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Stress is Eating Your Brain! How Mindfulness Can Help You Through The Corona Stress.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness and meditation aren’t just yoga and hipsters with top buns. Although, Lifeologie is down with that! We’re also down for helping you get through The Coronopocaplype! That’s why we want you to know how mindfulness can help you! 

Mindfulness is working towards being fully aware in the present moment. This means, without judging your thoughts, rather just noticing them (don’t worry, a lot of people struggle with this at first). So many people, like I noted in my recent blog about anxiety, are having a hard time with present-focused thinking. This makes sense. There is so much uncertainty right now and a lot feels really out of our control. 

Mindfulness then is paying full attention to what is going on, whether your present moment is perceived as good or bad. Not all of our moments are good moments. Mindfulness allows us to increasingly accept even our bad moments for what they are, which can be really pretty empowering for our current state of events. Being mindful is allowing thoughts and emotions to pass, rather than responding in overly negative ways. I don’t know about you, but this is pretty ideal for me, especially in the Coronapocalypse.  

What exactly about practicing mindfulness is helpful?

It helps important parts of your brain stay online! This is exactly what we need right now with the overload of information that is changing daily. We need our brains online. 

Keep reading.  

The brain has a few parts that are impacted by mindfulness. Mindfulness helps your brain be less dumb (I’ll get to this, you’re not actually dumb). Mindfulness actually helps you connect more to your “smart brain”, the prefrontal cortex and is the portion of our brain that helps to rationalize that the world is not actually ending right now even if it feels like it is. 

When we’re heightened or anxious (Really anxious because you were just told the state is “shutting down”), angry, or in danger, our reptilian brain, known as the “smoke detector” becomes activated and sends out signals (the “dumb” brain, see YOU aren’t dumb, this section just doesn’t need to THINK). These signals are the “fight, flight, freeze” response. This gives you a quick reaction time, which you’d need if a bear were going to eat you. Many people’s fight, flight and freeze response went off when they ran to Meijer to get toilet paper and other stock supply items once news broke that Michigan had positive cases. 

There is another section in your brain called the default mode network (DMN), this piece is important because this section is the part of your brain that is responsible for us obsessing about our pasts and our futures in ruminanative ways, in super unproductive manners. We’re not in our present moments when we’re using this part of our brain and right now this for a lot of us, can look a lot like this; “Life was SO much better when my child was in school and I could just go to work.” 

So what mindfulness helps us to do is to calm our brain.

Mindfulness allows us to stay a little longer in the smart brain so that we can use logic and thinking before making decisions. This practice helps you to rationally recognize the wonderful thoughts like; “I do have enough toilet paper at home” or “I don’t need 5 containers of bleach wipes”.  While we need both brains, we need the smart brain more often. We need this for that rational thinking, short term memory, higher functioning thought patterns, and LOGIC! 

The parts of the brain responsible for things like negative thinking, overuse of judgement, and really strong emotions no longer dominate with mindfulness practice. When mindfulness is utilized often, the brain is rewired in a positive way. The more you practice, the more you will notice: increased focused capacities, decreased distraction, increased positive thought patterns, less stress, lowered anxiety, lowered depressive symptoms, etc. Like trying to help your 5th grader with math homework you don’t remember how to do anyways. Get it? 

So how can I practice mindfulness?

Here are some great ideas to start off right away at home:

  •   Mindful walk (Be in the present, bring yourself back when you get distracted, remember, nonjudgmental thoughts)
  •   Focus on your breath and think of it as a color as you do this
  •   Eat with no tv and in silence, only paying attention to your food
  •   5 minutes of mindfulness with your animal
  •   Light a candle
  •   Grounding exercise

When it comes to the grounding exercise if you need some guidance for this feel free to use google for your guide!! Here is a link to one of my favorite grounding exercises. I use this one with most of my clients and I find it to be very useful for myself as well. It is called the 5 senses.

Some other items that we have found helpful here at Lifeologie are some apps and websites that we use ourselves and often share with our clients. Some are free and some you’ll need to pay for a subscription for.

  • Insight timer (APP, Subscription, but also FREE for providers with an NPI number right now)
  • Calm (APP) (In-app Purchases)
  • Breathe (APP) (In-app Purchases)
  • Headspace (APP) (Subscription, but also FREE for providers with an NPI number right now)
  •  Shine (Subscription)
  • Mindful.org
  • http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22
  • Pocketmindfulness.com

You can practice Mindfulness in many ways. This can be with yoga work (you can do that here at the office with Marissa!) I use a lot of breathwork and mindfulness with my client in EMDR for grounding and resourcing to wrap up sessions. If you think we can help you out with cultivating a practice, lowering stress, and managing stress, anxiety or depression, the events of the world right now with this skill, we’re here for you!

About the Author:

Amanda Martin Grand Rapids Ada Counselor

Amanda Martin, LMSW

Amanda knows that coming to therapy can be tough. She will put you at ease within minutes. Amanda works with people that have experienced trauma, are struggling with substance use, and with new mommas and poppas being impacted by pregnancy-related concerns! She loves using EMDR, just ask her about it!

 

 

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Mental health services update:

At a time when mental health services are more important than ever, Lifeologie Counseling Grand Rapids is offering remote therapy, remote group and mini-sessions, and free 15 minute sessions for front-line workers.