Whether you think you can, or think you can’t–you’re right. –Henry Ford
How do you cope with stressful or troublesome situations? Some may face it head on, solving the problem, thus making the unpleasant feeling subside. Others may avoid the problem, constantly pushing it aside and hoping it will disappear. We have become quite good at ignoring unpleasant emotions in order to carry on day to day. We even think it is working, until just one more stressful event comes our way and that is what we call the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The reality is that making the actual problem go away, whether by ignoring it or solving it, is not always within our control. The good news is that what is in our control is our mind. Mindfulness is defined by Marsha Linehan, PhD, as “awareness without judgment of what is via direct and immediate experience.” Mindfulness has both eastern and western roots and used in many evidenced based practices, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is used in conjunction with other techniques to treat borderline personality disorder, depression, and to reduce stress.
With mindfulness, there is no pressure to stop feeling sad if you are sad, or angry if you are angry. Mindfulness helps you bring your attention to that feeling and possibly examine who, what, when, where, or how it came to be. Again, there is no pressure to solve the problem or “get over it.” With mindfulness, you learn you can cope with unpleasant emotions and situations. It is a seemingly simple concept that takes practice! It involves believing that even if you cannot control a situation, you can control how much distress it brings you.
For those life situations that require patience and acceptance and those experiences we would rather not face, try mindfulness. You can even practice it every day to bring awareness to the little things in life. Take a walk through a park to focus on the sounds of the birds and the smell of the grass. Enjoy some chocolate cake and focus on the flavor and texture. Dance around to your favorite song without worrying about how silly you might look. If some stress floats into your mind during one of these activities, simply accept that it is there without judgment, and focus your attention back to what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in the present moment.
For more information on mindfulness practices visit: http://behavioraltech.org/resources/mindfulness.cfm for a description of a typical practice and a list of readings.
Samantha Tyler, NCC, M.S./ Ed.S.
Forensic Residential Program Supervisor