Learn Mindfulness


This is a word I use a lot in counseling, especially when my clients are dealing with anxiety.
Often times our bodies will provide hints about our emotional state, long before we experience overwhelming emotions or pain. As we learn to "clue in" to our bodies, we can keep stress from growing.

For example, during a mindfulness exercise, one of my clients realized she was clenching her fists. The clenching surprised her, but as she pondered on why her fists were clenched, she realized that she clenches her fists a lot! During future counseling sessions she would often talk about her hands, because she was now aware that her hands were the first clue to her stress. When she found herself clenching her fists, she could stop and think about her feelings and then decide how to calm herself down before she became more upset.

Another example is from a client experiencing stomachaches. As she learned how to be in-tune with her body through breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises, she realized her stomachaches were stress related and not food related. (See some previous posts here and here.) Whenever she noticed a stomachache coming on, she could stop and ponder on her stress level; thereby reducing the stress and the stomachache more quickly than before.

Without further ado, here is a mindfulness exercises I commonly use with clients:

To start off, find a quiet spot away from distractions.
Sit comfortably in your chair, and focus on your breathing.
Allow yourself to breathe in deep, calm, and refreshing breaths. Exhale tension and stress.
Continue to inhale and exhale in this way for a few more breaths until you start to feel relaxed.

Now, imagine there is a scanner bar just above your head. This is a special scanner bar, as it has the power to pinpoint tension in your body. In a moment, it will  begin to descend, slowly, in front of your body. As it descends, you notice that it glows a different color whenever it notices stress in your body. Notice where it finds that tension.
Imagine the scanner bar slowly descending down your head and neck, then slowly descending down your torso and chest. Remember the areas that changed color due to stress.
Imagine the scanner bar slowly finishing its descent past your legs and feet and finally reaching the floor.
At this point, the scanner bar turns around and starts to move upward. You realize the scanner bar will do a second and final scan of your body while moving upwards.
As the scanner bar slowly ascends, notice when the scanner bar changes color. These are areas in your body where stress is found.
Eventually the scanner reaches its original position, just above your head.

At this point, I discuss the mindfulness exercise with clients. So, give yourself time to ponder on how you feel, where the scanner bar picked up stress in your body, and what those results mean for your wellness. What surprised you? What tension did you expect? How can you use this knowledge as a tool to combat stress? What bodily clues will help you overcome stress before it worsens?

As you enhance your body's mindfulness, you will see a positive difference in your stress coping skills.
Good luck with this exercise! Click here for more relaxation scripts.