Background Shadow

Mindful Monday Tip #15: How to Breathe Away Anxiety

Breathe Away Anxiety

Many of us start the school or work week feeling as if we’re stuck in a reality described by the Bangles’ 1986 hit, Manic Monday.  As soon as our eyes pop open, our minds become busy-busy-busy anticipating (or dreading) all that needs to get done during waking hours. [Read more…]

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #14: A Mindful Walk

Explore the Relationship between Mind and FeetCan something you do for a few minutes everyday really improve your life?  Many people affirm that daily mindful practices make a big difference in their lives: they feel less anxious, develop a growing sense of safety and security, and gain deeper personal insight from living more mindfully.  [Read more…]

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #12: What’s so great about the small moments?

Suze ignores the value of small moments….

What might the woman in the cartoon be missing from life?  She may be like a lot us  – easily dismissing small moments that we take for granted.  How often do we drink a cup of coffee, spend a moment with child, pet our dog or cat, or talk to a loved one without being truly attentive to and present with the experience?  It seems so easy to go through everyday activities like a robot and ignore the  small moments. [Read more…]

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #11: From Monopoly to a Mindful Check-in

Remember the game of Monopoly?  We all started from the same location, with the same amount of money, and a unique game piece.  As play progressed, we found ourselves in different positions on the game board, having different amounts of money in our personal bank accounts, each holding different investment properties.  With each turn, it was import to to know where we were starting from in terms of investment properties, play money, and position on the board.  That kind of play involves focused attention and intentional moves.  It’s how we took care of ourselves in the game world.

Now let’s leave Memory Lane to think about how we take care of ourselves in daily life.  While we may rock at personal hygiene and wardrobe attire, schedule manicures, pedicures, and a day at the spa, a quick observation suggests that many of us lack a daily awareness of where we are physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Dr. Elisha Goldstein describes this kind of awareness as an act of self-care and I believe its is very important.  Imagine what life is like without this kind of physical-emotional-mental awareness.  We may react in anger to a loved one when the real problem is our own physical pain.  We may make mistakes at home, work, or school when we are mentally distracted.  We may become overwhelmed by an uncomfortable emotion.  Without a daily awareness of our mental, physical, and emotional states, we can find it difficult to approach life with focused attention and intentional responses.  Today’s tip helps us to tune in to where we are mentally, physically, and emotionally.  That’s like identifying this moment’s personal starting point.

Mindful Monday Tip #11: The Mindful Check-in from Dr. Elisha Goldstein

  • Take 2 minutes to view the following video
  • Follow the instructions to find out where you are physically, emotionally and mentally.
  • Commit to a daily form of this self-care.

How might your life change when you begin to practice a mindful check-in?

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #10: On Control, Power, and Letting Go

Born into slavery in the first century A.D., Epictetus, a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher, advised humans to to “make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens”.  Almost 20 centuries later, Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, wrote an untitled prayer whose most recognized form is:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

In their own way, both men challenge us to examine our need to control.

Aimed at other people, our need to control often creates power struggles which suck the life of relationships.  How often does the self-esteem of a spouse diminish when living under the control exerted by a verbal or physical abuser?  What about parents who place stifling demands on children just so parents will feel or look better?  What about adult children who tread on  elderly parents’ autonomy when the octogenarians are functioning fine?  How would you like someone to rearrange your cupboards to fit their agenda when your kitchen has been fine for you for 40 years?

Aimed at events, our need to control often creates power struggles with forces outside of our control.  Have you ever railed at weather that disrupted outdoor plans?  Felt hopeless or angry when the stock market took a dive?  Projected doom and gloom when the candidate you didn’t support won the election?  Ruined a meal by complaining when restaurant staff did not meet your demands for service?  Weather, stock market, election results, and restaurant service are generally outside our power to control.  So are a lot of other events.  Such power struggles sap our energy and leave us bent out of shape.

Imprisoned by a mindless need to control, we and our relationships suffer.

If we approach this topic with a mindful perspective, we will recognize and let go of our need to control people and events outside our realm of power.  Like Niebuhr and Epictetus, we will become aware of what is within our control and what is not.  Today’s tip suggests a way we can focus our energies on the former and let go of the latter.

Mindful Tip #10: Let Go!

From this day forward, challenge yourself to become aware of power struggles in your life, and daily make a choice to let go of the need to control some person or event over which you have no true power.

  • Pray Niebuhr’s prayer daily.  (You may recognize it as the Serenity Prayer used in 12-Step Groups).
  • Get a helium filled balloon and a permanent marker, and mindfully write the things you choose to let go of on the balloon.  With awareness of your choice, release the balloon into the sky, and imagine letting go of your need to control in these areas as the balloon  floats away.  If the balloon gets stuck in a tree or something else, mindfully recall that it is not in your hand.  You have let it go.

Nothing magical will happen when you release the balloon, but it may become a powerful reminder of the choice you have: to control or not to control.  That is the question.  

How might we and our relationships change when we let go of controlling people and events outside of power?

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #9: Finding the Present Moment and Our Place in It

Today’s post is written from the golden shores of Lake Michigan.  Our family’s annual 2-week vacation has begun, and already we struggle against the daily pull of mindlessness.  To find peace and to regroup, we must each engage our vacation with mindful purpose.  For me that means pausing to remember where I am, what choices I have, and what I want to do.  When we are not mindful of the present moment and our place in it,  we can be mindlessly carried away by agendas we don’t truly support.  Our family’s vacation challenge inspires today’s  tip.

Mindful Monday Tip #9: A Mindful Pause

When it’s safe to do so, pause and for one minute reflect on:

  • Where am I?
  • What choices  do I have?
  • What do I want to do?

What might happen after we take a mindful pause?

I predict that we may move with greater attention and intention after such a pause.

 

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #8: Rescue Relationships with Mindful Communication

Much can be damaged or lost by mindless communication.  Ever feel like you engage your mouth before engaging your mind?  Ever send a seemingly brilliant email, and later realize some of its content may be offensive to the receiver?  Relationships are unintentionally damaged by words, body language, and tones of voice.  Jobs are lost.  Political campaigns end prematurely.  Credibility suffers.  All because of mindless communication.

How does mindless communication happen?  Perhaps Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl,  provides a clue: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.   In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   Too many times, maybe our communication creates emotional havoc because we ignore the space between a stimulus and our response – we’re not aware of our power to choose a communication response.  Think of a stimulus as anything that triggers an emotional reaction in you: accusation by a spouse, criticism by a coworker,  defiance by a child, overbearing control by a parent.  This week’s tip invites us to recognize and mindfully use the space between stimulus and communication response.

Mindful Monday Tip #8: Mindful Communication

Whatever your stimulus or trigger, use the space before your communication response to focus on two things:

  1. Attention: Recognize and pay attention to your choice of response.   This is how you discover the space between stimulus and response.  Pay attention to the setting and the nature of your relationship to the other person or people.  Can you imagine what their internal worlds look like?  What does your internal world like?
  2. Intention:  Now consider how to bring your communication response in line with what’s important to you.  Ask yourself, What do I want to communicate? Next ask, How do I want to communicate it?  Answers to these questions describe your communication intention.

However you choose to communicate,  respond in a way that reflects your newly discovered attention and intention.

How might relationships change when we embrace  mindful communication? 

 

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #6: The Importance of Small Steps of Change

How can I change?  

What must I do to change? 

When will change begin?

These are tough questions, often heard in counseling rooms and frequently heard in  conversations with friends and family.  What we so often forget is that change, like a big journey, often begins with small steps.

Change can seem elusive if we’re not mindful of the progress that small steps reveal.  This reminds me of a big cross country trip I took years ago with my mother-in-law and two young children.   Starting from Northern Virginia, we had to travel more than 2600 miles before we reached our  destination of Santa Monica, CA.  One SUV. Two kids. Two adults. On the road for seven days.  We weren’t out of Prince William County before I heard the first, “How long till we get there?”  I would hear variations of that question multiple times a day for the next seven days.  By focusing on the final goal, it was easy to become mindless of the current day’s progress.  Easy to overlook the wonder of the country through which we were passing.  Easy to overlook the fun of sharing Cheese Whiz and crackers while waiting for Gran to check-in at the nightly hotel.

Think about all the things we may want to change.  Weight.  Anxiety. Depression. Self-esteem.  You name it.  We may be aware of the big change we want to experience.  Shed 30 pounds.  Have fewer anxiety attacks.  Experience hope.  Believe in ourselves.  But where does change begin?  What can the small steps look like?  Maybe today we take a walk or make a healthy eating choice.  Maybe we search the internet to locate a therapist or call to ask questions.  Maybe we check out a self-help book from the library.  These small steps can be evidence of change.

This week’s tip is like a gift: it encourages us to become aware of small steps that reveal change.

Mindful Monday Tip #6: Become Mindful of Small Steps 

  • Identify one area of your life that you wish to change.
  • What small step in the direction of change can you take today?
  • Observe what you experience as you take the step.
  • Repeat daily.

What small step of change will you mindfully take today?

And what will you experience as a result?

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #3: Use Nature to Combat Sensory Overload

Are you living in sensory overload?  It could wind up your anxiety by taking your body where you don’t want to go.  After all, our bodies process whatever we take into them – from substances we ingest to high stimulation from the environment.  Read my article here  about how changing intake can reduce anxiety, and try today’s tip.  Maybe it’s time to cultivate presence by becoming mindful of nature.

Mindful Monday Tip #3: Observe Nature

For a few moments each day, pay close attention to one aspect of nature.  (Do not attempt to multitask during this experience).  That’s it.

When I gaze into the star studded sky from the edge of a sand dune on Lake Michigan, a peaceful sense of presence fills me.  Pesky worries retreat and chaotic mental chatter flees from my mind.  A similar calming effect occurs as I mindfully gaze  at a tall tree in my Northern VA  backyard.

What might you discover by observing nature for few moments each day?

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Mindful Monday Tip #2: Tune into Your Body

Remember when we had to adjust the rabbit ears on a TV in order to get a clear picture and undistorted sound?

Mindfulness is basically about eliminating distractions so we can tune in to awareness of the present moment.  Today, dear readers, we  focus on tuning in to the body.  Many of us move through our days on autopilot without awareness of how our bodies move until something doesn’t move or work properly.  When we have a stuffy nose, we miss our ability to smell and taste.  When we sprain an ankle, we miss our ability to run.  When we burn a finger, we miss our manual dexterity.  What might we learn if for a few days we pay attention to how our bodies move?

Tip 2: Mindful Movement

This exercise is about observation and becoming mindful of how your body moves (Albers, 2012).  Don’t change anything, don’t judge, just observe your natural movements in these situations:

Observe how you eat at meals.
o How much food goes in your mouth at one time?
o How fast do you eat?
o Do you mix foods together or eat one thing at a time?

Observe how you sit.
o What’s your posture like?
o Do you shift around or sit still?
o What do your legs do while you sit?
o How long can you comfortably sit in one place?

Observe how you move while talking.
o What do your hands do?
o What do your legs do?
o How close to do you stand to another person?
o Where do you look while talking?
o How loudly do you speak?
o What are your nonverbal expressions communicating?

Observe how your body moves you from one place to another.
o Discover the sensations of walking.
o Become aware of how your legs move – notice their rhythm and pace.

Observe how your body reclines.
o Do you lie down on your back, side, or stomach?
o Do you shift, roll over, or remain motionless?

Observe how you balance.
o How hard does your body work to keep your balance?
o Notice when you shift your balance or lean against something.

Observe your internal sensations.
o How do your joints and muscles feel when they move?
o Notice when they feel sore and when they feel good.

What changes for us as we learn to move mindfully?

Reference:

Albers, S. (2012).  Eating Mindfully.  Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

 

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.