Reply To: Week 4 Homework Assignment (Mindfulness in Behavioral Health)

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Question 1
Urge surfing is one of the things I learned and got the most use from in yoga practice, to learn to sit with an itch or compulsion to twitch or shift, but I haven’t done yoga in quite a while and this was nice to get back to. And it was hard, as I have been battling sciatica and couldn’t get comfortable, no matter what. I found it empowering to accept the experience, allowing myself to actually feel it, acknowledge it, and gently decline to give into or indulge the impulse to shift. It was a reminder to me that being just an observer of thoughts and emotions is a strange meta duel in my head that requires regular practice. It’s hard to trust that it can really help to see the direct influence thoughts and emotions can have on physical feelings and actions, but that experience and realization can be freeing without having to change or fix anything at all. I will introduce it to patients I work with as a tool, one to consider when they are clear in their goal to prevent or avoid substance use, when facing those triggers that maybe can’t be prevented or avoided, so urge surfing provides another option in those moments.
Question 2
I chose Mindfulness of Emotions without Judgement. I really benefit from and become much more at ease when I mindfully notice and release judgement of my emotions. I became immediately aware that this is something I learned to use in sessions myself with patients when I notice myself over thinking my responses or becoming emotionally reactive to what they brought to the session. I have found it helpful when I notice myself disengaging from the patient and becoming too concerned about the “best” response, “most appropriate”, etc, vs maintaining a sincere connection and being genuinely present. I think it answers the question of “how?” when patients are blocked about letting go of suffering.
Question 3
This class has helped remind me of the value of being intentional vs getting caught up in the day to day grind and that to do this, I really may not even have to change much, other than my perspective in order to get some benefit. I am not one who gives the full 20-30+ minutes to meditation, but I do utilize smaller mindfulness activities multiple times throughout the day to center, recharge, and remind myself of my goals, reprioritize, slow my breathing, and adjust my mindset so I can continue to be present and in the moment for my last patient of the day just as much as I was or my first. It has helped me when I get caught up in the stresses of the world, politics, the pandemic, work/life balance. This has helped me identify and prevent burnout when I have been at risk in this current very demanding time as a MH provider, and this class has brought me back to that as a daily maintenance practice, not just as a life raft or self-care treat when I’m already over my head. This class has reminded me that it is a practice, not a solution, something I can reinforce firsthand for my patients if they are open to it an something to help keep my focus on the larger purpose behind why I do what I do, at work, in my family, how I live my life according to my values.
I envision introducing and utilizing it as a useful tool in moments when finding emotions are getting in the way of enjoyment or otherwise functioning in day to day life, as well as a larger method of reminding oneself of the important things to them, bringing themselves back after dysregulation or crises. I’ve experienced patients who have become defensive of their emotions, almost resistant and holding tighter onto them, seeming to want to prove they are too big, not that easily let go of, as though they feel they are being minimized or dismissed, like the phrase “letting go” is perceived as an offensive external judgement that it is just that easy. I’ve had that response from people before who were not ready to accept coping vs curing or who were still at a place in their recovery where they were missing and even grieving their SU, often as a very effective method for getting rid of the suffering, as they still saw it. I think many people get caught up in the goal of cure or ridding all pain, and I like this tool providing more of a chance at peace by learning to utilize mindfulness as a way of co-existing with our emotions. The fact that the surrender is to themselves, to their inner strengths, to their own sense of peace and connection, so much more than previously thought they were capable of is powerful.