Mindfulness and Anxiety

Have you heard about Mindfulness ? If not where have you been hiding, it’s all the rage and all the cool kids are doing it !

Mindfulness is a concept that the West has borrowed principally from Buddhist meditation practices, and has been popularised over the past 40 years in the west. One of the leading pioneers of mindfulness is Dr Jon Kabat Zinn, who applied the concept of mindfulness to combating stress and anxiety.

He created an eight week program called Mindfulness Based Stress Management (MBSR). Another similar course is called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. These programs have been researched scientifically and found to be very effective in helping to reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and even chronic pain.

 

So what exactly is Mindfulness.  Well in a nut shell, mindfulness is method of distancing ourselves from unhelpful thoughts and emotions. Jon Kabat Zinn defines mindfulness as “Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment , non-judgmentally”

The benefits of mindfulness includes ;

  • Reduced rumination or worrying
  • Stress reduction
  • Boosts working memory
  • Better focus
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • More cognitive flexibility

You can find out more about the benefits of mindfulness here … Mindfulness Benefits

There is a great TED Talk about Mindfulness here too

 

 

How can this help with anxiety ?

Well, the cause of anxiety are our thoughts. Now sometimes our anxiety is useful, and we as humans evolved to have anxiety to keep us safe from harm. However, sometimes our mind can indulge in worry too much and trigger our fight or flight response prematurely. This is akin to the smoke detector being activated in your kitchen by slightly burning some toast.

By learning to adopt a perspective of mindfulness to our thoughts and emotions, we can gradually become less reactive to them, so that we recognise that the issue is just burned toast, and not a real fire.

Getting started with Mindfulness

There are lots of apps around to learn mindfulness, such as Smiling Mind, however in my experience it is establishing a regular mindfulness practice that is the tricky bit. However there is a 4 week online course available for FREE from Monash University, called Mindfulness for Wellbeing & Peak Performance.  I will be doing this course over the next 4 weeks, and writing some posts about my experience, and I’d like to invite you to join me, and share your experiences.

Another option is to learn a couple of mindfulness techniques from singer-songwriter, Jewel ……. right here …. right now.

 

 

 

 

 


World Mental Health Day: Do you see what I see?

Today is World Mental Health Day. A good day to stop and take a minute, and ask what you know about mental health.

When I first opened the website I was met with today’s date. 10th October. 10/10. For me this made me question what does it mean to feel 10/10? Is that even a possibility? Is striving for 10/10 something that should be our goal in life?

There are A LOT of myths around happiness and how if we could just be happy everything would be perfect. Well, that’s not the case. Even if things are going ‘perfectly’ we may not feel happy all the time.  That’s because as humans our natural state is to feel a whole range of emotions and if we only try and feel one emotion, such as happiness, then we are actually putting a lot of pressure (and sometimes judgement) on ourselves for feeling anything other than happy. Russ Harris writes about this in his book “The Happiness Trap” (available from the UON library in electronic and hard copy) and the video below shares some of the benefits of NOT falling into the happiness trap!

Besides helping our own mental health, we also need to be mindful that falling for the happiness trap can lead to us judging others around us who may be struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. Thus increasing the stigma associated with this issue. How many times have you seen a meme about how exercise and fresh air is a natural anti-depressant? Or one of my favourites of what if we treated physical health issues like mental health issues?

As the World Mental Health Day website outlines we need to be aware that “stigma around mental illness due to misunderstanding or prejudice remains an issue in Australia, delaying or preventing people from wanting or feeling able to seek help, and impacting adversely on their lives” and that it is part of everyone’s responsibility to be aware of the damage that can be done by these misconceptions and misunderstandings. You might be surprised to learn that 1 out of 5 Australians are affected by mental health. And according to recent findings this number is believed to be 1 in 4 in the Australian tertiary student population.

So what can you do today?

  • Perhaps have a check in on your own mental health. Do you feel 10/10. Is that OK? It may be that you want to challenge yourself to accept that you are allowed to be feeling 7/10 or it may be a reminder to practice some self care. But if you’re feeling lower is it time to have a chat with someone?

 

  • Could you check in on someone else? A couple of weeks ago was RUOK Day which was a good reminder that we need to all keep an eye on each other and be comfortable asking are you OK?

 

  • This leads to the next thing you might want to consider today and that is how you can help promote the mental health and wellbeing in your community. One idea might be something small and simple like challenging stereotypes around mental health, perhaps by sharing a cartoon like this one on social media.. You never know who will see it and what it may mean to someone in your life.

 


Free online programs for stress and anxiety

As we come towards the second half of semester, some of you may be feeling a bit stressed or looking for some strategies to help you manage anxiety or improve your wellbeing.

An easy way to learn some new skills and strategies is to complete an online treatment or training program. There are a range of free programs that have been developed to help with a different issues – some are more general such as ‘coping with stress’ or ‘intro to mindfulness’, where others are designed to target specific problems such as OCD or Social Anxiety.Many of the courses have online questionnaires, recovery stories, videos, worksheets, and additional resources.

Some of the advantages of online programs are:

  • they can be completed any time of the day or night
  • they are free or low cost
  • there are no waiting periods
  • you don’t have to travel anywhere
  • you can do them in your pyjamas

Sometimes one of the downsides can be that it is hard to get the motivation to complete the course. One way to deal with this is to link up with a counsellor who can check in with you on a regular basis about your progress and how you are going applying the skills. Alternatively, you could complete a course such as mindfulness or managing stress with a friend.

Below are some of the online wellbeing programs offered free or at a low cost:

  • eCLiPSE (UON) – a portal for UON students offing access to four separate programs designed to support people considering reducing their substance use (including smoking) and improving mental health. Programs are free and range from 4 weeks to 10 weeks. Support is available from UON Counsellors to complete these programs.

 

  • Coping with Stress (This Way Up) – a free four lesson program using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to manage stress effectively.

 

  • Managing Insomnia (This Way Up) – a free four lesson program which is designed to teach Cognitive Behavioural Therapy skills to manage insomnia.

 

 

  • Intro to Mindfulness (This Way Up) – a four lesson program designed for people interested in learning about mindfulness and meditation

 

  • Mindspot courses – a range of free programs on different topics, including wellbeing, mood, OCD, PTSD, Indigenous Wellbeing and Chronic Pain.

 

For other program and online resources, please see here.

If you are a current UON student and think you would like some professional support while completing any of the programs, we would be happy to provide support via emails, phone or skype. Just send us an email to onlinecounselling at uon.edu.au


The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to RPS@newcastle.edu.au.
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