top of page

What exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is both the way you look at living and is a resilient brain skill that reduces your stress response.

A mindful state of mind is a purposeful and deliberate way of looking at your experience in the complete present. When you are mindful and facing anxiety and stress, you look at these emotions from an observers vantage point. You are aware of the stress and anxiety flowing through your mind and body without feeling completely merged with it. You become more than whatever is happening in your mind and body at this very time.

People that have chronic illnesses tend to have a lot of fear about their illness, fear of what the future holds.

Being mindful replaces that fear and emotional reactivity with an open curiosity. What is that thought or feeling that is arising? What does it look like and feel like?

Approaching this fear ( stress response) with non judgement is a key part in mindfulness. When your amygdala ( a almond shaped structure right in the middle of your brain, which evolved specifically to respond to stress) triggers this stress response, you automatically begin to label the reaction as a threat that you need to escape now!

By observing your mind, you can avoid these negative emotions. You can deliberately redirect your mind back to observing your feelings and thoughts with a completely open mind. This changes the experience of fear and stress by taking the terror and panic out of it.

Mindfulness of your senses.

When the amygdala sounds off the alert bell, you tend to lose touch with the present moment because your emergency response checks in. For me, when I would out of the blue become completely off balance and my eyes became blurred the sense of panic set in. I felt the need to do something right away, I felt I needed to run away quickly from these overwhelming feelings. But, when I stop and deliberately focus my attention on my senses instead, I would move from a "doing, getting, or avoiding" mindset to "noticing and describing" what's around me. I would feel more present and connected by doing this. This deliberately directs the brain to focus on relaxing and calms down the stress response.

Mindfulness of actual objects.

This is one of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness.. Another way to calm down our stressed out brain is to focus on what's around you at that moment. If you're feeling anxious or stressed while socializing, out to dinner or just at home, try silently naming three objects in the room and describe the color, the shape, the texture of the object and so on. This moves your brain and the wiring of your mind from 'fight, flight, or freeze" mode to "notice and describe" mode.

Many dealing with an invisible illness/chronic illness have moved into what's called "chronic stress".

Your stress response was designed to help you survive immediate threat, like moving out of the way of an incoming car, but when your body uses a system that was designed just for acute stress (short term stressor) over a long period of time, it can create wear and tear and your mind and body.

This brings me to the chronic stress response that continues more than a couple hours or days. Chronic stress can have negative effects on your mind and body, especially if you feel helpless to change the circumstances, such as a chronic illness.

if you can't see the way out of your situation despite all your efforts, you are very likely to become worried and anxious. This can lead to high blood pressure, pain, weight gain and fatigue.

The amazing news is that being more mindful, you can start to transform the stress response into feeling more energized and grounded. You can begin to re-wire and change the way your brain processes and interprets stress. By continually practicing new ways of thinking and behaving can actually change the neural pathways and chemicals in your brain.


bottom of page