Stress is labelled the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization.
For many of us, it can be challenging to properly respond to stress, which can take a toll on our mental, physical, and relationship health.
I had always thought I was living a healthy life; I ate healthily, exercised regularly, and spent quality time with family and friends, but by mid-40s, I suffered from various health issues. I was on a number of medications, I couldn’t sleep, and I was often irritable. I knew I was experiencing stress and stress was a major factor in how I was feeling, but I didn’t know how to change it. I searched for a solution and tried many things that at best, were only partly successful, while others proved to be a complete disaster.
What eventually helped me notice how I reacted to stress, understand how my mind worked, and gain better control over my life was mindfulness. Mindfulness helped me rewire my brain and completely changed my life!
My favourite definition of mindfulness is coming back again and again to the present moment, without judgment of what one is thinking, feeling, or experiencing, and with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. Mindfulness has been around for almost 40 years, but we’ve only recently begun to fully understand how important it is in our everyday lives. It’s not really about avoiding stress in our lives. Healthy levels of stress are good for us. Rather, it teaches us how to respond to stressors and life in a more effective way.
Mindfulness can start as a simple practice, but it is most effective when it is interwoven into the fabric of our daily lives. While mindfulness is simple and profound, it is not easy. The process takes practice to master. The evidence-based Stress Management And Resiliency Techniques (smartUBC) training is how you regain control of your life. However, you can start your mindfulness journey right now by learning to stop and take a big, slow breath. There are many simple tools that when applied to our daily lives can make a big difference!
Iwona Sienko, RN, BScN, MBA. smartUBC facilitator.