Learning to Take a Pause
By Jamie Prisco-Rudolph
Edmond Family Counseling
Throughout our day, we encounter countless stressors that can cause us to feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained. Once we start to experience these feelings of stress, it can impact our ability to focus on tasks and regulate our emotions. While research suggests that physical exercise can be a great tool to improve our mental health, there is a mental exercise that can be utilized to reduce levels of stress and shift our focus to the “here and now” This mental exercise is known as mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a state of mind that promotes a non-judgmental awareness of an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and senses in the present moment. When practicing mindfulness, there is no need to focus on past mistakes or a long, daily task list that needs to be completed before bedtime. Mindfulness utilizes two components to help keep the focus on the present: awareness and acceptance. Awareness allows the individual to notice their current thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they occur. Once an individual has become aware of their present state, it is important to accept what they are experiencing without trying to change it and embrace it without judgment. For example, if you notice thoughts and feelings of frustration, simply state: “I am feeling frustrated at the moment and that is okay.”
There are several ways to incorporate mindfulness into a daily routine and these exercises can take 2-3 minutes for a shorter practice to 15-30 minutes for a longer exercise. The beauty of mindfulness is it can be worked into a daily schedule with little to no hassle. Some examples of mindfulness exercises include:
The Five Senses Grounding Technique: This technique utilizes the five senses to help an individual become aware of their current environment and can be done relatively quickly. Look around you and answer the following 5 questions:
What are five things you can see? What are four things you can feel? What are three things you can hear? What are two things you can smell? What is one thing you can taste?
Body Scan: This technique encourages an individual to focus on the current physical sensations of their body. There is no need to change anything while scanning for sensations; the goal is to simply be aware of how your body feels. Start by focusing on the top of your head and then slowly shift focus to different body parts all the way down to your toes, noticing any sensations like pressure, pain, and temperature.
Mindful Eating: This exercise encourages slowing down to focus on the different sensations individuals experience while eating. Mindful eating is done best with food you can hold in your hand and is not very messy. Start off by simply looking at the food in front of you, noticing the size and color of the item. Next, pick up the food and notice the weight of the item. Notice the texture of the item and lift it to your nose to bring awareness to how it smells. Finally, place the food in your mouth and notice how it tastes and how it feels against your teeth and tongue.
Mindfulness Meditation: This exercise can take up more time than some other mindfulness exercises and is best performed in a place where an individual can be comfortable and relaxed. Start off by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down and begin to take deep, calming breaths. The main goal of mindful meditation is to observe the physical sensation of air coming into your lungs on the inhale and then leaving on the exhale. It is natural for your mind to wander during meditation. Notice and accept any wandering thoughts and shift your focus back to your breathing.
Mindfulness Walk: This technique utilizes the senses to connect to the current environment. Start by noticing how the ground feels beneath your feet as you walk. Next, become aware of the environment around you and notice what you see, hear, smell, and feel.
Practicing mindfulness allows the body and mind to take a pause and relax. Mindfulness techniques can reduce rumination of negative thoughts as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression. Being mindful can also improve focus and processing speed and can promote adaptability in stressful situations. Additionally, the non-judgmental focus on thoughts and feelings promotes the ability to properly manage emotions. So, the next time stress and anxiety start to take over, sit back, relax, and take a mindful minute!
Jamie Prico-Rudolph, M.A., LPC-C is a staff therapist and intern coordinator at Edmond Family Counseling. Edmond Family Counseling is a non-profit organization. We may be reached at 405-341-3554 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professional counselors.