Mindfulness, a social worker’s approach to stress relief

Limestone College Social Work

In the field of social work, mindfulness-based therapies have been recognized as a way for patients to ease their anxiety but also as a way for social workers to practice self-care and alleviate their own daily stresses.

A Psychology Today article describes mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present.” Mindfulness is sometimes referred to as living in the moment. It helps a person avoid being controlled by their thoughts, and instead become an observer of them. This sense of awareness allows us to experience the present, relishing our everyday experiences to live more fully. Focusing on the present can also help us avoid feeling overwhelmed with the future.

A recent Social Work Today article discusses some of the mindfulness-based approaches social workers use: mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindful self-compassion (MSC).

Each approach is slightly different. For example, MBSR is often used to manage chronic health conditions through meditative yoga and guided instruction that help patients relax and focus. MBCT uses cognitive therapy practices to help patients with anxiety or depression avoid negative thoughts. And MSC uses various exercises and discussion to help patients become less self-critical and practice self-kindness.

It’s important to note that not all patients may benefit from mindfulness-based therapies. For example, for certain patients who’ve suffered trauma, staying in the present may feel unsafe.

 For those looking to practice mindfulness in daily life, Psychology Today offers these tips:

  • If you suffer from performance anxiety, avoid thinking too hard about what you are doing and simply do it;
  • Enjoy the present experiences without stirring up thoughts about the future;
  • Focus on your breathing to relax and bring yourself into the present;
  • Avoid distractions that inhabit your total focus on the task at hand;
  • Embrace your feelings, acknowledge that they are there, and that it’s okay to feel them, and;
  • Avoid mindlessness by adopting a beginner’s mind to daily routines.

At Limestone College, students earning a Bachelor of Social Work, will learn about mindfulness-based therapies in a number of courses including Introduction to Psychology, Human Behavior and Social Environment, and Social Work Intervention.

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