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Healthy You

Stress Reduction, Resilience Building

February 17, 2021 11:00 AM with Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C

We hear a lot about Mindfulness and the importance of Mindfulness and meditation, but what's the deal or why do we care or how can it help? Taking care of yourself mentally and physically can lead to a much healthier life.  Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C is part of the Palliative Care team at NorthShore University HealthSystem.  She is a certified Mindfulness Educator and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher along with other self-care techniques.

We invite you to come and learn about how to reduce your stress at home, as well as ask any questions you have on stress in your life and how to take care of yourself. Submit your questions early so we can get to everyone’s questions on the day of the chat.

Mindful man

Ben (Moderator) - 10:45 AM:
Greetings everyone and welcome to the NorthShore University HealthSystem's latest chat: Stress Reduction, Resilience Building with Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C. The chat will begin in 15 minutes, but please start submitting your questions now so we can get to all of them.

Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore) - 11:02 AM:
Hello, Angela Thomas here, Family Nurse Practitioner, (Holistically certified) and Mindfulness (MBSR) teacher, welcoming questions :)

  Jenny (Chicago) - 11:02 AM:
What are some smart habits to incorporate into my daily life that will improve my positivity and help me become more optimistic?
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
Hi, thank you for your question Jenny, it's a rich one! As challenging as it may be some days, starting with acknowledging at least one thing you are grateful for or appreciate at that moment can start your day in the right direction and become a really good habit. We forget we have the power to choose what we are thinking about and that we can switch those thoughts towards optimism!

  Helene (Chicago, IL) - 11:07 AM:
How can I use mindfulness to stay motivated, I'm self-employed and it's wearing on me.
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
Thank you for that good question, Helene. I am certain you are not alone esp. with so many working from home-Mindfulness is fundamentally "Paying attention, in this present moment, to things as they are, without judgment and with kindness" -So it may be recognizing that you are doing what you can right now & making sure you have self-compassion, esp as things are so stressful right now. Certainly being "mindful" & having lists of the "must do's" & putting in some that bring "joy"-it may sound silly but even simpler tasks, when we are "mindful" of them, "paying attention" can help bring joy and gratitude

  Kate (Chicago, IL) - 11:13 AM:
How do you keep up mindfulness practices when each day melts into the next?
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
Excellent question Kate, Personally, I have to start my day with a mindful practice of some sort, either a gratitude, loving-kindness, or even simple breath awareness practice, so starting a day this way, I know I'll get it in... I often hear the question "what's the difference between Mindfulness & other meditation practices-Mindfulness is/becomes a "way of life" in addition to the meditation piece- Paying attention/being aware is/can be in & of itself a practice. Also, even just "mini" practices throughout the day-like paying attention to a couple of deep breaths, or eating a meal or doing a task "mindfully"- without judgment and with compassion.

  Ivan (Evanston, IL) - 11:22 AM:
How do I make friends with stress?
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
Wow, Ivan, even to entertain making "friends with stress" is a good start! ;) We know life is going to be stressful at times, that awareness is important.... some Stress reactions are imperative to our survival, ie removing ourselves from dangerous situations. The way our lives are now, however, for the most part, we aren't running from saber tooth tigers, but our bodies/minds are reacting similarly physiologically.... which is where Mindfulness & stress reduction practices come in... with time we become less reactive to stressors and more responsive. We build greater resilience & we are better able to choose what we want to pay attention to... There's also always the good old Serenity prayer as well... Accept the things we can't change, the courage to change what we can & all that ;)

  Alissa (Hoffman Estates, IL) - 11:30 AM:
What are some ways we can slow down the fast pace that seems inevitable right now? The demands of work and home are higher than ever, and I'm not sure how to slow it down without being perceived as the one person who can't handle the pace.
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
I'm a little stressed just reading that ;) Yes! things do seem so fast-paced and there are such high demands.... which is best another reason that now more than ever, we need to take a pause, take a breath, know that we are doing what we can... I often tell people that even if you don't "believe" in Mindfulness practices or feel like you have time or interest, even just literally taking a couple deep breaths throughout the day-like big expansive inhales & longer exhales can be transformative. An attitudinal principle of Mindfulness is "Nonstriving" this doesn't mean not setting goals or trying to reach them but essentially, backing off a bit & sort of giving yourself a break- again, Self-compassion seems to be coming up again.... and when we start to "pay attention, we notice" & inherently slow.... & appreciate -ugh also-I'm certain most of us aren't "handling the pace" right now...

  Kelly (Des Plaines, IL) - 11:39 AM:
Can herbal supplements or certain kinds of teas or scents (such as lavender) help my mind and body relax--or to help me be more mindful? I find it very difficult to rid myself of all the psychological "noise" in my head to get to a place of mindfulness. That's why I'm wondering if natural supplements help.
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
Great question Kelly... and that "psychological noise" is so normal. Did you know we have between 40-70,000 thoughts a day?! People often say they can't meditate because they can't "turn their brain off", totally true, we can't turn our brains off" but we CAN choose what we pay attention to- which is where mindfulness comes in. To answer your ?, Scents like lavender have been shown to help relax us physiologically, paying attention to the scent itself is a "mindfulness" practice. We know that teas like Chamomile can help calm as well. It can also be helpful to have a dedicated space for a Mindfulness mediation practice, even a corner of a room, perhaps with a scent or candle you like or pillow or whatever. Some people find that the act of making tea or coffee, enjoying with all senses can be a practice as well.

  Jenny (Chicago, IL) - 11:47 AM:
I am very new to meditation - what is an easy meditative exercise I can do during the day when I am stressed?
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
Hi & good for you that you've started a practice- I've found it interesting that we keep hearing during the pandemic "Start a meditation practice to help reduce the stress & anxiety". Like, what?!, during one the most stressful times "just start a practice" ;). It sounds simple but one of the easier, skill-building practices is "attention to the breath/breathing" Knowing also, that once we begin a practice, our minds are going to wander- that's what our minds do, but we can choose what we want to pay attention to... I don't know if you saw my previous answers, but building in practices through the day, like "triggers", remember to take a couple of breaths. The STOP technique (Stop, take 1-2 breaths, observe, proceed) is helpful- also 4-4-8, breath in for a count of 4, hold for 4 & out for 8- can be helpful-Good job & good luck!

  Tom (Niles, IL) - 11:55 AM:
What kind of stress and resilience resources are available via NorthShore?
Angela Thomas, FNP, AHN-C (Northshore)
Great question, thanks for asking- we are in the process of providing more offerings, so stay tuned.... personally, I hope to be able to start offering ongoing MBSR classes soon, via Zoom very soon. Since our merger with Swedish Covenant, they have offerings through the Galter life center- & we are figuring out how to coordinate efforts. As always, our psych department has 1:1 therapy and resources, 847-570-2540- feel free to send me an email to athomas9@northshore.org, as we are able to provide more resources, also with our integrative med. team & system-wide departments.- Be well & thank you

Ben (Moderator) - 12:00 PM:
That's all the time we have today. Thank you, Angela, for your time and expertise.
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