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Posts Tagged ‘Mindfulness’

I enjoy walking during my lunchtime. When I do, this break away from my desk refreshes me. It helps me re-focus as I breathe in the fresh air and take a few minutes to get out of the “work mode”.

A few weeks ago, while crossing the railroad tracks behind my office, I noticed that someone ran through the railroad crossing bar in their haste to “beat the train”.  I see this happen every few weeks – someone hears the signal that a train is approaching; they speed up and try to get through the tracks before the cross bar comes down. It always surprises me that we are in such a hurry that we would risk our lives to save a few minutes.

Rail Road crossing bar hit by a vehicleAs my picture shows, the person made it through without being hit by a train but they damaged the safety bar at this railroad crossing – I’m sure their car was also damaged. We called the number of the RR company and the sheriff to report this violation.

I saw another example of stress, haste and anxiety during my morning commute this week. While at a red light, I glanced over at the driver beside me. She covered her face/eyes with her hands as she realized something that she remembered she needed to do. She pulled into a place of business to text, turn around or get re-focused. I was happy she decided to pull over and handle the situation she faced. This was a safe solution to her dilemma.

Why is this important? In the frantic pace of our lives, we make quick and impulsive decisions that may affect many lives in a negative way. Check out these stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at U.S. Department of Transportation:

Three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of a motorist’s home.  Fifty percent of all crashes occur within five miles of home.

A calculation of NHTSA statistics on the rate of deaths per collision in vehicle/vehicle crashes versus the Federal Railroad Administration statistics of deaths per collision in vehicle/train crashes reveals:

A motorist is almost 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in a collision involving another motor vehicle. 

What can you do to pause the hectic pace of your life? 

  • Practice a savoring walk where you avoid distractions and focus on your surroundings.
  • Explore mindfulness practices to help you tame your mind, relax, or re-focus.
  • Slow your pace and practice walking meditation. This relaxed pace can help you focus on your surroundings and the sensations you experience.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Tai Chi, meditation, yoga or focused breathing can help you cope with stress.

How can you pause and savor your life? Share your comments below.

Writer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Sources:

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/walking_meditation

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/savoring_walk#

https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/assets/Harvard%20Now%20and%20Zen%20Reading%20Materials.pdf

https://livehealthyosu.com/2016/04/11/taming-stress-using-stress-busters/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml#pub4

https://oli.org/about-us/news/collisions-casulties

https://oli.org/education-resources/driving-safety-tips

https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/integrative-complementary-medicine/mindfulness-practices

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One of my friends underwent a cancer biopsy this week. She is waiting the results of a pathology lab for diagnosis. Will it be cancer with a treatment plan of some sort, or will her results be benign?

Waiting on results from an important medical test or pathology report is enough to make anyone’s anxiety soar. It seems the waiting is sometimes worse than the diagnosis. The unknown. The period of limbo. Holding your breath… afraid to exhale.

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When the stakes are high, waiting on a diagnosis can escalate stress and take a toll on you. A study from the National Institute of Health found that awaiting diagnosis of cancer after a biopsy was associated with higher anxiety than waiting for invasive and potentially risky treatment. This stress can weaken one’s immune system and slow healing. The longer the wait time, the more anxiety tends to increase. Thanks to online medical portals and new technology in diagnosis, sometimes the wait time is shortened. Part of the struggle in the waiting is the feeling of vulnerability and helplessness. Once you receive a diagnosis, you can at least work with your doctor to implement a treatment plan. But what can you do while you’re waiting?

journal

You can do some pre-diagnostic coping to help yourself reduce anxiety.

  • Do whatever has helped you reduce stress in the past.
  • Eat healthy during times of stress.
  • Distract yourself with a good book, a hobby, work, or a good movie.
  • Try meditation and journaling.
  • Keep the situation in perspective, don’t awful-ize it!
  • Mindful breathing can be a life-saver.
  • Find support in family, friends, support groups, mental health counselor and faith-based organizations.

As I write this blog article, my friend is still awaiting her results. She seems to be handling it well and when I asked her how, she responded… “I woke up the morning of my biopsy with this phrase in my head: ‘God’s got this, I’m just along for the ride.’” Her faith is a source of support for her, along with family, friends and co-workers. These same sources of support will continue to be there for her even after diagnosis, whatever it may be.

If you are awaiting medical results (or any other big potentially stressful news) surround yourself with support and don’t hesitate to ask for help. And keep breathing… deeply.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County.

Sources:

Barlage, L. Have you tried “Journaling” your Stressors?? Live Healthy Live Well. 2015, May 15.

Brinkman, P. Eating Better During Stressful Times. Live Healthy Live Well. 2015, May 7.

Carter, S. Don’t Awful-ize It! Live Smart Ohio. 2015, Sep 11.

Carter, S. Breathing… Live Smart Ohio. 2015, July 31.

Flory N & Lang E. Distress in the radiology waiting room. Radiology. 2011 Jul;260(1):166-73. doi: 10.1148/radiol.11102211. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

Lang E, Berbaum K & Lutgendorf S. Large-core breast biopsy: abnormal salivary cortisol profiles associated with uncertainty of diagnosis. Radiology. 2009 Mar;250(3):631-7. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2503081087.

 

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When was the last time you paid attention to something you ate?

That might seem like a silly question, but all too often, we rush through our meals and snacks without stopping to think about what we’re doing: how our food looks, smells and tastes. I have to admit, even as a dietitian and food educator, I am just as guilty as the next person! I often eat lunch at my desk while working, since my office does not have a formal break room or lunch hour. Consequently, because my mind is focused on tasks other than eating, I consume my lunch without noticing its taste, appearance or texture.

pasta-salad-1967501_1920One day while eating lunch at my desk, though, I was struck by the saltiness of an olive in a bite that I took of Mediterranean pasta salad. The taste caused me to pause, eat my lunch one bite at a time, and pay more attention to the dish. In this instance, I was practicing mindful eating.

Mindful eating is a form of mindfulness, which is the practice of paying attention in the present moment without judgement. Mindful eating is the practice of being more aware of your eating habits, the sensations you experience as you eat (tastes, smells, textures, etc.) and the thoughts and emotions you have about your food. When you eat mindfully, you:

  • Use all your senses
  • Acknowledge your responses to food (i.e. like, dislike or neutral) without judgement
  • Become aware of hunger and satiety (fullness) cues

When you practice mindful eating, you allow yourself to choose to eat food that is both satisfying and nourishing to your body. And, not only do mindful eaters tend to enjoy their food more than distracted eaters; research suggests that mindful eating can help with weight control and also steer people away from processed food and other less-healthful food choices. The underlying premise here is that it takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to catch up with the stomach and register fullness after eating, so slowing down your eating may help you to realize when you’re full before you overeat.

If you tend to eat too quickly and need some strategies to slow down, try: cutlery-908480_1280

  • Eating with your non-dominant hand
  • Putting your fork down between bites
  • Taking a sip of water between each bite
  • Using chopsticks if you don’t normally use them
  • Putting away cell phones and other electronic devices
  • Practicing gratitude for your food as you think about where it came from and all the people who worked to bring it to you
  • Eating with others and having a conversation over your meal

 

Sources:

Carter, S. (2013). Mindful Eating. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2013/10/21/mindful-eating/

Harvard Health Letter (2011). Mindful Eating. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating

University of New Hampshire, Office of Health Education and Promotion. Mindful Eating. https://www.unh.edu/health/ohep/nutrition/mindful-eating

 

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

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bar-local-cong-ireland-63633.jpegOn a recent trip to New York City I visited an Irish pub. As I sat and enjoyed the surroundings, I began to realize that when patrons left the pub, they would ring a bell that hung from the ceiling and recite poetry. At first I thought the activity was quirky and fun, but as time passed, I began to realize that every single patron cited poetry before they exited.

I heard Frost, Dickinson, Shakespeare and Whitman; just to name a few.  Each poem was beautiful and given by memory!  As the bell rang, everyone inside the pub stopped what they were doing to listen intently to the poetry and cheer on the reciter.

I began to segue from enjoying the moment to full-blown panic mode. What poems did I know?  Could I remember any from my childhood?  Is Dr. Seuss considered a poet?  Why isn’t my Wi-Fi working on my phone? Why can’t I search the internet for help?

Thankfully, I got a grip on myself, remembered to take a deep breath, and relax. My training in mindfulness kicked in. We’re taught to take time to build a “mindful” activity each and every day. It may be any routine activity you complete daily, such as:

  • Being outside and enjoying the warmth of the sunshine
  • Washing your hands and feeling the warmth of the water on your skin
  • Listening to the birds sing outside your window

Slowing down and giving those tasks your full attention helps you appreciate small moments of stillness.

When we are mindful and pay attention to the details of our experiences, we show up for our lives. We do not miss out by being distracted or wishing things were different.

Find your inner calm by adding these strategies into your daily life:

  • Unplug – turn off the electronics and enjoy the still
  • Declutter – clear out the cupboards and organize your desk to give you a sense of order
  • Breathe – take a moment and just breathe
  • Exercise – find time to exercise and release endorphins
  • Read a poem aloud – your mental “to-do list” melts away and thoughts focus entirely on the lyrical sounds of the words

Incorporate one or more of these strategies into your daily habits and you will be well on your way to increasing your inner calm!

By the way, after allowing my mind to clear from it’s panic stricken state, I finally recalled the poem The Dust of Snow by Robert Frost:

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued

 

Thanks to my eighth grade English teacher for requiring us to memorize a poem!

What poem would you recite?

Written by: Beth Stefura, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Mahoning County

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Erie County

References:

psychologytoday.com/blog/lifetime-connections/201702/5-strategies-finding-calm-in-turbulent-life

 

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Have you ever had a great idea come to you while in the shower? Why is it that the best thoughts seem to occur when we’re not prepared to write them down? For me, my mind seems to be most creative when I’m driving, walking my dog, riding my bike, or doing housework – not when I’m at work or sitting in front of a computer. I have noticed a common theme in these activities: solitude.

The word solitude tends to have a negative connotation, but it is not the same as loneliness or boredom. Loneliness is described as the pain of being alone when companionship is desired. It is something imposed on you by others. Solitude, on the other hand, is something you choose. It is a constructive state, a time of self-reflection and engagement with oneself that often results in innovation and creative thinking. Solitude renews the mind; loneliness depletes it.

Although walking the dog, doing chores and driving are not things I always enjoy doing, these activities do provide me with the opportunity to disconnect from technology and let my mind wander. Taking time to be alone can seem like a waste in the busy, fast-paced world we live in today, but it is more valuable than one might think! Solitude was named one of the ten habits of highly creative people by the authors of the book “Wired To Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind”. Daydreaming is another habit, which often occurs during simple activities done in solitude such as walking and cleaning.

How might you embrace solitude and provide your mind with space to wander in the midst of your daily life? Maybe you could try:

Going into work early. If you can work an early arrival into your schedule, you may be able to get some quiet work done before your co-workers arrive and new emails start to come in.

Taking short “mental breaks” throughout the day. Step away from your computer every couple of hours to stretch or take a walk, if possible, or to practice mindfulness.

Minimizing distractions. Consider turning off phone and email notifications when you’re working on an important project to stay focused without unnecessary interruptions.

Taking a technology break. Set limits on technology use to enjoy quality time with family or in nature.

Do you have another suggestion for embracing solitude? Share your suggestions in the comment box below!

 

Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Sources:

Kaufman, S.B. & Gregoire, C. (2016). Ten Habits of Highly Creative People. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_habits_of_highly_creative_people

Marano, H.E. (2016). What is Solitude? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/what-is-solitude.

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I recently re-read an older study that found those who had watches had higher levels of stress and heart disease. The conclusion was that those who checked their watches were more worried about being places, being on time, etc. This study reminded me of my behavior when I lost my watch, and felt lost for a while. In fact I kept checking my wrist to see what time it was. I can’t say that I was less stressed without my watch, or at least from my recollection. I wondered if the watch example relates to other monitoring, or checking activities we do every day like weighing ourselves, setting alarms, checking e-mails, getting dings on each new text, traffic alerts of a broken down car ahead, using a steps counter, monitoring heart rate, sitting time, blood pressure, or blood sugars? There are even devices that measure stress! Are all of these “feedback” devices important and necessary to our health and quality of life?

As a type 1 diabetic, I check my blood glucose about 3 times per day and make adjustments to what I eat, do, or how much insulin I take. I’ve been considering a continuous blood glucose monitor that will check my sugar automatically every 5 minutes so that I would be better able to manage diabetes. It should make me healthier, right? This watch study keeps popping into my mind as I contemplate purchasing this device. I should have better blood sugar levels, but what about my stress? Will my obsession with blood sugars numbers outweigh any gains with improved bio-metrics?

Like anything in science, we have to be careful about overgeneralizing one study and applying the results to other things in life. Comparing the stress of obsessing over time to blood sugar monitoring might be a stretch, but I think we need to be concerned about the broader context of the impact of technology on our mental health. Is it really important to know how many steps I got in before noon, or the sleep patterns that a Fitbit monitors? Do all of these things help us be healthier, or more stressed, and prone to anxiety and depression?

Mental health experts are all asking these very questions. Mindfulness exercises might be an approach that can help us deal with the frenzied pace of life, and the constant feedback that many of these devices offer. Mindfulness is a mind and body practice that centers on the connections between the brain, mind, body and behavior. Benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Decreased stress and anxiety and rumination
  • Improved attention, memory and the ability to focus
  • Reduced chronic pain
  • Increased immune system
  • Relationship satisfaction and promotion of empathy and compassion

Take a break from your  “devices” and practice the following:

  • Breathing exercises can be done individually, or by listening to an instructor or an audio guide of a breathing exercise. Unlike when breathing is an automatic function, this mindful technique encourages taking a moment to be present, and focus on completely inhaling and exhaling air in and out of the lungs. Afterwards, this exercise usually leads to the healthy default of deeper, slower breathing.
  • A Body Scan simply means noticing each part of the body without judgement. It can be done sitting or lying down and helps with awareness of each part of the body and how it feels at the moment.
  • Imagery exercises help picture a calming place for relaxation. This technique, also called visualization, focuses on a positive mental image to replace negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation includes tensing and relaxing different muscle groups of the body to decrease physical tension in the muscles. The tensing and releasing encourages letting go of physical stress.
  • Yoga, tai chi or other physical activity that helps focus on the body and current movements offer a physical focus on the meditation. They offer physical benefits as well as mental relaxation.
  • Mindful Eating promotes taking the time to slow down to enjoy food by using all the senses. This can encourage feelings of gratefulness, fullness and greater enjoyment of food.

Consider other stress management techniques and consider taking “digital device holidays,” immerse yourself in nature, go hiking, camping but be sure to unplug every now and then. Take off your watch, step counter, turn off your phone, TV, computer, and everything else that involves electronics. Set a goal to unplug a few times a week or month.

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Heer, C. & Rini, J. (2016). OSU Factsheet HYG 5242 “Stress Coping Methods” found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5242

Levine, R.V., Lynch, K., Miyake, K. et al. J Behav Med (1989) 12: 509. doi:10.1007/BF00844822

Powers-Barker, P. (2016).  OSU Factsheet HYG-5243-0 “Introduction to Mindfulness” found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243-0 

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It’s that time of year when the buzz words of gratitude and gifts circulate. We strive to be grateful for the things we have and show gratitude for the things we receive. It is also astress time when we wait with excitement to see what gifts we will receive, and the reaction of those we love when they open their gifts. Just as important as gratitude and gifts during the holiday season we should also introduce the idea of guided imagery.  What is that?  What could it possibly have to do with the Holiday Season?

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, guided imagery is “any of various techniques (as a series of verbal suggestions) used to guide another person or oneself in imagining sensations and especially in visualizing an image in the mind to bring about a desired physical response. It is often times used a tool to reduce stress, anxiety and pain.

The Holiday Season is a time for family, friends, joy, peace, gratitude, love, sharing, caring and giving.  However, it can also be a time of stress, anxiety, remembering a lost loved one, arguments, pain, exhaustion, regret and financial challenges.  Therefore, what better time than the Holiday Season to understand what guided imagery is and to utilize it?

Ohio State University’s Center for Integrative Health and Wellness at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center states that “guided imagery practices can help patients relax, improve sleep, prepare for surgery, experience greater clarity, compassion and gratitude and feel more calm, confident and comfortable. The Center offers the following free guided imagery recordings in the following topics for practice of guided imagery.

  • Accessing Inner Intuition and Wisdom
  • Autogenic Training
  • Breathing Deeply for Relaxation and Stress Reliefmug
  • Comfort in the Face of Grief and Loss
  • Easing Pain
  • Prepare for
    Procedure
  • Prepare for Surgery
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Relaxation
  • Relaxation for Children
  • Relaxation Imagery with a Pool of Light
  • Safe Place
  • Skill Master
  • Sleeping Deeply, Easily, Restfully

During the Holiday Season, please take time for YOU and listen to a “guided imagery exercise to promote your health and well-being.  So, close your eyes and remember, all you have to do is breathe”.

“Like snowflakes, the human pattern is never cast twice.  We are uncommonly and marvelously intricate in thought and action, our problems are most complex and, too often, silently borne”.
– Alice Childress

Written by:  Janet Wasko Myers, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, myers.31@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, O
hio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Sources:

The Center for Integrative Health and Wellness at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/integrative-complementary-medicine/guided-imagery

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.  Improving Your Health Through Stress Reduction.  http://wexnermedical.osu.edu/patient-care/healthcare-services/improving-your-health-through-stress-reduction

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.  Mindfulness Practices – Mindfulness practices can reduce anxiety, chronic pain, depression, insomnia and stress.  http://go.osu.edu/wexnermindful

 

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