Wellness Tuesday Feature: Jayleen Renneberg on Mindfulness
Welcome back to another Wellness Tuesday blog! The fall semester is winding down very quickly which means Christmas break is well on its way. However, before we hit the holidays, we first must pass through exam season. To help us get through the stress, we have Bachelor of Education Secondary student Jayleen Renneberg to tell us all about mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
I like to think mindfulness is being really connected with your feelings and understanding that your feelings do not define you but rather pass through you. Feelings are, in a way, a signal telling you to pay attention. When you feel butterflies in your stomach, it’s a signal to say that you are feeling love and to pay attention to who is causing that feeling. When you feel yourself clenching your teeth, it’s a signal that something is causing you stress and to pay attention to that threat so that you can modify it.
Why is it useful/helpful?
I think mindfulness is a great tool for navigating the world through your own perceptions. It helps us to separate our true selves from our emotions and this gives us the space to choose how to respond to our emotions once we are able to acknowledge them.
How did you get into mindfulness?
I was introduced to the idea of mindfulness through yoga. In my early 20’s, I struggled with my body image and, as I was seeing a councillor, I began taking yoga. I found that I was able to understand many of the things I was working through with the councillor both when I was journaling and when I was on the mat. Both activities facilitated mindfulness. The transformation that yoga helped to facilitate in my life led me to take my yoga teacher training and continue with my practice of mindfulness. I also listen to many podcasts in the health industry and found that teaching and speaking of mindfulness is a huge strategy used by professionals in this field when supporting clients with adopting healthier behaviours.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
I believe that mindfulness has saved me from clinical depression two distinct times in my life and possibly more. The first time was when I was first introduced to it and navigating my way through disordered eating. The second time was when my husband and I lost our first baby 6 months into pregnancy. Mindfulness is a powerful tool that helped me to realize that my grief did not define me. Practicing mindfulness can be scary. It encourages you to be extremely vulnerable with yourself and allow yourself to experience darkness knowing that you can release it and fill back up with light.
- Stay with your feeling (especially when it is strong)
It is important to allow what you’re feeling to fully express itself so that you can fully understand and release it. This means giving your body the time to completely let the feeling flood over you. Sometimes, this means laying on your bed for 5 minutes and just allowing yourself to feel anger or sadness or fear. Now, obviously, when this feeling rises in the middle of a conversation, you can’t just lie on the floor and say, “give me 5 min to totally feel my emotions”. What you can do is check-in with a breath during the conversation to acknowledge your feeling. Later in the day, when you do have time to sit by yourself, come back to the memory of the conversation and the feeling and give yourself the time you need to process it.
- Always replace the feeling that has left
If you are a Christian, you can ask God to replace this space with his love. If you follow a different faith or do not identify with any faith, you can still ask for this space to be replaced with love or you can visualize it being replaced with light. This helps bring closure to your mindfulness moment with peace in your heart. I usually facilitate this by taking a deep breath. I do it whether I’ve just done a 1-sec check-in or a full 5 min session. Breath is a great way to reset yourself and move forward.
- Don’t dwell on the “why”
Feelings are feelings and although I said that they are a signal, I don’t think we always know what that signal is. Trust that acknowledging it and releasing it will benefit you in some way and then move on. If we don’t release it, then we may dwell on this feeling all day and lose sight of enjoying life.
- Sometimes, it’s not your feeling
Many of us feel the emotions of our environments and those around us. Often, I have found myself feeling very anxious but when I check in, I don’t understand why. In these situations, especially if the environment is tense (like during a midterm), I feel like the anxiety that I’m experiencing is not rooted within me. Then, I’ll tell myself “It’s not mine,” and move on.
I want to take a moment to extend a huge thank you to Jayleen for being vulnerable with us, telling us her story and sharing words of wisdom. As we pass through stressful and difficult times, always remember that times may be tough but so are you.