Mindfulness practices have gained more popularity in recent years. When we think of mindfulness a lot of us may think of yoga or deep meditations in a forest somewhere. These are both wonderful practices but may not resonate with everyone. Mindfulness is the practice of doing one thing, with your full attention, at a time. When we allow ourselves to focus solely on one thing and permit ourselves to be in the present moment, we give ourselves the opportunity to be fully engaged in the here and now moment rather than having one foot in the present and the other in whatever our mind is thinking about. This can sound challenging at first but with effort, we can give ourselves the tools to enhance our concentration, decrease our stress and fully attune to what is going on around us. 

Where to Start?

A great way to begin our foundational for mindfulness is to start by focusing on one thing, any one thing. In reality, this can be difficult since we are socially programmed to maximize every second by multitasking as much as possible. This means pursuing mindfulness can be challenging. It’s okay. There are no expectations and just like anything, it will take time, dedication and practice to hone your skills. To prevent from becoming frustrated or judging ourselves for struggling at first, we can encourage ourselves to show ourselves compassion and gratitude for trying something new to improve our well-being. If we begin a mindfulness practice, anything from driving our car to focusing on our breath, and we notice our mind is wandering elsewhere, we can gently recognize it and redirect ourselves back to the focus of our practice in the present moment. We can do this each time we have noticed our mind has wandered and by redirecting it each time, we are reminding ourselves that we have control over our thoughts and are capable of overcoming distractions. 

Each person is different so naturally, how we start may be different as well. One person may pick mindfully listening to a song while another may choose to mindfully drink a beverage while another may decide to mindfully focus on their breath. There is no wrong way to practice mindfulness as long as you are staying engaged in the present moment and bringing yourself back whenever you notice your mind has wandered. 

Benefits of Mindfulness

Staying present can have wonderful benefits, it can reduce our stress, enhance our concentration and improve our sleep. This is because when we allow our minds to buzz about from topic to topic, stressor to stressor we are actually putting ourselves through that stress twice. If something is truly going to be challenging, then it will be challenging whether we perseverate about it or not so when we focus on how difficult it will be we are ensuring we will struggle both times. By honing our mindfulness skills, we allow ourselves to be engaged and focused in the present and give ourselves room to enjoy what is in front of us. Mindfulness can be a wonderful tool for those struggling with anxiety, emotional dysregulation due to trauma reminders, relationship stressors and a myriad of other challenges. If you feel this is something you are struggling, please reach out so we can enhance your mindfulness practice together.

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is an unavoidable, normal bodily reaction to the challenges of daily life. Stress is a sign that you are alive; that you are pushing yourself and have care and concern for the people and situations that surround you.

Stress becomes a problem when the amount and severity of stress exceeds your capacity to cope. Some signs that stress may be taking a negative toll on your body and mind include exhaustion, chest pain, headaches, muscle tension, excessive worry, panic attacks, hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, sadness, or engaging excessively in unhealthy behaviors (i.e. drinking/drug use, shopping, overeating, sex, or gambling).

Stress in unavoidable. However, consistent practice of healthy coping skills can reduce the detrimental impact stress can have on your overall well-being. Here are five 5-minute stress busters; 5 simple things you can do in 5 minutes or less to reduce the negative impact of stress in your life.

1. Jump!

Engage in 4 sets of jumping jacks for 45 seconds on, and 15 seconds of rest. Intense cardiovascular exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) while increasing the feel-good endorphins (dopamine and serotonin). Exercise also forces you to be fully engrossed the present moment, giving your mind a welcome reprieve from your current worries.

2. Breathe.

The breathing method known as the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique has been scientifically proven to regulate cortisol, which controls your body’s fight or flight response. Find a comfortable position, and set a timer for five minutes. If you can, close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. By doing so, you are teaching your body to counteract the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system that occurs during stressful situations, which will help you to feel calmer and more at ease.

3. Write.

Writing is extremely therapeutic. Writing down the often big, scary, and chaotic thoughts that accompany stress can result in these thoughts becoming more tangible and less frightening than they were when they only existed in your head. Once you can see the problem more clearly, the solution doesn’t seem so daunting and out of reach. Try writing try a stream of consciousness style of writing, in which you write what is causing you stress for 4 minutes. Next, reread your writing and sort out what you can versus what you cannot control of the what you have written down. Recommit to doing your best towards what is within your control, and crumple up the paper to symbolize letting go of the worries that are out of your control.

4. Be Mindful.

Mindfulness is defined as engaging in a set of practices that anchor you to the present moment. Most stress results not only from the events themselves, but the negative projections into the future about how overbearing or overwhelming the stressor will be once we experience it. Being mindful to stay in the present moment can help you to slow down and clear away unnecessary, self-induced stress. Many of our worries never actually come to fruition. Take five minutes to pay attention to the sights, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes that surround. Repeat the positive affirmation “You are where your feet are” in an effort to remind you that you don’t have to be ten steps ahead of yourself; all you need to be is right here, and right now. 

5. Laugh!

Many of us are guilty of taking ourselves far too seriously. Luckily, we live an era where we have endless entertainment at our fingertips, so why not take advantage of it? Type in your internet search engine, “Funniest animal videos”, “funniest TV bloopers” or “funniest stand-up comedy clips,” and give yourself 5 minutes to watch and laugh. Laughing helps to relieve your body’s stress response, relieve tension by relaxing your muscles, enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart and lungs, and increases endorphin production. It’s no wonder that they say laughter is the best medicine. 

Stress can be crippling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Take preventative measures to manage your stress with these helpful techniques, and you will be able to cope effectively with whatever life throws your way. If you need help managing stress give our office a call, we'd love to help you start living a life you can enjoy!

– Alexandria (Alex) Fairchild, LMSW

Being a mom is hard, being a mom who strives to meet your child’s every need is taxing but well worth the effort. How do we balance meeting our children’s needs and taking care of ourselves? Being a good mom doesn’t mean neglecting yourself for the sake of your baby. What your child needs most is a happy mama who is able to be their calm and support. Self-care is really important for both you and your little one. What self-care looks like and what that means for each person is different. At Long Island EMDR we provide Postpartum Therapy for moms experiencing postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Here is a list of suggestions of what you can do for self-care so afterwards, you are more ready and able to meet the needs of your little one.

  1. Support.

Support is number one because it makes taking a needed break possible. Utilizing grandparents, your partner, other family members or close friends is important.  If you have supports around you, ask for help. I know we want to do it all but sometimes even someone coming by for you to cook without the baby on you or take a shower alone will help you to feel relaxed. I struggled the first few months with leaving my son for any stretch of time but if you are comfortable, a walk outside in the park or dinner out with your partner is a good way to relax and center yourself. As I said earlier just having someone come over so you can enjoy little things like cooking, showering, or reading alone may be the bit of relaxation you need.

Understandably, this is not always possible if you have a limited support network. The phrase “it takes a village” really is true so it is important that you work on building your supports.  Finding like-minded parents that you feel comfortable leaving your child/children with can be a great source of relief.

No matter whom you leave your child with make sure they know how you want your child taken care of when you’re away. Tell them your preferences for medications. Teach them your child’s hunger cues and ways you soothe your child when he/she becomes upset. Always leave an emergency contact list.

  1. Exercise.

If possible go to the gym when your spouse is still home (before work or after). If you’re like me and that’s not possible, join a gym where you can bring your baby. I go to Fit4mom, which has the added benefit of also being a second support network of like-minded moms (at least in my location).

  1. Take a relaxing bath.

If you can’t get anyone to supervise your little ones, bring them in with you. My child loves baths. So its usually relaxation time for us both.

  1. Read.

I really love reading and always feel accomplished after I finish a good book.

  1. Take a walk!

If it’s nice out put on that baby carrier and take your baby with you. Just being outdoors is relaxing. Michael and I go on walks often. He likes to look at nature and usually is lulled to sleep while we walk. Fresh air and a change of scenery can be nice, especially in the early months where you may feel like your stuck in the house.

  1. Meditate.

Whether you have 5 minutes or an hour, meditation is a great way to relax and center yourself. I love the app Insight Timer they have all sorts of meditations and they vary in time commitments.  I also love the “sleep” feature so you can drift off to sleep and the app turns off when the meditation is finished.

  1. Color.

Seriously. I know it sounds childish to some but there are an array of adult coloring books that really are quite relaxing to do.

  1. Gratitude Journal.

Did you know studies actually show you can train your brain to be more positive by writing down 3 positive things a day? The list should be specific, not “my husband, my child, work”, but more like ” my child is healthy”, “I’m able to breastfeed”, ” my husband is supporting me in returning (or not returning) to work”. Postpartum therapy can assist you in identifying what is going right if you are feeling so anxious or hopeless you cannot think of a single thing to be grateful for.

  1. Call a friend.

If you can’t get out and you have no one able to come to you, a phone call can be a lifeline. Call someone who is supportive and willing to listen. Catching up with a friend or relative can really brighten your day.

  1. Listen to music.

Even if it’s music on while you have a spare minute to vacuum the floor. Crank up some old jams and dance around yourself. I love to sing, my dancing skills are not so great (but I will still dance like a fool), and I find singing really helps to release anxiety.

Take care of yourself. On an airplane they always tell you to put your mask on first. You need to be calm and happy to help your child be calm and happy. You’re also modeling good coping strategies for your child. They learn more from what you do, then what you say.

If you need some more help with navigating postpartum symptoms and want to begin postpartum therapy, please reach out to our office.

Sending love and light,

Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW

usercrossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram