Mindfulness? You can be forgiven for thinking everybody is talking about it, and everybody is doing it. Everybody but you. And you may think it is not something for you. Not so. Let me explain.
1. What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an attitude, a way of looking at things and a tool, that you, too, can use at any time in your life – whoever you are and wherever you are.
It is simple and doesn’t cost money. You can do it by yourself. It can help make you feel stronger and better in yourself. It can help improve your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing, even if you have serious health concerns (read on).
Mindfulness involves focusing on what is happening now – in you and around you.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to yourself and finding a way of regulating your thoughts and emotions.
It’s based on four simple steps which are all focused on what is happening now (in the moment):
I notice my breathing has changed. I feel tense in my body. My mind is racing. I can’t focus.
I choose to observe how I feel. I pay attention to it, with curiosity, without fear.
Observing it, allowing it and letting it be gives me a chance to think about what might be going on. What is happening in my life or right now, that is causing this?
I name it: I am anxious about an upcoming meeting or I feel angry and helpless.
With this realisation and understanding I accept what I have observed and understood about myself. I don’t judge, blame, or feel let down, or ashamed.
My reality in that moment is how I feel and what I understand about it. This does not mean I need to like it and put up with it.
I am connecting with myself. To be frightened is normal; but I don’t need to fear it, because I am learning to understand myself.
This in itself may not sound like to doing a lot. But it is a lot!
It does help us to meet ourselves with calm understanding and even compassion. In that place we are less likely to fuel the anxiety or anger. In that place we are more likely to break the cycle and opt for helpful choices to do something about how we feel. Because we feel calmer and more in control of what is happening and what we can do about it.
With this mindfulness attitude you can
- steady yourself, if you feel overwhelmed;
- focus on what matters most at any given point in time;
- feel less stressed and anxious and more balanced and relaxed.
I liken it to a thermostat or a flood barrier.
2. How do I get started with mindfulness?
You don’t need to become a mindfulness expert first, before you can benefit from it.
Here is my beginner’s guide to mindfulness. Try this exercise to get used to the process of noticing, observing, naming and accepting. Take as much time as you can. No rush!
Body scan exercise
This can be done lying down on your back or sitting. Focus on one thing, for example your breath. Pay attention to how it travels in and out of your body. Feel the sensation in your nose, your chest and tummy.
What about the rest of your body, your toes up to the crown of your head? Any tension? What about your mind? Any thoughts? Do they reoccur, are they joyful or worrying you?
As you notice your concentration grow, take in what is happening around you – any noises or smells? Just notice and observe. Take your time to connect with what is happening inside and outside of yourself in that moment.
When you are familiar with paying attention and getting to know yourself, the next step is to accept. That doesn’t mean being passive. It means accepting reality for what it is, not right or wrong, good or bad.
Accept what you notice, observe, name and do not judge.
Now you are in a good place to start regulating your thoughts and emotions. With the concentration you have achieved, you will feel calm and energised. Your anxiety and stress levels will drop and you can focus better.
Don’t worry if this takes a while to get used to, or if you have days when it is easy and others when it feels impossible. That can happen. And that is ok.
3. How can mindfulness help with physical illness?
Mindfulness can help you with all life challenges and physical illness is no exception.
The experience of illness, treatment, living with a life changing illness or the consequences of life-changing accidents or events can take up a lot of energies, mental focus and can drain us emotionally. It is important to have a few tools to help us create ‘down’ and ‘out’ times, and to replenish and reconnect with who we are.
Mindfulness can also help during specific times of medical or other treatments – to prepare for surgery, while undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and before or during scans to help with scanxiety.
After your treatment has ended, you may carry a lot of emotions about what has happened and what may lie ahead: fear, anger, sorrow, depression, exhaustion, loss of trust and relationship difficulties are not uncommon.
You may have aches and pains, and don’t understand your body.
Doing mindfulness and having a mindfulness routine can assist you to help calm heightened emotions, refuel energy, get yourself into a place where keeping a perspective on things can be more easily achieved.
Why not give it a try? There is plenty of information online or might even find a local class or group you can try out.
Mindfulness is not for others. It’s for you, too.
Based on an article written for and published by BreastCancerCare.org.uk
Image courtesy of Pexels via Pixabay
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Usually mindfulness helps me, but lately I can’t calm myself. Monday I had my yearly mammogram. I was undergoing a BCT in January 2020. I was so happy and relieved because it turned out to negative. I sent my best friend a message. But in return she told me she was not doing alright because they have found cancer cells in her skeleton from her cancer mamma from 2002. I was in shock and freaked out and could not be happy for me. The reason: We got both ER+, HER neg and a micro metastasis. She had chemo and I did not just letrozole and zometa. So I am struggling to find any hope for me even though my treatment is after the protocol. So my body has been in fight and fight modus since then and I can’t relax. So now I am searching your sight for hope and relaxation. Thank you for your time reading this.
Thanks for reading my article and sharing some of your own story. I am sorry to hear about your friend’s news and the personal concern and anxiousness this is causing you, because of your own cancer experience. As you know, with cancer there is so much uncertainty all along the way. I know from my own experience that finding ways to manage fears, low mood and such is essential. Not every relaxation approach will work all of the time. I think we need to find a range of things that can help us personally, and then see what may help at any given time. And sometimes we may have to bear and endure the pain – and carry on despite it all. With very best wishes for your friend and you. Karin