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Cancer Council SA Counsellors Helen and Cris provide advice and support on managing stress and anxiety during times of uncertainty. 

During this time of enforced social isolation and break from our routine activities, it’s understandable that we might start feeling stressed or anxious.  Many of the normal activities that nurture and support us have become unavailable to us.

One of the ways that we can manage our stress levels is to start paying attention to the way that our thoughts can impact negatively on our sense of wellbeing. Perhaps you may have experienced times when you feel like you are leading your life almost on automatic pilot, and by so doing miss out on moment to moment experiences as a consequence? One of the ways we can start bringing awareness back into our lives is by looking at the activities that we do on a daily basis and seeing if we might attend to them in a more mindful way.

We can start practicing this moment to moment awareness by experimenting with some of the activities that we do on a daily basis, such as showering or making the bed. It might seem simple but being present in our everyday lives can have a huge impact and help us manage complex feelings and emotions.

We’ve taken some of our simple daily activities and provided tips and advice on how to turn them into mindful moments. 

Taking a shower 
The importance of taking time to set this ritual in your day allows you to transition from rest and sleep, to the day ahead.

Start by noticing the temperature of the water and how it feels as it falls on your body. Does the temperature feel the same on different parts of your body? What do you notice when the water is mixed with the soap? What do you notice as you gently rub the soap over different parts of your body?

Carefully dry your body once finished your shower and become aware of how the skin feels when it is refreshed and cleansed by the water and soap.

Making your bed
Making your bed in the morning sets the pace for the day. It says you’ll take your time transitioning from one activity to the next without rushing in your day. Can I bring an attitude of awareness to making the bed?

Bringing mindful awareness to doing the laundry
Start by noticing the texture and colours of the fabrics. Notice the patterns on each item of clothing. As you hang clothes notice how they are wet and be curious about how the colour or weight will change once they are dry.

If using a dryer, notice how the towels feel when they have just come out and pay attention to the heat coming from the clothes and the fresh smell. Notice each and every detail as you fold tea-towel after tea-towel and sock after sock. Take a deep breath after you finish folding each article of clothing, offering gratitude that you have clean clothes to fold and wear.

Bringing mindful awareness to washing the dishes
Notice how the sink or basin fills with water and how the washing liquid disperses as it meets the water – are there bubbles in the water now? Feel the warm sudsy water on your hands. Notice how the water level rises when you place the dirty dishes in the sink or basin. As you clean each dish become aware of the experience of making something that is dirty, clean again. Stay focused on the doing, without distracting by thinking about the next task.

Mindful Movement
If you are engaging in any form of exercise, consider becoming aware of how your body feels as you go through the movements. Notice the feeling of your feet in your shoes and/or your feet or shoes on the ground. Notice how your legs move shifting weight from one to another. Notice how your arms feel as they move up and down or side to side.

Are there parts of the body that feel stiff or are holding any tension? See if it is possible to release this tension and notice what this then feels like. Notice how our breath nourishes us as we move. Notice if we start to feel tired and need to rest—thank your body for the gift of movement.

Journal writing
You might like to start by considering words that describe your emotional state right now. Perhaps you might like to write down some of the thoughts going through your head? Can you get some distance from those thoughts by putting them down on paper? This can be especially helpful if we have worrying or anxious thoughts.

You may choose to write about a time when you got through a challenging experience and how you did this. If you’re writing first thing in the morning, you might write about your dreams, the quality of your sleep. If you are writing at night before bed, reflecting on the day in a mindful way can allow you to notice and acknowledge what matters to you.

Gratitude practice
Practicing gratitude for the everyday things in life that we often take for granted can offer a new perspective and sense of joy in life. Gratitude allows us to see that what we have in our lives right now is enough. Writing a gratitude journal can be as simple as listing five things you are grateful for at the end of every day: your warm bed at night, the warm sunshine, a loving pet etc.

Interested in finding out more? Check out these resources to help your mindfulness practices: 

  • Self-Compassion (Dr Kristin Neff).
  • Meditation apps including Smiling Mind, Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace

To book a free counselling appointment with either Helen or Cris contact Cancer Council 13 11 20.