“It’s easy to let the stresses of daily life overwhelm us and send us into unhelpful thought patterns,” says Julie. “Before I learned mindfulness, I suffered greatly from depression and even had thoughts of suicide. Thanks to a wonderful therapist, though, and my committed study and practice of mindfulness techniques, I now have tools right at my fingertips that can help me through the hardest times. My goal is to share these tools with as many people as possible so others can feel empowered to help themselves, too.”
1. Observe Yourself Without Judgment: When you feel the intensity of a particularly challenging emotion welling up inside of you, see if you can call it out for what it is – i.e., “Oh, that’s anger. Oh, that’s worry.” Allow yourself to observe it with curiosity, not judging it but simply being aware of it. This is the heart of mindfulness. It will take some practice, but once you notice these feelings, you can work with them, giving yourself room to breathe and changing your relationship to them.
2. Comfort Yourself with Soothing Touch: Put a hand over your heart. Wrap your arms around yourself. Give yourself a gentle touch on the cheek or shoulder or your belly. Wherever touch feels most soothing and comforting to you, give that to yourself. This gentle touch activates your body’s mammalian caregiver response and releases oxytocin and opiates in your brain to counteract cortisol, the stress hormone. Try different spots out on yourself and see what works for you. If you’re in public and feel the need for comfort yet want to be discreet, pick a soothing touch that isn’t as obvious to others, such as softly holding your arms or placing one hand in the other.
3. Find a Here-and-Now Stone: This can be any stone that feels good to you; it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. You can find a stone on a walk in the woods, in your yard, at a beach, or even at a craft store. It just needs to be one that feels good in your hand. Once you’ve selected your stone, bring it everywhere with you. Keep it in a purse or pocket. Maybe even string it up to wear around your neck if that feels right. Then reach for it whenever you feel a bout of overwhelming emotion coming on. Allow the stone to ground you. Put your full attention on it. Why? You are choosing to put mindful attention on your stone rather than on ruminating. You are giving your brain a much-needed break from the chaos.