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January 27, 2021

Mindfulness in the New Year

Lunch and Learn Logo

January 27th Lunch & Learn with the LINK Notes

1st Speaker- Ailey Armstrong.

Ailey Armstrong, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed clinical oncology social worker and member of the Integrated Psychosocial Oncology Program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where she provides psychosocial support and care coordination to patients on the Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant Service and their families. Using a variety of evidence-based therapeutic modalities—including behavioral activation and problem-solving treatment—Ailey works closely with patients over the course of the transplant process to help them cope with the emotional and physical challenges that accompany treatment.

Mindfulness- An evidence-based practice that helps sleep, pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and in coping with the overall heaviness in life.

What is it? :

Paying attention on purpose to what is happening now, without judgement.  We look at thoughts and emotions like weather blowing through.

Have you ever driven home without memory of your drive?  So often in life we multitask to the point where we are robbed of being in the moment.  At times, multitasking is helpful, but it is not so as a lifestyle.

Why it works :

Mindfulness works with the autonomic nervous system.  This is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions, such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal.

This system is made up of the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system activates the fight or flight response during a threat or perceived danger, and the parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to a state of calm.

Mindfulness activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

How do we practice this? :

There are many ways to experience this.   We can take deliberate breaths, choose awareness instead of reaction, we can take mindful walks, and we can choose to take moments to fully experience all our senses.

Mindfulness is a practice.  It works like a muscle; we build and start small.

Easy starts for practice :

Paced breathing- breath into a count of 4, hold for 4, release for 4, and wait for 4 counts before your next breath.  Repeat this practice 4 times trying to do breathing that gets deeper into your diaphragm.

4, 7, 8 Breathing- Can help with sleep.

Use pursed breathing out of your lips for a count of 4, breath in through the nose for the count of 7, and make a whooshing sound while breathing out for the count of 8.  Repeat as you wish.

Mindful 2-minute exercise- Be aware of your five sense.  This helps with grounding while anxious.  Look for 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, two things you smell, and 1 thing you taste.  Be as specific as possible as you do this exercise.

5-15 Minute Sitting with Your Thoughts- Be present with your breath and become aware of thoughts that come and physical sensations. Note and label your experiences without judging them.  They just are.  Keep coming back to your deep breathing.

Be gentle with yourself.

2nd Speaker- Tracy Jolly, BMT Survivor & AML Survivor

She has been assisting with the family partnership council, she volunteers with patients in the transplant unit, and she has been working with the corporate level at Northwell Hospital as well. She is honored to make any small contribution she can to help others navigate through the challenges of a bone marrow transplant.

Tracy describes her cancer as a storm.  She had a mental shift when she saw the storm as transformation.  She now views how the storm has also gifted her.  She encourages other survivors by saying it does get better.

She too encourages others to be gentle with themselves and resist blame.  Accept that things just happen.

Lean on safe people and forgive yourself for any change you needed to make on your journey.

When asked about chemo brain help via meditation, Tracy shared how she continually tries to wake up her brain by being mindful of what you do.

Tracy guided us in a meditation which I highly suggest you listen to on the recording.

It was shared that this practice can be amazingly simple but that both Ailey and Tracy shared some resources they have found to be helpful to patients with guided imagery/meditation.  Some of these include-

  • Head Space App
  • Calm App
  • Insight Timer
  • YouTube Videos
  • UCLA Mindful Research has some on their website
  • One caller suggested Serenity app

Two callers called in with testimonials as to how meditation has helped them.

We acknowledge and thank the following Link Partners for their ongoing support.

• The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
• Incyte Corporation
• Pharmacyclics & Janssen
• Omeros Corporation