How to reduce stress mindfully

Oct 18, 2021

Mike Korman

I’m a certified coach therapist supporting and guiding those desiring more compassion and connection to themselves and in their relationships. I weave together nonviolent communication and mindfulness.

In this article I’m going to talk about how we can find relief from feelings of stress drawing inspiration from the fields of mindfulness and nonviolent communication.

So….what is stress?

Stress is a natural response to a threat or danger. It’s often characterised by a raised pulse, quickened breathing, sweating and increased blood flow to the muscles. Our bodies are ready to either fight or fly and sometimes the response is to freeze. 

Afterwards our general ability to function is impeded, our thoughts are affected by the stressful situation, we might feel tiredness and weakness.

Stress in today’s world

So if stress is a natural response to a threat then what’s the issue?

Most of the time the amount of stress we feel is not a direct nor a proportionate response to the actual thing that is making us stressed.

In other words we experience very high levels of stress to events that don’t call for such a response. 

For example if someone is angry and yells at us our pulse is likely to rise, we might begin to sweat, the body enters this fight/flight/freeze response and we are likely to be affected for hours after the event itself. We’re not in real danger, someone is just yelling at us, but our body responds as if we are.


What triggers this stress response?

Oftentimes it isn’t an external event (e.g. someone yelling) but rather internal events that trigger the stress. 

For example a memory of an argument with our partner or an upcoming social event or something we did or said in the past that makes us feel guilt or shame when we replay it in our minds.

The memory (of a past event) or thought (of a future event) triggers our bodies into stress in a way similar to what would happen if that event was occurring in this very moment. 

We might be sitting comfortably on our couch but we are thinking about the fight with our partner and our body has entered into a full blown stress response.

The real issue: chronic stress


If this happened every now and again it would be one thing. The big issue is that most of us are in constant states of stress and we are so used to it that we don’t even notice. 

We don’t get a rest from it. 

Our immune and digestive systems are suppressed and our patterns of thinking and emotional well-being are affected. 

This holds us in a spiral of negative and exhausting thinking leading to increasingly more unpleasant emotions.

Our body begins to become stressed by the fact that it is in so much stress, for such long periods.

Over time the situation becomes unbearable and we begin trying to escape it through a range of actions. We find ourselves eating when we aren’t hungry, working endlessly, watching TV just to escape and consuming alcohol or other drugs.


How can you find relief from stress?

STEP 1: Acknowledge why you might be stressed now

Knowing why you are feeling stressed can help give you more of an understanding of what is going on. In other words it helps you to know that there’s nothing wrong with you but there’s actually a good reason why you’re feeling the way you are. 

There are 4 common situations that will lead us to feel stressed. They are characterised by our deep needs for stability, certainty, safety, balance and calm not being met. 

  1. Our system is in a state of overload, overstimulation and overwhelm
  2. There’s a conflict between us and another person or people
  3. Lack of control 
  4. Significant changes (even positive) going on in our lives


Acknowledging what might be causing our stress brings us back to the moment and is a first step in self-care. So ask, what’s going on in my life now which might be leading me to feel stressed?


STEP 2: Check in and be with it.

What’s my current level of stress now? How is it being experienced in my body?

Turn your attention to these feelings/experiences without doing anything with them or trying to change them. 

I recommend doing this with a caring friend. Someone who you trust to listen to you without trying to offer solutions. Speaking about our stress with another can help us be with it.  Oftentimes sharing is all we need to find significant relief.


STEP 3: Ask – Is the amount of stress I’m experiencing proportional to the event itself?

Try to ask without judgment but rather with genuine curiosity. Oftentimes we are much more stressed than the situation calls for. It can be helpful to see this. 

Stress is a part of our lives, sometimes overwhelmingly so. What we can do is significant though. We can cease to look at stress as an enemy. We can begin to observe it. This is mindfulness. Placing our attention on those feelings of stress without trying to change them. 

This in and of itself can provide enormous relief.

As always, I’d be glad to not feel alone here and therefore would really love to hear from you. Did this resonate? How so? Any questions you’d like me to explore in relation to this topic?

Write in the comments below. Thank you.

Mike Korman
I’m a certified coach therapist supporting and guiding those desiring more compassion and connection to themselves and in their relationships. I weave together nonviolent communication and mindfulness.

Reach me directly here...

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