, social injustice, natural disaster, and sometimes they are small, like getting stuck in LA traffic, road rage, unable to finish work deadline etc. Mindfulness skills helps us manage our emotions. We need these skill more than ever now when we often find ourselves socially isolated and see/hear about social injustice and find ourselves in emotional crisis or disturbance. Here are some skills which can help when we are at emotional breaking point:

Cooling down: Often when we are facing emotional crisis or negative emptions we see change in our body temperature, we can manage it by simply drinking glass of water, splashing water on our face or holding an ice cube in our hand. It helps us cool down emotionally and physically.

Journaling: People have been writing/keeping diaries for many centuries and in the last few decades, hundreds of studies have been conducted which uncovered the benefits of writing or drawing your negative, sad and deepest thoughts and feelings. It helps us ease our emotional destress when we are struggling the most. Journaling has its own therapeutic value and the cognitive processes involved in constructing a story have been found to be as important as the power of emotional disclosure to act as an antidote to the negative effects of emotional pain.

According to a study 100 young adults were asked to spend 15 minutes journaling or drawing about a stressful event, or writing about their plans for the day, twice during one week. The people who journaled saw the biggest reduction in symptoms like depression, anxiety, and hostility, particularly if they were very distressed to begin with (Chan & Horneffer, 2006).

Mental health providers use many different techniques to help their client use journaling based on client’s need.

Muscle relaxation and breathing: Using muscle relaxation techniques such as stretching, neck rotation exercise, simple yoga exercises helps relax muscles. Using simple controlled deep breathing can have profound impact on reducing the emotional distress.

Understanding breathing techniques help regulate emotions. Our breath is linked to our emotions. For every emotion, there is a particular rhythm in the breath. So, while we cannot directly harness our emotions, with the help of breath we can do that. There are many different breathing techniques one can use, some of them are listed below:

Bee Breath or Bhramari pranayama is very effective in instantly calming the mind down. It is one of the best breathing exercises to release the mind of agitation, frustration or anxiety and get rid of anger. This breathing technique derives its name from the black Indian bee called Bhramari. (Bhramari = type of Indian bee; pranayama = breathing technique) The exhalation in this pranayama resembles the typical humming sound of a bee, which explains why it is named so.

Kapalabhati —(kah-pah-luh-BAH-tee) — is a  yogic breathing technique that consists of short, powerful exhales and gentle inhales. This technique internally cleanses and tones the respiratory system of toxins while purifying, rejuvenating, and refreshing the body and mind.

Bhastrika or bellow-breathing is a powerful and energizing technique of yoga breathing. The Sanskrit word Bhastrika means breathing like a bellow. Bhastrika is a form of fast deep breathing where air is pulled and expelled out rhythmically just like pumping the bellow.

Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai) is commonly translated as “victorious breath. Ujjayi has a balancing influence on the entire cardiorespiratory system, releases feelings of irritation and frustration, and helps calm the mind and body.

Alternate Nostril Breathing- In Sanskrit, alternate Nostril Breathing is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique”, and it has many benefits. Alternate Nostril Breathing helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body. It also relaxes the mind in preparation for meditation, which can be helpful for those struggling to settle down before meditating. When performed for just a few minutes, Alternate Nostril Breathing can instantly reduce stress and fatigue, and is a quick and efficient practice to do before high-stress situations.

(Disclaimer:- I did not create any of these breathing tech. and do not own the copy right of these breathing exercises These breathing exercises have been part of my Indian heritage and learned from many of my Gurus)

Grounding exercise: Using our six senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and movement) help us ground and helps us reduce the intensity of negative emotions. Our senses are a tool we always have with us and can be uses to reduce the intensity of a situation. When using this grounding exercise try to focus on only one sense at a time to incorporate mindfulness and if possible include deep breathing. Here is how you can use it:

Sight — Using  our sight to focus on something else such as counting how many colors are in the room, if outside looking at nature and identifying different color of leaves, plants or flowers. If unable to locate anything then scrolling through photos on your phone.

Sound — try listening to bird singing, noise of the AC, wind blowing creating a sound/noise on the trees or the sound of traffic outside. If unable to focus on any of these and prefer soothing sounds, there are many apps you can install on your phone to play on the go.

Touch — Use your sense of touch by running your fingers along a seam in your clothing, or using a fidget toy. If able to, wrap yourself in a blanket, put your hands under warm running water, hold an ice cube or take a bath.

Taste — A piece of candy, gum or a mints can help us. A small treat can provide pleasurable sense to focus on while we are going through a tough moment. 

Smell — Focus on whatever scent is in the air.  Focus on identifying the scent.  If available, put a few drops of favorite essential oil onto a cotton ball and keep it  in a plastic bag help you calm or self sooth.

Movement — Often our emotional state can be altered by moving our body, such as taking a walk around the block or dancing on a favorite song!


Reference:


Chan, K. M., & Horneffer, K. (2006). Emotional expression and psychological symptoms: A comparison of writing and drawing. Arts in Psychotherapy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2005.06.001

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