If you’ve read my anxiety story, you’ll know I’ve found various techniques and made small daily changes to my lifestyle that have helped reduce stress and anxiety sensations. However, I’m continuously exploring new ways to help my struggles with anxiety, which brings me on to a MBSR Programme (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) I recently completed by Tracy Kiss.
Tracy is a life coach and social influencer offering a range of self-help life positivity programmes to improve mental health and wellbeing for everyone across the world. Tracy’s MBSR programme is an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction programme which consists of eight video tutorials. It aims to bring peace, calm and positivity to all aspects of life, through a series of exercises.
Although a lot of the habits I’ve encompassed since focusing on helping my anxiety have been working, I still want to try new exercises, techniques, foods and drinks etc. that may help naturally. That’s why I wanted to try the MBSR Programme by Tracy Kiss to see what difference this makes.
I don’t want to outline all the exercises I completed, because it would be more beneficial to experience them all in the programme itself with the added context of the weekly theme. However, below I’ve highlighted my favourite exercises and why I enjoyed them. Whether it’s because they eased my anxiety, made me feel good afterwards, or I found them interesting, these are the ones I benefited from most. Tracy talks you through each exercise to explain how to carry them out and what your focus should be.
Exercise 1 – Body Scan Meditation
I’ve done this exercise a few times before. It helps you to identify where in your body you’re holding stress. This can be identified through discomfort, tension or tightness for example. During this exercise, I noticed heaviness in my chest and tension in my shoulders, jaw and forehead. For me, once I acknowledge a sensation and accept it for what it is and that I myself am okay, I notice the sensations start to disappear. I then feel more calm and relaxed in my own body. Having Tracy guide you through this as you do this exercise is helpful, but you can always pause the video to continue it on your own in silence or with your own meditation music in the background.
Exercise 2 – A Diary of Events (Pleasant and Unpleasant)
This was a great exercise and something I now incorporate into my anxiety journal. The aim here is to make notes of how you feel before, during and after events. Whether it’s going to a social event, presenting at work, or attending an appointment, there are lots of events in your life that can make you feel positive or anxious.
Doing this exercise has helped me link anxiety to certain events like going to the dentist or going away for the weekend. Before this, I’d just think, “my anxiety is bad today and I don’t know why” – it’s incredibly frustrating when you can’t pinpoint your anxious thoughts and sensations. But, since doing this exercise on a regular basis, I can now link the sensations to events. This has helped ease my anxiety as I’m now easily acknowledging why I feel the way I do and can brush those emotions and sensations away.
Exercise 3 – Yoga Postures
Out of all the exercises, this one was my favourite. I do 30 minutes of yoga almost daily, but I’m used to a more free-flowing yoga style where you’re constantly moving from one position to another to keep myself moving. Tracy’s exercises however have you focused on still postures, some with minimal movement – nothing that’s going to make you breathless. It took a while to get my balance right, but I loved lying or sitting still in some of these postures and just focusing on my breathing. It made any tension I had disappear.
Exercise 5 – Linking Activity & Mood
Similar to the diary for pleasant and unpleasant events, this exercise focuses on day-to-day activities you may carry out: walking the dog, exercise, driving etc. You make note of how you feel during these activities to find the link between an activity and your mood. For example, when walking the dog you may feel happy – you’re outside getting fresh air and feel good about it. On the other hand, driving may make you less happy due to traffic for example.
Once you notice which activities make you happy, you can ensure to increase how often you carry it out each day or week. For those that deplete your mood, you can consider reducing the amount of times you do the activity. Or in the case of driving for example, where you can’t avoid it due to commuting to and from work, you can consider what can lift your mood – listen to your favourite music or listen to a podcast for example.
Exercise 6 – Action Plan for Negative Emotions
This was one of the last exercises in the programme and not one I’d considered before, but has been truly helpful. You write a list of all your negative emotions, or anxiety sensations, low moods etc. and write an action next to each one. This action is what helps you overcome said emotion or sensation, and means you have a list to always refer back to.
What impact has this MBSR programme had on your life?
Some of the techniques explored in the programme I was already aware of i.e. heard of them or tried them out for myself. However, despite that, Tracy had a different way of explaining the techniques which helped me understand them better. This meant I’ve benefited from the techniques more so after this programme than I was before.
What has been your favourite part of this MBSR programme?
Learning new exercises has been a nice addition to each week.
I’ve enjoyed the weekly themes of each video: Autopilot, staying present, and how to use your learnings to deal with the future to name a few. Tracy takes the time to address each theme and how the exercises go hand-in-hand with them. For example, auto-pilot was all about how we do things like eating, walking, cooking etc. without being mindful of what we’re doing and whether we’re enjoying the moment. You could just eat a meal and not reflect on the flavours and how the food made you feel. If you take the time to reflect on it, you’ll notice how said food benefits you, or doesn’t. For example, eating fruit gives me a boost of energy and is a mood lifter as I feel good eating it and genuinely love fruit. But eating a packet of crisps often leaves me feeling sluggish and wishing I’d opted for a yoghurt, nuts or fruit instead.
Have you learned anything new about yourself because of this MBSR programme?
I’ve learned that I’m quite sensitive to exercises aimed at reducing anxiety sensations and stress. By that I mean I start a session quite tense and no matter the exercise, I instantly feel relief. Some people may not notice the difference until week one or two, others may notice a difference once they’ve practised an exercise a couple times, but for me it’s instant.
Would you recommend this MBSR programme to others?
Absolutely. If you’re suffering from stress, anxiety or depression and aren’t quite sure where to begin with at-home techniques and exercises to reduce the impact these have on your day-to-day life, then a programme like Tracy’s Kiss MBSR Programme is ideal.
There may already be some exercises you’ve tried for yourself in this programme, but it’s very likely you’ll be introduced to a new one. Or, you may find an exercise you’ve already tried is explained in a different way which helps you get more out of it. It’s an ideal programme to get you started and to have something to look forward to each week.