Finding My Mindfulness Mantra
Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Last year, I was navigating a career transition as I was about to become the first director of sport psychology and student-athlete mental health at Iowa while also maintaining my clinical professor role within the Department of Psychiatry. At the same time, I was also preparing for my oldest daughter’s high school graduation and taking in all of her “lasts” as a senior while being flooded with emotions while vividly recalling many of her “firsts.”

I was excited and apprehensive about all the changes. Those days were filled with numerous activities, including the last show choir performances, theater productions, sporting events, senior nights, and prom. My husband and I were also balancing the concurrent activities of our son and youngest daughter, making sure we were presentand that they felt equally supported.

These were moments that I looked forward to and found myself multi-tasking through. For example, when sitting at school events I was often responding to work emails, making my mental “to-do” list for the week, and not being fully present in the moment. There were times when I lacked focus during activities, conversations, and meetings because I was worried about how I was going to get everything done. I found myself negatively judging my perceived inability to do it all. As I reflect back, it was a daily juggling act trying to be my best self at home and at work. 

This academic year has been one of transition, growth, and development across both my personal and professional lives. Visualizing my best self has been the focus of that journey as I apply mindfulness to my daily routine while also teaching these skills to adolescents and young adults through therapy interactions.

Mindfulness is the act of being aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and actions in the present moment without judging yourself or your experience and without trying to change it (Rathus, J.H. & Miller, A.L., 2015). Being mindful gives you more control over your behavior, reduces your emotional suffering, increases your sense of well-being, helps you make important decisions, makes you more effective and productive, and increases your compassion for self and others. Being mindful is a skill that can be challenging to apply, especially in fast-paced lives where multi-tasking and overscheduling is the norm.

When I think back to last year, I recognize that I was teaching these skills, yet not applying them in my own life. That needed change. I began incorporating mindfulness practice into my morning routine. I mindfully sip my coffee and let go of distractions. My favorite coffee mug also has a mindfulness quote that resonates with me: 

live with intention

be courageous

go on adventures

work hard

practice gratitude

judge less

love yourself

I remain committed to putting my skills into more consistent action so that I can better gain control, enhance my performance across settings, and experience all the feelingsthat come with being present in the moment.

These are important steps for continued growth both personally and professionally. Does this mean that life will be stress-free? Of course not! However, I will be better equipped to deal with the one constant in life, which is change. That is a good thing because next year I will be preparing for my son’s high school graduation and taking in all of his “last” moments.  

Here are a few strategies that were helpful during this journey:

1. Identify a positive each day. 

2. Actively listen. 

3. Be intentional when setting goals by breaking down the steps needed to make that goal a reality.  

4. Do what works by acting as skillfully as you can to achieve your goals. 

5. Judge less.  

6. It’s not always easy to make space for yourself AND it is important to do so. This can be done by prioritizing your physical and mental health by building in healthy lifestyle practices.  

Here is a link to information on Mindfulness from the UIowa liveWell.

Cover image by Colton Sturgeon