This mindfulness practice is a grounding technique that is helpful for anxiety because it allows us to be present. Being present with all that is around us, not just overwhelming feelings, thoughts, sensations, urges, or memories can allow us to continue on with our day, regardless of how long these hang around for.
Though mantra meditations are often associated with religious meditation, I come to mindfulness from a secular perspective. My mantra, for example, is “I am, I can, I will.” Mantras have been associated with meditative practices in every major religion, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. This 5-minutes meditation is meant to help you focus, become present, and remember what you believe in. I have talked about mindfulness in a few podcast episodes. The ones I would recommend you checking out are: Episode 6 Mental Health and Chronic Illness, Episode 22 How Anxiety and Stress Manifest in the Body, and Episode 31 Mindfulness and Health.
I hope you enjoy this meditation, and remember to keep making the most of it!
This week we’re going to do a loving kindness mediation. I’ve done one of these on the podcast as well, in our self-compassion episode, which you can access here. It can greatly improve our mental health to show ourselves some self-love and self-kindness. This meditation is a way to do that. Many therapy modalities use loving kindness in their mindfulness practices. Though mindfulness isn’t for everyone, I discuss the benefits of it in another podcast episode, which you can find here.
Use this meditation as often as you need so that you can keep making the most of it!
It can feel hard to set goals for yourself when you’re sick and/or in pain. Be it personal goals, work/career goals, relationship goals, or health goals, they just feel harder to attain and when something is so hard it’s so easy for our minds to give up and just not do it. But we have to be careful, because that giving up can lead to hopelessness, which can lead to depression, which can then make it even harder to set goals and live the life we want to live. You might be saying, “but Kelsey, how can I live the life I want to live when I’m in so much pain, and I’m struggling so much?” And that is a valid question. Journeys to living our best lives aren’t easy for people who are healthy, so they are far less easy for those who are not, which is why I believe that starting to set goals for ourselves early on, before that hopelessness sets in, is essential. (For those of you who are already struggling from depression, goal setting is still very important, but I recommend seeking out a therapist to help you on your journey, this post is going to focus on goal setting when our mental health is doing better).
Personal, career, relationship, and health goals are all possible to set and achieve. The easiest strategy for goal setting, that is often used in business AND is what we use in counselling, are SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting goals this way, will help you have a step-by-step process that will make it easier to reach your goals. With chronic illness, our goals might be smaller than our healthy peers. Maybe a health goal is to walk around the block rather than run a half marathon (or if your ultimate goal is to run that half marathon, we might have to start with the goal of walking around the block). Before we jump into some examples of these SMART goals, I want to just stop for a minute and talk about realistic versus unrealistic goals. I think it gets a little fuzzy with Spoonies because sometimes we can either limit ourselves in what we believe we can do, or we try to ignore our limitations and believe we can do more than we can. The truth is, only you know if you fall into one of these categories, or if you’re being completely realistic about your goals. Using the marathon example, if you believe you could NEVER run a marathon (even if it is technically possible) than you might limit yourself in the box of continuing to struggle with going for walks (I’m not saying this is or isn’t fitting for you and your story, just an example of what could happen). On the other end, if you believe you could run a marathon within a year but you struggle with pain when you take a few steps, that is also not necessarily realistic (again, depending on you). My point is, we want to have realistic expectations of ourselves when we set goals, and sometimes those can change when we make these smaller goals, and take one step at a time.
Let’s do an example of a SMART goal with something from my life. (By the way I have a million goals, some of them are “life” goals and will take a lot of time to build up to – thus the baby steps – and some of them are smaller goals). This month I’m participating in a 30-day yoga challenge. So, I’m going to use that as my goal.
S(pecific) – Participate in Timothy Gordon’s 30-day yoga challenge (found on YouTube here) at around 5pm every day.
M(easurable) – Tracked daily by viewing the videos in order: Days 1-30
A(ttainable) – the videos are between 15-30 minutes in length, and I have been doing this style of yoga (yin) for 10 months, so yes it is attainable.
R(elevant) – this has a dual purpose for me: to get present and centred in my body (which is helpful for chronic pain and mental health), and for light exercise (also helpful for chronic pain and mental health).
T(ime-bound) – I started on March 1 so I will end on March 30.
Therefore my goal is: To participate in Timothy Gordon’s 30-day yoga challenge at around 5pm daily from March 1 to 30, which is based on my current fitness level and will improve my chronic pain and mental health through being present and light exercise.
If, for example, you wanted to have a similar goal but were not used to doing yoga or this style of yoga, you could spread it out over two months and do it every other day. I hope you get the idea though. It’s important to set a goal around your health when you have a chronic illness. Just setting one goal at a time, and accomplishing it can feel really good and improve your overall quality of life (which then will likely improve your mood as well). If you have questions about this kind of goal setting, or really any questions at all, feel free to reach out! Also, my podcast episode with Katie and my one with Trachele, are really good to check out as they relate to goal setting with chronic illness.
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I’m quite into mindfulness practices. I’ve found them to be quite helpful. Whether you’re dealing with a chronic physical illness, mental illness, or just daily life stresses, mindfulness can be amazingly helpful to get yourself centred and present. Just doing 10-15 minutes of meditation a day, or going for a mindful walk (especially if that gets you out in nature) can reduce anxiety and increase focus and attention. There has been tons of research done on the subject if you don’t want to take my word for it.
I was introduced to mindfulness first by my naturopath, who suggested downloading an app (such as Headspace or Calm) and trying to do some meditations through there. My psychotherapist was not far behind to recommend it as well. I started slow and progressed as I became more comfortable doing the practices. 5 minutes turned into 10 which turned into 15. This is basically how I suggest starting if you haven’t done so yet.
So what are these lessons from mindfulness. I have three for you today.
Distinguishing “future problems” from “today problems” – I used to worry a lot more and have a lot more anxiety about the future than I do now. One of the best lessons mindfulness taught me was how to stay present enough to focus on today, rather than worry about tomorrow. As I just moved across the country, this has been very helpful. Many people have asked if I will stay out here after practicum. “I don’t know” is my answer. Why? Because that’s a future problem. A today problem is setting up my apartment or another is getting prepared for practicum (which starts tomorrow!). I no longer worry about future problems until that future is right around the corner. There’s enough on my mind as it is. Mindfulness can help you develop this skill.
Appreciating the moment – this totally ties into being present as the above lesson does. In the past few days when I have been stressed because there is so much to get done, I’ve gone outside for a moment and appreciated that I am literally in the middle of the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. The Okanagan valley is surrounded by stunning nature and I’ve found that to be instantly calming. Even if you don’t live somewhere quite as visually pleasing, mindfulness can help you appreciate the things that you do enjoy. When I lived in Toronto (which is literally the opposite of where I am now), I was able to appreciate the liveliness of downtown (pre-pandemic) and the closeness of Lake Ontario. When I lived in LA, I could appreciate the constant sunlight and beautiful whether. The point is, there is always something to appreciate, whether in nature or in your life, and staying present can help you do that.
The final lesson is non-judgment – I used to be way more judgmental, of myself, of others. Of course, it’s completely human nature to judge and I don’t think it’s possible to be nonjudgmental 100% of the time. However, mindfulness can help with non-judgment more often than not, and it can help you catch yourself when you are being judgmental. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, no one is perfect. Hell, my mindfulness aren’t perfect, and they aren’t supposed to be. By letting that judgment go, you can feel more at peace (at least I do), and that is a really good lesson.
I hope you have some takeaways from today, especially if you haven’t tried mindfulness. I’m not saying that it’s a cure for anything or that it works for everyone. And it definitely requires patience (you might need to practice consistently for a month or more to see any results). What it can do is help you lead a better life and make the most of it (if you give it and yourself the chance).