DaVita® Medical Insights

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Mindfulness for Anxiety

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and many people—dialysis patients, caregivers, and staff alike—are currently feeling anxious due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, as stay-at-home orders are changing in many states. Mindfulness may help with anxiety by focusing on the present moment, as dwelling on the past or projecting about the future is likely to increase stress levels. In this post, we provide information on mindfulness, including a definition of what mindfulness is and a quick exercise that you can do yourself or guide others through to potentially reduce anxiety.

Mindfulness may sound mysterious and remote, like something a guru sitting in a lotus position on top of a mountain would practice. However, in reality, mindfulness is a way of being that is down to earth and practical, with tangible benefits. In fact, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founded in 1979 the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical Center to help patients with chronic pain and stress. The eight-week program created by Dr. Kabat-Zinn has since been adapted and reported in clinical studies to help ease anxiety, depression, stress related to medical conditions and stress in healthy people. Below are quotes from Kabat-Zinn and another renowned teacher in the field, Ram Dass that can serve as definitions of mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,”
-Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD
Meditation teacher, Professor of Medicine
Emeritus and founder of the MBSR Clinic  
and the Center for Mindfulness at UMass 
Medical School

“Be here now.”
 -Ram Dass, PhD
  Spiritual teacher and former
  Harvard professor/researcher

Simply by being present, in the now and aware of your surroundings can be a practice in mindfulness. The exercise that follows can be used to guide an individual in staying grounded and mindful.

  • Close your eyes or gaze softly at a blank spot on the wall.
  • Gently take 3 deep breaths, saying to yourself, “in” during the inhale and “out” on the exhale.
  • Open your eyes, look around the room or your immediate surroundings and note 4 things that are yellow (or another color).
  • Pay attention to how your body feels and note 3 physical sensations (such as, how the air or your clothes feels on your skin, any aches or pains, tension or relaxation).
  • Listen to the environment and note 2 sounds that you hear.
  • Focus on your sense of smell and taste, then note one thing that you smell in the air and one thing you taste in your mouth.

Do not worry if you cannot find the number of sensory items mentioned in the exercise. The point is to shift your focus from your thoughts of worry or anxiety to an objective observation of yourself and the immediate environment in the here and now.

Other guided experiences (videos) in mindfulness and relaxation, as well as new emotional support resources for patients, are available by visiting DaVita.com/Coping.

Amber Pace, LCSW

Amber Pace, LCSW

Amber Pace is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Addiction Counselor whose passion is building successful teams who provide great care to patients, improving the quality of life they experience. Amber joins DaVita from Centura Health, where she most recently led development and growth of a 26-site integrated primary care behavioral health program. Prior to Centura, she served patients as a clinician at Jefferson Center for Mental Health and began her career with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in downtown Denver. Amber is also an Adjunct Faculty at University of Denver, where she teaches in the Graduate School of Social Work (SW). At DaVita, Amber is working with our national SW team to advance our focus on counseling and serving the behavioral health needs of our patients in our clinics and as part of our integrated kidney care programs.

Chris Schiffelbein, LCSW

Chris Schiffelbein, LCSW

Chris Schiffelbein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who acts as the Integrated Kidney Care Behavioral Health Specialist for DaVita Kidney Care in Philadelphia. Chris joined the DaVita in 2017 for this role, and he has been providing counseling to DaVita dialysis patients both chairside and telephonically. Chris also supervises social workers on the IKC team who are piloting an innovative home-based model focused on decreasing re-hospitalizations of recently discharge patients on dialysis. Prior to joining the DaVita, Chris most recently worked in the evaluations and admissions department a psychiatric hospital. Before this he worked as an outpatient, home-based family and youth therapist. He has also worked in group homes for youth needing psychiatric treatment and in housing programs for formerly homeless families and veterans. Chris received his MSW from Hunter College in New York City. In his spare time Chris enjoys traveling, exploring Philadelphia, painting and drawing.