July 1, 2020

Staying Healthy with mindfulness

Mindfulness and improving the self-awareness journey

In COVIDcast episode 28, Dr. Kevin Baird (Student Wellness Services’ consulting psychiatrist), provides options for UCalgary students seeking support. He notes that being aware of the signs of mental health issues can go a long way to addressing concerns. Reserving time to reflect is a key to managing the uncertainty that often leads to such concerns.

Having a mindfulness practice can help you reflect, and deal with feelings of anxiety and stress. It can also help promote self-awareness, which can be beneficial to individual growth. You can learn more about being mindful with this handy how-to, during weekly webinars hosted by SWS’s mindfulness guru Alex Klassen, and through the SWS online mindfulness program.

Why mindfulness

It may have become a buzz word recently, but the modern mindfulness technique has been around for decades and has the research to back up its benefits.

Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

UCalgary sexual violence support advisor, Rachel Trebilco, has worked with mindfulness in her professional practice, and she recommends self-compassion mindfulness. “Mindfulness practice helps us when our emotions hijack our life,” says Trebilco. “It can be done in solitude or in a crowd. It’s a tool that’s always in your pocket.” She suggests these guided meditations.

Some research shows that the way we go about this introspective journey can improve the outcome. Without some structure we may fall into the dreaded trap of overthinking. In her TED Talk, Dr. Tasha Eurich encourages listeners to ask “what” questions instead of “why” questions to inspire more thoughtful self-awareness journeys.

Specific activities can help with being more mindful in stressful situations. Try integrating the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to calm the nervous system during a stressful time. You can also practise exercises like yoga that encourage you to focus on your breath and your body in the moment.

With our routines in flux because of the pandemic, it can be difficult to maintain the discipline in self-care. Mindfulness can easily be incorporated into our daily lives and activities.

On top of getting plenty of rest, eating healthy foods, drinking enough water and staying connected with a support system, mindfulness can help us stay healthy.