Mindfulness is vital in uncertain times.
Mindfulness is more than a live in the moment concept, it can be a vital and beneficial tool for personal wellness and stress management. With the current coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, local registered psychotherapist Kim Madden says mindful practices can help to ease some of the distress and anxiety people are feeling.
Madden adopted mindful tactics in her practice more than 20 years ago and says she found it to be an invaluable tool for assisting her clients through their own personal pain and trauma.
“When people are coming for counselling, they're here for themselves and for very personal reasons. And so, the ability to focus on what's important for them, any way I can help a client do that, I think is really important.”
Mindfulness is the practice of drawing your attention to the present and being aware of your thoughts and emotions, moment by moment. It involves noticing and accepting what comes up for you while experiencing those thoughts and emotions, without judgement.
She says though she initially used mindfulness at the beginning of a counselling session to assist with focus, she soon began using facets of it throughout her practice, and her clients have been receptive.
“When I talk to clients about the basic tenets of (mindfulness), it makes sense to them. It really resonates for people,” she says.
Her clients begin to use mindful tactics to address their own reactions, she says. By using mindfulness, they can see that they’re trying to resist or move away from that reaction.
“People typically can identify that in doing so they create more distress for themselves. So, they understand why building capacity to be able to sit with whatever life presents, and practicing kindness and self-compassion with self is really the way through,” she says.
And at a time when many of us are feeling more anxious and fearful than we maybe normally would, the ability to sit with how we’re feeling and acknowledge where these feelings are coming from can be incredibly helpful.
“I'm a big believer that when we acknowledge these things it allows us to experience the fullness of what's happening.”
Madden was introduced to mindfulness about 25 years ago, she says, when then premier of Ontario Mike Harris supported mindfulness-based stress reduction being partly covered by OHIP.
“I found that really interesting,” she says. “And the research was so clear that in cultivating a practice, people maybe weren't cured, but their ability to be with their illness (increased) and some of their symptoms were decreased.”
“So that was a real eye opener I think.”
She says mindfulness can mean different things for different people. She suggests various tools that can be used outside of sessions – yoga, meditation, etc. And while some may not be comfortable sitting in meditation or approaching mindfulness in such a structured way, she says she offers alternatives that may suit each individual.
“I once worked with a person who wasn't so interested in sitting and practicing mindfulness, but he had a beautiful motorcycle.”
She says when he cleaned that motorcycle, he was practicing mindfulness. Whatever allows people to be absolutely present in the moment is beneficial.
Being able to be in the moment, no matter the task, is practicing mindfulness. She says that’s really important in times like this.
“And I think to be able to acknowledge how difficult it is to live with uncertainty.”
**Madden in a registered psychotherapist and consultant with a practice in the Niagara Region. Visit her website here.
"I have a particular interest in working with clients who are challenged by anxiety, the impact of interpersonal trauma and life transitions."