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Tag: mindfulness (page 1 of 2)

A Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been a popular buzzword in wellness circles even though it’s a practice that has been used for hundreds of years. Various cultures around the world embraced mindfulness techniques to deal with everyday difficulties and to help honor religious beliefs.

Using a definition from “The Mindfulness Solution”, by Ronald Siegel, M.D., mindfulness helps us observe how we interpret distress, how to let go of destructive mental habits and replace them with more useful ones.

Mindfulness is a practice of slowing down, listening to your body, taking one task at a time, unplugging, etc. Being mindful means you focus on just “being” and not “doing.” Click To Tweet

Other benefits?

  • Reduces anxiety and social phobia.

  • Can be used with children, elderly and anyone with physical challenges.

  • It’s free. That’s not a typo. Yes, it’s free.

  • You don’t need insurance, a prescription or a specialized therapist.

  • Helps with personality disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Useful in drug and alcohol recovery

  • Encourages physical activity

  • Increases connections with others

Based on this checklist, I’m happy to tell you that you don’t need any tools, skills or special coach to begin mindfulness practices. The book I quoted above is a user friendly manual that includes mindful practices and exercises for relationship issues, health problems, chronic pain, aging and grief, plus many more.

On a personal note, having fibromyalgia and anxiety disorder, I have to practice a form of mindfulness daily. It’s so routine that I don’t even know I’m doing it. So, what has a lack of mindfulness cost me?

  • I tripped down the stairs carrying laundry because I wasn’t paying attention.
  • Fibromyalgia flares have cost me time at work and missing important family events.
  • Anxiety attacks in public places.
  • Forgetting to check my bank accounts because I’m multi-tasking every other damn thing you can think of! Overdraft fees add up!

How can you become more mindful? Let me give you distinct examples:

  • Mindful Walking: Although my friends enjoy when I Snapchat my walks with my pup, that actually disconnects me from the healing benefits of walking my dog. When I’m NOT taking pics and playing music, I focus on taking deep breaths, watching her stride, monitoring where she stops to sniff, turning my head to the sunlight & taking notice of my surroundings. Wherever you walk, be aware of how your body feels, how the sun or wind feels and what you see.

Example: I have worked with anxious clients on paying attention to their surroundings & examining them. How many white cars are passing by while you wait for the bus? What do the billboards say on your way to work? Count how many Hondas you see until you reach your destination. Wiggle your toes as you examine your surroundings. How do your toes feel as you wiggle them?

 

  • Mindful Eating: How many people eat lunch at their desk or eat breakfast standing up in the kitchen? It’s difficult having a chaotic schedule but slowing down our meals is actually therapeutic. Some mindful practices involve eating one raisin at a time and paying close attention to all aspects of the raisin. Is it chewy? Sweet? Can you resist eating it and just rest it on your tongue? I have taught clients to use gum or Starbursts as a way to “ground” themselves into the moment. When we’re nervous, overthinking or about to enter a scary situation, an edible object can be therapeutic, reminds us to slow our breathing and moves our body’s nervous energy elsewhere. Challenge: Try eating one meal this week without any electronics, television or distractions. I encourage you to watch your breathing and posture as you eat. Sit comfortably. Take smaller bites and chew your food more. Sip your coffee or tea one day this week taking notice of the flavor, temperature and the feeling it gives your body. See what you notice.

 

  • Kill JudgmentOne of the main tenets of mindfulness involves limiting judgment on our thoughts. For example, let’s look at this sentence: “It’s hot and there’s a lot of traffic today.” Is this statement a fact or a judgment with a million feelings behind it? This introduces you to the Acceptance Theory. If you accept that it’s hot, grab an ice water before hitting traffic and play your favorite Spotify list, how has your mood adjusted? Sitting in judgmental thoughts invites low energy, grouchy attitudes and impatience. Being more accepting reduces negative thoughts and doesn’t attach you to people or outcomes (remember one of the messages behind The Four Agreements: Don’t Take Anything Personal).

Try some of these mindful techniques and see how your mood changes.

Does your breathing slow down?

What facts can you turn from judgments to plain acceptance? Start telling yourself, “Well, it is what it is.” Become more neutral towards thoughts that used to get you angry or sad.

This week I’ll be sharing some mindful exercises on my Instagram Stories! Follow my page here!

 

 

How To Save Yourself From Crippling Anxiety

This post contains affiliate links.

Originally published on 7/1/2015. 

As a mental health therapist and sufferer of anxiety I understand the grips of anxiety all too well.

  • I have never met an elephant but I understand the feeling of an elephant sitting on your chest.
  • I have no explanation for the numbness and tingling that takes over my hands and feet in an instant.
  • I wish there was a reason to explain why the body decides to go into a panic AFTER a stressful situation has subsided.

 

My clients have mentioned symptoms where they completely freeze, their bodies shake, their heart feels like it’s going to pound through their chest and it’s difficult to slow their breathing.

Since the symptoms of anxiety manifest strongly in the body, researchers have tapped into using natural, or mindful, practices to manage them. Jon Kabat-Zinn is known worldwide for his mindfulness programs focusing on different meditation practices. Nevertheless, some people’s anxiety is so extreme that it may be necessary to use pharmacological interventions in conjunction with meditation/mindfulness practices.

In my experiences, personally and professionally, it is easy to remember anxiety reducing techniques by thinking of the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Here is a brief rundown of ways to reduce anxiety using your five senses.

Sight:

Guided imagery: Imagine your anxious or fearful thoughts as clouds in the sky or leaves on a stream. Instead of avoiding these thoughts, pay attention to them and then let them pass by. If your anxious thought is about your health, it doesn’t suit you to worry without action. Place the thought on a cloud or leaf and imagine the thought floating by. I find it helpful to actually look at clouds outside as I practice this type of guided imagery.

Hearing:

Different types of music can affect our moods. I have mentioned this in previous posts but music can be extremely helpful when dealing with anxiety. Pay attention to natural sounds in your house or in your environment: the hum of the dryer, the sound of typing on the laptop, the dog itching its collar. Music, sounds from nature and apps with soothing sounds can even help in the midst of a panic attack. Make a playlist of soothing or instrumental music. Click To Tweet

Use apps that produce white noise, babbling brooks or the sound of rain. This may also aid in insomnia.

Taste:

There is a popular mindfulness practice that teaches you to focus and be mindful of what you eat. This practice asks you to examine a raisin in your mouth before chewing it. Examine its texture and roll the raisin in your mouth in a calm manner. As you examine the raisin pay attention to your breath. Bringing attention to your food before you eat and while you chew can help bring attention to your breathing, ease digestion and lower your heart rate.

I have recommended to my clients with frequent panic attacks that they carry something small to chew on at all times. Gum, mints, Starbursts or sunflower seeds for example, can provide a necessary distraction from anxiety attacks and can help a person focus their energy on the treat and re-center their breathing. I use gum as a method to reduce anxiety or to thwart a panic attack.

Touch:

I recently learned about a technique called a “butterfly hug” when dealing with clients with trauma. In order to bring a person’s heart rate to a more “normal” pace, it can be helpful to lightly tap on your arms at the pace you want your heart to beat.

Try it. Gently cross your arms over your chest with your hands resting on your upper arms. Lightly tap back and forth and notice your breathing. If it’s uncomfortable to embrace yourself tap your hands lightly on the side of your thighs. This type of autonomic regulation can be very helpful if a person feels symptoms of anxiety creeping up. This type of practice can be done at work, while in traffic, while waiting in line….you get the picture.

In addition, having a tangible object that you can rub when you feel nervous or anxious is important as well. This is why children have teddy bears and special blankets. We provide soothing techniques to children but forget how they can help adults! It can even help to turn a ring around your finger, rub a keychain or fiddle with a bracelet or hair tie on our wrist.

Smell:

This is where your favorite scent comes in. I spray my office with lavender Glade in between therapy sessions. I also use lavender scented lotion or essential oils at home and at work. Some people find that vanilla, lavender or citrus flavored scents can be uplifting. If you keep a soothing scented lotion on hand, no one will need to know that you’re really easing anxiety while moisturizing your hands!

(I recently wrote a post on the use of essential oils and aromatherapy in my home and office. Catch up here.)

The recent boom of mindfulness books and articles have increased our library of resources on this topic. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with anxiety and the practices can be low-cost, low impact and very beneficial.

 

Book recommendation: One of my favorite books on this topic is, “The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems” by Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD..

(Purchase below directly from Amazon!)

 

Which of these techniques would you try?

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