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Practicing mindfulness to enhance your resiliency

My personal interest in mindfulness started on August 11, 2017 when my wife was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer in the bones. Stress on the entire family from the 18-month process of preparation for a stem cell transplant, the actual stem cell transplant, the 18-day in-patient hospital stay in an isolation room, and the caregiving that followed was overwhelming. Thankfully, my wife is almost 12 months post-transplant and doing much better.

Fire and EMS experience are part of my background; I thought I was resilient and could compartmentalize the new stressors in my life. However, as each day passed, I felt more agitated, anxious, distracted, angry and sleep-deprived. My mind was wandering, and I was problem-solving work issues at 2:00 a.m. instead of sleeping. I was desperate for help so I turned to mindfulness. 

Mindfulness had been described to me as learning how to pay attention in the present moment without judgment. I thought this would help me calm what were, at times, racing thoughts and seemingly insurmountable priorities competing for my attention. I committed to mastering mindfulness in my personal life so that I could apply it to everyday living and what had become my new normal.

As I had success and saw the impact mindfulness made in my own life – and given that I regularly work with police departments – I also developed a professional interest in mindfulness. I genuinely believed mindfulness could be a beneficial tool to these public servants because of the nature of their work and the mental challenges law enforcement can present – enabling  them to better cope with the day-to-day challenges of police work before stress builds to an intolerable point. 

Working with a subject matter expert on mindfulness along with two police chiefs, we developed a regional workshop series on mindfulness designed specifically for police. The feedback we received from attendees was very positive and surpassed our group’s initial expectations. 

A subsequent discussion with an assistant city manager led to the idea that mindfulness could potentially benefit all city employees and not just the police. We expanded and retooled the workshop series for a much broader range of employees. Again, the response to the series was extremely positive and attendees were grateful for the experience. The workshop series was again extended to two regional police executive meetings and had a similar impact. 

I encourage you to learn more about mindfulness and how to apply these concepts and tools within your own life. Those who teach mindfulness will tell you that your mind wanders. Your body is doing one thing while your mind is somewhere else. Your mind is ruminating negatively about the past, and then it is worrying about the future. A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

One mindfulness concept I learned is to focus on your breathing. This will force you to be in the present. Think about it – you cannot breathe in the future and you cannot breathe in the past. You can only breathe in the present. 

You can follow several practices, such as box breathing, abdominal breathing and others. There really is truth to the phrase we often hear when angry or frustrated – ‘take a deep breath.’  Diaphragmatic or belly breathing will increase your body’s ability to rest and recover. One recommended resource on mindful breathing is www.mindful.org/belly-breathing

Now when I do wake up at 2:00 a.m., I use mindfulness to focus on my breathing and get back to sleep. Whatever your current circumstance or walk of life, mindfulness is a valuable tool that warrants your consideration.

We invite you to learn more about mindfulness and its benefits at next week’s PARMA Annual Conference 2020 in Monterey, California. In our Wednesday afternoon session from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., Recharge and Refocus Through the Art and Science of Mindfulness, you will hear more about my personal journey, experience the benefits of mindfulness firsthand with an experienced and engaging mindfulness instructor, and   learn about leading with mindfulness  from an assistant city manager. I look forward to seeing you there. 

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Comments
  • Jody Moses

    I greatly appreciate the topic and the opportunity to learn more about how we can use Mindfulness techniques both personally and as a tool to help our clients avoid, mitigate, and reduce the impact of work-related events and injuries.

  • Kryshawn Baity

    I'm glad your wife is recovering well after the transplant!

    This s a great article! Mindfulness helped me bring more focus and joy to my days as well. When you're focused on the past or the future its hard to be grateful and experience the present. Learn from the past and move on, make time each week to plan the future and spend the rest of your time being present and experiencing.

  • Miraida Pineiro

    I am going thru chemo and wished I knew about this before, thank you for sharing.

  • Deniese Jackson

    I want to thank you for sharing this with us all. I have been in your shoes and at times felt sought for some sense of relief and learn to cope with my day-to-day challenges before stress builds to an intolerable point. On a daily basis, I try to be a beacon of hope and a source of encouragement spreading love and light to all but at times I notice that even trying to spread love you have to replenish too. I thank you for sharing this from your experience and in hopes that others are encouraged to use this method. I have tried it and can give word that this does work if you seriously take the time to apply it. One Love

  • TJ Little

    Excellent article. I just started realizing that living in the present is the only way to live. If everyone lived in the present moment and didn't dwell on the past mistakes and future problems, the world would be a better place. There are lots of UTUBE videos on this subject by many different people. One of my favorites is Eckhart Tolle.

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