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The Time Is Now: Caring For Yourself In Mind, Body, & Spirit

Updated: Jun 22, 2020


My name is Amanda Muhammad and I am a Mindfulness-Based Stress Management Consultant. Through training centered around my evidence-based framework, I help employees find stress management resources so they can show up more compassionate, engaged, and resilient.


How Does Stress Show Up In Our Body?


Stress and trauma doesn’t just sit in the mind, it’s also stored in our bodies.

Something I always say is that “our issues are in our tissues”.

It’s a good practice to notice how your body feels when you’re feeling good vs. when you’re feeling more stressed. Notice if you find tension in any certain areas and also if you notice an increase in any of the symptoms I’ve listed below. You can use an exercise like this to have an idea of what to be on the lookout for as a warning sign that you may need to put a little more intention around taking care of yourself and managing your stress.


One thing we want to make sure we do is to get clear on how stress shows up for us. As individuals, different things will stress us out and we all respond to that stress in different ways. There are four key categories that your symptoms of stress may fall under: cognitive, behavioral, physical, and emotional.


Take a moment to see if any of these symptoms sound familiar to you:


Cognitive

  • Memory Problems

  • Inability to Concentrate

  • Constant Worry

  • Anxious/Racing Thoughts

  • Only Seeing the Negative

  • Difficulty in Decision Making

  • Trouble Learning New Information

Behavioral

  • Increased/Decreased Appetite

  • Nervous Habits (nail biting, fidgeting)

  • Difficulty/Irregular Sleeping

  • Excessive use of alcohol, cigarette's, drugs

  • Impatience/Carelessness

  • Sleeping Too Much/Too Little

  • Social Withdrawal

  • Aggression/Hostility

  • Defensiveness/Suspiciousness

  • Using Substances to Relax

  • Problems Communicating

  • Procrastinating Overreactions

Physical

  • Excessive Perspiration

  • Chest Pains/Elevated HR (Heart Rate)

  • Frequent Colds/Illness

  • Nausea, Dizziness, Headaches

  • Muscle Tension

  • Sleep Disturbance

  • Increased Breakouts

  • Nausea

  • Indigestion

  • Sweating

  • Flushing (feeling hot)

  • Low Energy

  • Weight Gain/Loss

  • Difficulty Breathing

Emotional

  • Feeling Down

  • Feeling Overwhelmed

  • Irritability (Short Fuse/Temper)

  • Inability to Relax

  • Anxiety/Sadness

  • Moodiness/Grumpiness

  • Low Self-Esteem Depression/General Unhappiness

  • Feeling Loss of Control Frequent Crying Spells

  • Suicidal Thoughts

  • Moodiness

  • Apathy

  • Agitation

  • Feelings of Guilt & Shame

Sometimes, we show these symptoms but don’t register them as a response to stressful situations and environments.


When we experience stress, especially for extended periods of time without effective efforts to cope, we put ourselves at risk for suboptimal health and behavior.

That being said, take note of what your warning signs are that show you may be experiencing increased levels of stress. On the other side though, know that having practical tools in place to be proactive about managing your stress will benefit you greatly. We’ll get into some strategies you can start using immediately to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.


The Mind, Body, & Spirit Connection


To be in good health, you have to take care of yourself beyond your physical body. During times of heightened stress, your mind, body, and spirit may all take a toll.


The mind, body, and spirit connection is the understanding that these three parts of you are all interconnected and when one is impacted it may have significant effects on the others.


Let’s say, for instance, you’re having a hard time adjusting to working from home (in the midst of a pandemic). The constant zoom calls, meetings, and need to engage with technology has felt overwhelming. That overwhelming feeling throws you into a negative spiral of not feeling qualified for your current role. Subsequently, it starts to get harder to get out of bed and face another day. With that, your appetite is up and down and when you do eat, it’s not as healthy as you usually do.

This is just one example of how a stressful situation can impact multiple areas of our lives and even hinder us from feeling like we can take steps toward feeling better.


What if, though, when you felt that initial discomfort with adjusting to working from home, you were able to remember just how resilient and capable you are of handling difficult situations? Wouldn’t it be great if when you found yourself falling into that negative spiral of thoughts you had tools to calm yourself down and think about your situation from a different perspective, right? Or, when it was hard to get out of bed, you had strategies to help you get up and face the day with confidence?


The ability to respond to stressful situations in healthier ways is the result of taking care of these three parts of you, your mind, body, and spirit. They all work together to make sure that in those times of uncertainty, you have tools in place to help you cope and bounce back from stressful situations.


Some of my favorite tools for helping me feel that mind-body connection and sense of patience and compassion for myself are gratitude practices, affirmations, and my faith.

All three practices have helped me with seeing things from a different perspective and being able to bounce back quickly in times of adversity. The gratitude practices I use are as simple as acknowledging throughout my day things (and people) who I am grateful for.

I use my go to affirmations in times of doubt such as, “I can do this”, he hasn’t failed me yet”, “I love my creative mind”, and “I am learning”. My faith is very important to me as well, I start each day reading The Prayer of Jabez 31 day devotional and writing in my “God is my CEO” journal. Both help me to get very intentional and grounded for my day. When I can’t find answers in the world, these practices allow me to go within and help cope with the things that are far outside of my control.


How Can I Start A Meditation Practice?


To begin a mindfulness practice, my best advice is to start “small”. Instead of thinking you have to change your days to make room for these practices, see if there’s a way to bring them into your world as is. A breathing practice can be a quick, simple, and effective introduction to finding ways to calm your feelings of anxiety and reduce your stress levels. It could be something as simple as taking a few deep breaths when you first wake up or before you jump on your next virtual call.



It took me some time to make this a true habit. I knew that the practices were effective, but initially, I used them like a bandaid. When I would get stressed, I’d do these exercises to calm myself down. What I learned with time, though, was when I made it a daily habit I actually didn’t get as stressed about things that would get to me before. So, I had strategies in place before the stressful situation happened that were helping me cope as things came up instead of waiting until after they came up.



There’s no magic dosage for how often you should practice something like this for it to be considered “effective”, because again, we are all different. What I will say, though, is that I would much rather you practice 5 times a week for 3 minutes each time than 1 time a week for 15 minutes. The repetition of these practices is key if we want to eventually make them a part of our lives! So find some that you like and make a conscious effort to get to them as often as you can.




The Importance of Self-Care


If there was ever a time to make sure you were taking good care of yourself, it’s right now.

I always advise my clients to practice their exercises before the stressful situation hits and to think about these practices like anything else they want to get really good at. So, for example, if you are on a basketball team and your coach calls out a play in the middle of the game, how do you know exactly what to do? You practiced! You’ve done the drill so much that when it comes time to use it, you automatically know what to do.

That’s the point we want to get to when it comes to managing our stress. We want to be aware of our symptoms, our triggers, and the tools that work best for us so that when life calls out that we need to “use the play” we already have our tools in place. That’s the importance of taking care of yourself. It’s like putting a hedge of protection around you so that when stress hits, the impact isn’t so strong and you have the strength to keep going.


Here are some mindfulness-based practices you can use immediately for coping with the stress you may be experiencing. Best part, they are free or you can find plenty of resources on channels like Youtube to support you!


  • Breathing & Stretching/Yoga

  • Gratitude

  • Affirmations

  • Journaling

  • Perspective Building


These five practices actually make up my evidence-based framework, The Mako Method™. They have all been proven to change the way we respond to the stress that we experience.


I created a guide that has 50 mindfulness practices for managing your stress that you can choose from to get you started. You can download your free copy here (www.themakomethod.com)


I also made a video for one of my clients that has 3 things you can begin doing immediately to manage the stress you may be experiencing from COVID-19.




I also recognize that formal mindfulness practices aren’t for everyone, here are some other ways to manage stress that have proven to be highly effective:

  • Exercise

  • Rest

  • Create something/Color

  • Connect with friends and family

  • Walking

  • Schedule time to do nothing

  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals

  • Listen to music

  • Play with a pet

  • Stick to your boundaries

  • Organize your work/To-do lists

  • Get a massage

CONCLUSION


There’s no one size fits all approach to managing the stress you may be experiencing. It’s important to remember that we are all different and have to cope with our stress in ways that are most optimal to us. What’s most important is that you try and put things in place to help you get through the days.


We are in the midst of a health pandemic, economic crisis, and the highest levels of racial tension I’ve experienced in my 30 years on earth and to say that we’re stressed just may be the understatement of the year.

Stress is the cause for over 75% of doctors visits in America because we have fallen short on encouraging effective ways for managing. Think of your stress management efforts like letting a bit of air out of a very full balloon. Each time you do something to take care of yourself, a bit of that air gets released. On the contrary, when we don’t, we put ourselves at risk for “popping”.


That being said, find a few strategies that feel good to you and begin using them to cope with your stress. You deserve to feel good, to be happy, to relax, to have confidence, and to create a great day.


Thank you for allowing me to share my practice with you.


Amanda Muhammad


 

PS: If you are joining me in this fight to advocate for black lives I have an especially important call to self care for you.




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