Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

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Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby BloomSchoolSG » Fri Feb 12, 2016 12:09 pm

Mental health is often something brushed aside as unimportant or trivial—a friend once shared with me her experience at A&E when she was feeling extremely down and depressed, how the over-concerned hospital staff tried to prep-talk her out of her suicidal thoughts, only to make her feel worse. And having been through postnatal depression myself this year (after the physical and emotional stress of having three unplanned kids!), I decided to set up this discussion panel.

Think about it; when you are mentally unsound, it affects your decision-making. We have read horror stories of people dying of stress, and of Mums succumbing to postnatal depression. I have experienced it twice, when I had the uncontrollable urge to just grab my kids with me and jump off the top floor of my block, or attempt to create an ‘accidental’ drowning. I thank the angels that I never acted on these suicidal thoughts to bring harm to others around me.

Contrary to popular belief, depression, postnatal or not, is not as easy to ‘snap out of’ as people think. “It’s a bit like walking down a long, dark corridor never knowing when the light will go on”, shares Neil Lennon, former professional football player and current manager of Bolton Wanderers. It is definitely not a call for attention. If anything, saying “Well, everyone gets depressed sometimes!” will send your depressed friend even further down the dark pit he/she is already struggling to get out of.

As a parent, the blood, sweat and tears will always be worth it, but it does not mean parenthood is always easy. Working, doing household chores, caring for the children, teaching them academics and moral education…. Parents have really got a lot on their plate! And most of the time, we need help! Every time we fly, we hear the announcement, “If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” It is not too much to ask that your own needs be met first. After all, a happy parent is better able to influence a positive atmosphere about his/her children.

Depression is like cancer. It is not going to go away by itself. But we can learn ways to manage and cope with it. Attending support groups and therapy is a good start; it was here that I learnt about Mindfulness and its benefits.

“The application of mindfulness is used in a wide range of situations, such as parenting training, in schools, for anxiety treatment, as a relapse for depression, for anger management, for the treatment of trauma, psoriasis and certain forms of cancer, and for the improvement of the immune system which has positive outcomes for patients suffering from HIV, ME (chronic fatigue syndrome), MS, eating disorders, and addictions—the list goes on and on!” (Dr Patrizia Collard, author of Journey into Mindfulness). In today’s society, it is getting increasingly difficult to simply ‘enjoy the moment’ because we are busy multi-tasking, just so we can accomplish a few more things. Mindfulness is about living ‘in the moment’, and here, perfectly phrased by Jon Kabat-Zinn (a molecular biologist), it is about:
“Paying attention;
On purpose,
in the present moment, and
non-judgmentally.”

This is a skill that takes practice, but it is an inexpensive, effective, and ‘doable’ intervention in our stress-filled lives. And the more we do it, the better we get.

Learn to ‘switch off’
When you practise mindfulness, you begin to live moment by moment; you see and feel everything afresh—without judgement and worry; you experience life rather than simply getting through it.
If you have the luxury of time, you can do formal mindfulness practices such as yoga, Tai Chi or Zen meditation. One hour of meditation is better than 10 minutes, but 5 minutes a day is better than none at all!
One beautiful thing about mindfulness is that you can practise it anytime, anywhere, and with any activity. You can zip through it in under 30 seconds, or stretch it out into a 30-minute formal meditation practice.
Remember, it is about living in the moment, so give it a try the next time you have your shower:
• Notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, as it hits your body and then gurgles down the drain
• Notice the temperature of the water, and how it feels in your hair, on your shoulders, and when it runs down your legs
• Notice the smell of your soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin
• Notice the movement of your arms as you scrub or shampoo yourself
• Notice the water droplets on the walls or the shower screen, and the water dripping off your body
When you first start out, you may notice your attention will wander; you will notice the lovely smell of your body wash, and then suddenly remember you need to head to the store to buy deodorant. Each time you realize you are losing focus, acknowledge your thoughts, note what distracted you, and then bring your attention back to your mindfulness activity.

Have you ever tried mindfulness? How has it helped you? Please share your experiences and then next up, we will learn the Mindful S.T.O.P.

BloomSchoolSG
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Re: Mindful S.T.O.P

Postby BloomSchoolSG » Tue Mar 01, 2016 4:35 pm

Today, let's learn the Mindful S.T.O.P, popularized by Elisha Goldstein, a clinical psychologist, and author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (Atria Books, 2015), The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2012), Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler (Atria Books, 2013), and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger, 2010).

S.T.O.P is the acronym for
Stop what you are doing; put things down for a minute or two
Take a few deep breaths for a minute
Observe and acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and emotions at the moment
Proceed with an activity that will support you in the moment; call a friend, or have a cup of tea

You can read the original article in its entirety on http://www.mindful.org/stressing-out-stop/.
This experience is not going to come naturally, therefore every day you will need to put in effort to practise it for at least one minute. Remember, one minute is always better than none!

Do share your experiences!

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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby BloomSchoolSG » Sat Mar 26, 2016 11:48 pm

How has your mindfulness experience been? I hope you have been experiencing the benefits.
I have tried mindfulness a few times now, but my mind still wanders way too easily. Even within a span of just one minute during my bus ride, staring at trees by the road, my mind can wander at least three times, suddenly remembering 'Oh, I needed to do that...'.

Remember, mindfulness does not have to be for long periods. It can be as short as one minute; but we want it to be a fulfilling one minute. My therapist has shared one good way to destress-in-a-minute; all you have to do is to follow the minute hand of an analog clock and count down one minute. I do not usually wear an analog watch, so I follow the decreasing numbers of my stopwatch app on my phone. When I could visually and mentally focus on the numbers, my mind has less tendencies to stray.

Of course, I am still learning and practising these various methods of mindfulness. Let's continue to share our experiences, thoughts and ideas, to create awareness of mindfulness and to share the benefits of practising it.

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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby Joy of Learning 111 » Wed Mar 30, 2016 9:59 am

Hi BloomSchoolSG

You have made some interesting posts. Thank you for sharing.

I think it is important to be clear about what is meant by ‘attention’. If we mean ‘concentration’ then that is not the relaxed awareness of mindfulness meditation; indeed, it is the opposite.

From a mental health point of view, what is being sought in mindfulness is a distancing of the Self and the thoughts/emotions that arise in consciousness. We should be aware of the thoughts/emotions, but not dwell on and be led by them. If they are negative thoughts/emotions, we add fuel to the fire by concentrating on them. Rather, we should let them slip away from us down the flowing river.

I like to use this analogy. Imagine you are standing outside your front door about to enter. You hear your loved one inside the house loudly proclaiming his/her undying love for another. You are utterly enraged. You kick down the door (!) to confront the betrayer. However, you see inside that he/she is rehearsing a play with members of the local theatrical group. Your anger dissipates and flows away.

In mindfulness meditation, we seek to pause and reflect for a few moments whether the arising thought/emotion is something we wish to indulge or to let flow away. If it is a positive thought/emotion, then we probably do wish to indulge it, but we do not over-indulge it: Mindfulness helps us to appreciate that our minds are subject to delusion or misrepresentation, so we have to maintain our inner citadel of tranquillity.

Good mental health!

Joy of Learning 111
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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby MrsKiasu » Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:32 am

Interesting...yeah...let all those negative emotions slip away in the flowing water..not easy but will try.

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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby BloomSchoolSG » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:31 am

Joy of Learning 111 wrote:Hi BloomSchoolSG

You have made some interesting posts. Thank you for sharing.

I think it is important to be clear about what is meant by ‘attention’. If we mean ‘concentration’ then that is not the relaxed awareness of mindfulness meditation; indeed, it is the opposite.

From a mental health point of view, what is being sought in mindfulness is a distancing of the Self and the thoughts/emotions that arise in consciousness. We should be aware of the thoughts/emotions, but not dwell on and be led by them. If they are negative thoughts/emotions, we add fuel to the fire by concentrating on them. Rather, we should let them slip away from us down the flowing river.

I like to use this analogy. Imagine you are standing outside your front door about to enter. You hear your loved one inside the house loudly proclaiming his/her undying love for another. You are utterly enraged. You kick down the door (!) to confront the betrayer. However, you see inside that he/she is rehearsing a play with members of the local theatrical group. Your anger dissipates and flows away.

In mindfulness meditation, we seek to pause and reflect for a few moments whether the arising thought/emotion is something we wish to indulge or to let flow away. If it is a positive thought/emotion, then we probably do wish to indulge it, but we do not over-indulge it: Mindfulness helps us to appreciate that our minds are subject to delusion or misrepresentation, so we have to maintain our inner citadel of tranquillity.

Good mental health!


Hi there!

Thank you for your response! Indeed you have an interesting analogy, and I agree with you. In mindfulness, we do not concentrate on our issues. Instead, we acknowledge the existence of these problems, then we take a step back to immerse ourselves "in-the-now", so that we can, later, tackle these issues in a calmer state of mind.
Let me just build on your sharing with this quote from the same book I have shared previously, by Dr Patrizia Collard:

The practice of mindfulness helps us to enter a state of acceptance, where we are able to give ourselves a break from distress and enter periods of calm, so we can simply enjoy being alive. Living moment by moment, seeing and feeling everything afresh, without judgement and worry, let's experience life rather than simply getting through it.


Let's try this new practice today: Everyday mindfulness
For this exercise, I want to invite you to pick as a focus, a new aspect of your life; something you have not paid much attention to before.
For ten minutes or so, take a look at a particular leaf on a tree, or a stone, flower, or plant. Or think about that piece of furniture you love, and wonder how it came into being, and think about how many people were involved in its creation.

I have been using this app called Fabulous, to help me keep my mindfulness habit in check. Lately I have been consumed by work, and then tend to skip doing mindfulness, until I suddenly realize I have gotten too hysterical from the stress. So remember, mindfulness takes practice, so do not be disheartened if you felt you are not doing so well.

Please continue sharing your experiences, and I will continue to share different ways we can experience freedom from stress and worries.

BloomSchoolSG
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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby boinbi » Tue Apr 26, 2016 10:21 pm

Watching..

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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby Tutor_G » Thu Apr 28, 2016 10:47 am

Thanks for sharing the good post.

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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby BloomSchoolSG » Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:43 am

Thank you @boinbi and @Tutor_G.
Do try these mindfulness techniques and share your experiences. Over time, I will share more techniques and information about mindfulness. Let's use this post to spread the word and share pointers and good ideas!

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Re: Using mindfulness to cope with our stressful lives

Postby BloomSchoolSG » Wed May 04, 2016 8:40 am

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace to you
Deep peace to you

- Anonymous


I remember the first few days of my new job, when I was expected to prepare some documents, and the printer just wasn't working. I was on the verge of crying, and I didn't realize I was being very negative until I noticed the reactions of those around me. I then decided to do some deep breathing while walking around the office. With each deep breath I took, I felt the stress melt away; with each deep breath, I felt less hysterical, and calmer.

It was magical, how a single breath could immediately change the way I felt. Breathing comes free, but we often take it for granted when it is such an intangible, yet important part of our lives. Let's learn how we can do Mindful Breathing when you are feeling ill, or just stressed out like I was (excerpt from Journey Into Mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard):

1. Lie on your back with your legs stretched out and allow yourself to be totally relaxed. Alternatively, you may want to sit in a comfortable position, using pillows, if you wish, for support.

2. When you are inhaling, open your toes like a flower opening to the sunshine. Do, please, use your imagination. When you are exhaling, scrunch your toes as if the flower is closing. If you tend to get cramps, do the closing action very gently.

3. When you are inhaling, softly point your toes away from you, and when you are exhaling, flex your feet to bring them perpendicular to the floor.

4. Curl the ankles in each direction, clockwise and anticlockwise.

The simple co-ordination of breath and movement will slowly bring back your energy and help you get back on your feet. So give it a try, and share your experiences! Here's ending this post with another poem:

Peace
There is only silence
On the mountain tops
Among the tips of the trees
You perceive barely a breath
Even the birds in the forest
Keep still and are silent
Wait then
Just a little while longer
And you too
Will find peace at last.

- J. W. von Goethe
(translated by Dr Patrizia Collard)

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