This is the time of year when many people have made New Year’s resolutions. Most have the best of intentions, but few resolutions actually become reality. Are there little changes we can make that will make a big difference, especially related to stress?

There are several, but let’s talk about a couple. One specific goal everyone can set … and fortunately, it’s not that difficult to attain. The goal is to stop letting stress get the better of you. It’s hard to avoid stress in your daily life, but you can take steps to keep those stresses from overwhelming you. That’s important, because over time, stress can grow into those feelings we refer to as burnout.

Perhaps the easiest stress management tool involves something you do every few seconds: breathing. Most of the time, we pay no attention to our breathing, even though it brings the oxygen our blood and brains need to keep us alive and functioning.

When we start to pay attention to our breathing, it tends to slow us down and allows us to consume more oxygen with each breath. Focusing on our breathing also helps us block out the thoughts and worries that constantly compete for our attention. When we’re nervous or tense, our breaths become smaller and more quickly, making us feel even more anxious. But when we stop and pay attention to our breathing … inhaling slowly and thoroughly, holding our breath for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly … we being to feel more relaxed and are better able to focus on what’s most important.

That’s why it’s no surprise that mindfulness exercises such typically begin with breathing exercises. The deliberate breathing relaxes us and allows us to focus on the present.

Another stress management tool that can be a little tougher to accomplish is developing the confidence to set boundaries for yourself. For many people, a primary source of stress is other people — whether that may be coworkers, family members, or even “friends” who exhaust us. We tend to blame them for our stress, but in most cases, we allow them to bother us. By becoming more confident, we can tell ourselves that we won’t allow ourselves to let them put us in positions or situations that create stress for us. It isn’t easy, but it’s important, because you have to take care of yourself before you can be there for others.

Nearly everyone can benefit from being more mindful. Not only will you see a reduction in stress, but scientists are finding more links between our well-being and our physical health. This year, we’ll host a variety of classes to help you learn how to apply mindfulness to your daily life. Or, if you’re not sure you want to take a class, I’m happy to meet one-on-one with people to help them develop a program of exercise that’s suited to their needs. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, why not make an appointment today?

Ginger Boyce worked in clinical research before deciding to teach trauma sensitive yoga and movement as a way to help with mental health challenges.She will be leading anxiety and trauma based group starting in February. Check here for more details. 

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