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  • Writer's pictureMary Kara

Donegal Mindfulness by Angel's Cove

Mary Kara, a former Mental Health Professional and now working as an Holistic Therapist in Angels Cove, Ballybofey. She is a Qualified Mindfulness/Meditation Teacher, holds a Diploma in CBT and offers Reflexology and Reiki.

Mary tailors combined packages to suit individual client needs, but she also works with small groups and Corporate Organisations. She has published 2 Journals on Mindfulness and is currently working on a WORKBOOK offering a Mindful Approach to Insomnia. Her specialist subject both personally and academically!

Mary Kara In her practice Angel's Cove, showing her mindfulness saying "Anything is possible if you believe in yourself"
Mary Kara Donegal Mindfulness

Mindfulness: A word we see and hear all the time. There are many many definitions.

But what does it REALLY mean? Put simply

” it simply…. means coming back to the body as often as possible” ….Padraig O Moran (2018) There are many ways to practice Mindfulness…

  • Mindful Movement. Walking, yoga etc

  • Mindful journaling. Gratitude journaling, Positive events journal etc

  • Meditation.

  • Mindful eating….and many more

So, let’s try it!

If it is safe for you to do so, sit comfortably legs and arms uncrossed. Allow the body to be at ease, hand on chest, hand on tummy, focus on your breath, observe it enter and leave the body, don’t force or change it, just sit comfortably with it for a few moments.You have just experienced one form of Mindfulness

This breath is your life- long best friend, it’s with you 24/7, you never have to ask or tell it to keep you alive, it just does. “So as long as we are breathing there is more right with us than wrong with us” Jon Kabat Zinn (1999).

So how can Mindfulness help us in a Pandemic?

Mindfulness is really really important in these unprecedented times. Covid-19 is front and centre of every aspect of our lives. While we may be coping in a fashion on a day to day basis under the surface, there is a lot going in our heads. We are grieving the loss of our lives as we knew them. We are always a bit reluctant to change but a sudden unprecedented change forced upon us has not only created a vacuum, but it has been added to with so much uncertainty.

Strong emotions such as fear, sadness an even anger are emotions we are all feeling right now and have felt for the last 9 or 10 months. These emotions are perpetuated by ruminating about the past (the way things used to be) and we want back again – understandably – these thought patterns go round and round in our head all the time. It’s like the negative pattern of thinking is on a loop, on and on. We can’t stop, yet we have no control over the situation (Global Pandemic). Mindfulness allows us to break this loop.

One of the benefits of having a mindfulness practice is it allows us to connect with Awareness. Allowing thoughts to come and go without our attention getting stuck on it. Mindfulness also helps us to make better choices. Between the stimuli and the response, there is a pause, a time for choice, you can RESPOND RATHER THAN REACT.

Right now, people are furious and incredibly sad. Not just like the sadness of losing a loved one, but a sadness that encompasses loosing so so much. Anxiety is at all time high people, young and old are having trouble focusing on anything. There is so much uncertainty. Mindfulness gives us the tools to help us focus, even for a few minutes, like we did at the start of this article. Now if we could do that several time a day think how it would calm our body and mind and allow us to have a little calm in a frantic WORLD.

Neon pink light against green leaves, showing the word Breathe
Just Breathe

If you are new to mindfulness and don’t have a practice, now is the time to start.

Tip 1

We never washed our hands more, so each time you washed your hands use this as a trigger to be mindful.

  • Feel the temperature of the water, hot or cold?

  • Is there liquid soap or solid soap?

  • Is there s smell from it?

  • Do you hear the water running?

  • Rubbing your hands together and aware of the connectivity of it.

  • Drying your hands

  • Applying hand cream.

At most 2 minutes and several times throughout the day this can add up to 20 or 30 minutes. Each time you do this you are using at least 3 of your senses. Over a short space of time research has shown this helps reassure and reset the body. This can be a trigger or a way to bring our awareness back to our body and out of the loop going on in our head.

Tip 2

Choose a chore or task that you do every day, e.g. eating your main meal, set the intention to eat this one meat consciously every day. Look at the food on the plate. The colours, the content. Smell any aroma from the food. Taste every bite, chew and enjoy. Be aware of the cutlery in your hand, is it heavy or light?

Lastly listen to the sounds around you. Are there other people at the table with you. Is there a clock ticking all these little things noticed intentionally brings us out of our busy ruminating thoughts and into the here and now.

There are many other things we can do mindfully. Gratitude Journaling, meditation, praying, and reading. Being aware of our 5 senses as much as possible physiologically calms the autonomic Nervous system, slowing the release of adrenaline to control and ultimately bringing us to a calmer body and mind. (Lots and lots of research online to prove this.)

Lockdown for me personally, I have found that practising mindfulness for many years allows me to re-act less to stressful situations and this is no different.

Mary Kara in Angel's Cove Showing her Gratitude Journals
Mary with her Gratitude Journals

In lockdown 1, I made several Live Videos on my Social Media to help others cope with the whole concept. They had between 500 to 700 views, and there are a lot of them still there if anyone wants to have a look. So I mindfully used my skills and techniques to teach other people how to get a sleep, or just survive the horrible anxiety they were experiencing. Now, I am human too and there were days when frustration and anger were the emotions I was experiencing but my practise very quickly brought me back to a state of equilibrium.

When I began Mindfulness many years ago I would “fall of the wagon” every now and again!

I soon slipped back to my state of worry, anxiety, ruminating and catastrophizing. So after a few slips I realised life is much better with mindfulness. It really is a commitment to yourself to sustain a sense of coming out of your busy mind for a few short periods each and every day - And it’s for life!

The volume of people looking for help in the last 6-8 months has been unreal. I have worked with Donegal Co. Co. E.T.B. Several Colleges and on a 1:1 basis consistently over this period.. ZOOM calls are an amazing platform to teach people (of any age) the basic principles of starting and maintain a solid Mindfulness Practice of individuals who are suffering from severe anxiety, related symptoms then I see them 1:1 at my clinic in Ballybofey. Usually 6-8 sessions are enough to see a massive change.

I combine CBT, Mindfulness and Reflexology in many of my clients to help them relax, develop a good practise and most of all sustain it. It’s like a tool-kit, you can draw on it in any situations life throws at you. You build an inner resilience & strength.

Woman standing on the edge of the water in a mindful pose
Mindfulness Practice

Tips Starting a Practice:

  • Start slow, 3-5 minutes per day done well is better than 20 minutes drifted away.

  • Be aware that thoughts will rush in, no matter how much you focus on the breath.

  • Being aware and returning to the breath is KEY.

  • Don’t bet yourself up. Treat yourself as you would your best friend.

Is there any evidences Mindfulness Works?

There is a tone of research in the field of Neuroscience to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mindfulness practice sustained over even a short period of time changes the neuro pathways of our thinking. Our brain is a like plasticine with a little bit of work it can be changed and moulded. We go to the gym work and shape our bodies. Mindfulness is a bit like gym workout for the brain.

Mindfulness can help:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety

  • Increase well being

  • Help in the treatment of addictions, depression, chronic pain and heart disease.

  • It can help reduce blood pressure

  • It is beneficial in the treatment of many mental and physiological problems

We have long since known the benefits of focusing on our breath in controlling

the pain of childbirth.

Researchers such as Tara Brach. Kristen Neff, Jon Kabat Zinn, Eckert Tulle are just a mere handful of well recognised authors on the Topic of Mindfulness, its benefits and new research coming out all the time. A little effort can show a lot of benefits! Google, Amazon, British House of Parliament, American Military and many educational centres are now incorporating mindfulness into everyday life within the organisations.

This can resulted in:

  • Less Absenteeism

  • Higher Concentration

  • A kinder workplace

  • More efficiency within the organisations

A little effort can show a lot of benefits!


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