A Psychologist Shares Why Mindfulness Is a Great Tool for Fighting Stress

Stress can become a vicious cycle, but that doesn't mean there aren't some powerful ways to cope with it.

When we reached out to clinical psychologist and stress expert Dr. Camila Williams to discuss the subject, we eventually stumbled upon the topic of mindfulness and its important role in stress management. What exactly is mindfulness, and why can it be so helpful when you're feeling stressed? Keep reading to learn more.

Sweety High: What exactly is mindfulness?

Camila Williams: Mindfulness and meditation are just about training your brain to focus on what's happening right now in the moment. It's the practice of observing and describing what you're doing presently, and it's a really good stress management technique to stop yourself from spinning your wheels and increasing your stress. If you're washing dishes, for example, you can wash dishes mindfully by focusing your brain on the water, and the temperature, and the smell, and the suds, observing and describing whatever you're doing in the moment.

 

SH: Why is mindfulness such a powerful tool for combating stress?

CW: When you're stressed, your mind is everywhere but the present moment. Maybe your mind is in the future. What if this or that happens? What if I screw up? What if I end up making a fool of myself? If it's not that, your mind is likely in the past. You feel you should have done this or said that. What did someone mean when they said that? When your brain is in the future or the past, you're only stressing yourself out by spinning your wheels. The best way to learn to manage that is to train your mind to stay focused on the here and now in the present moment—to stop worrying about the future and ruminating about the past—through the practice of mindfulness.

Unsplash: Woman looking stressed and leaning on hand

(via Unsplash)

 

SH: What are your top tips for practicing mindfulness?

CW: First, whenever your mind wanders, don't judge it or criticize it. Just take note of it, and then bring your attention back to what you're doing in the present moment. The beautiful thing is that you can choose any activity at all in the day to practice mindfulness. Maybe it's brushing your teeth, and you can focus on the taste of the toothpaste and how you hold the toothbrush, and the movement back and forth. You can practice mindfulness while you eat, smelling the food, rolling it around in your mouth and feeling the texture and the pressure as you bite down.

You can practice mindfulness in any activity you do. It's simply the art of slowing down and describing what you're doing in the moment. You can do it in five to 10-minute bursts, and that's really all you need. Mindfulness also helps you focus and concentrate better. You're training your brain to stop wandering and center in on the thing you're doing.

Shutterstock: Woman brushing her teeth in the mirror

(via Shutterstock)

Another thing that happens is sometimes you'll take a shower and accidentally wash your hair twice. Did you shampoo, or didn't you? You don't know, so you do it again. That's the opposite of mindfulness. Clearly your mind was elsewhere and you weren't paying attention. So that can be a reminder. You just noticed your brain was wandering, so let's practice mindfulness right now and mindfully wash your hair. Focus on describing everything you're doing, and every sensation. It only takes a moment, and you give yourself that little bit of practice. People don't think about it in terms of stress management, but if you're stressing out because your brain is worrying about the future or ruminating on the past, it's another really good skill to help you be centered in the moment.

Unsplash: Person leaning in broken window looking throughtfully

(via Unsplash)

 

Stress comes in many different forms. Click HERE to find out why you might be having stressful dreams about school.