Stones piled on beach

Practice Mindful Self-Awareness

When we’re stressed or overwhelmed, it’s not uncommon to feel somewhat disconnected from ourselves. 

If this is something that's true for you, it can be hard to know how to cope or identify what you need when you're feeling disconnected from your experience in the present moment.

The first step to managing stress is to get purposeful about taking some time each day to practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgment and has been shown to have both mental and physical health benefits. Below are some ways you can practice mindfulness.  

Young adult practicing meditation

Practicing Mindful Self-Awareness

Start by turning your attention to the floor beneath your feet, paying attention to how it is grounding you and supporting you. Notice how the air surrounding you is quietly nurturing you as you inhale each breath. When you feel ready, turn your attention towards your breathing and take in several slow, deep breaths: inhale deeply through your nose, hold for three seconds, and exhale through your mouth slowly with a gentle sigh. With each exhale, imagine the tension in your body slowly melting away.

While you're focused on your breath and if it feels comfortable and safe, place your hand over your heart and offer yourself a moment of kindness as you feel the warmth of your hand over your heartbeat.  

As you rest your awareness in this moment, gently turn your attention towards your present experience and take some time to reflect on each question while you continue to breathe deeply. Ask yourself…

  • What am I experiencing and/or noticing in my system right now? Am I feeling cold, warm, hungry, tense, tired, energetic? What words can I use to describe how I am feeling?
  • What emotions am I experiencing? What emotion is most in need of your attention and care?
  • Given what you've just learned about your present moment, what do you need the most right now to support your coping? A break from studying? Something to eat? A drink of water? Someone to talk to? Sleep? Movement? Try to identify one thing that you can do today to help meet those coping needs.
  • Remind yourself that what you’re experiencing makes sense given what you’re going through. That your emotions matter. That you deserve this moment of care.

When you're ready, turn your attention back towards your breathing and take in three more slow, deep breaths. Notice again how the air surrounding you is quietly nurturing you as you breathe in.

Turn your attention back to the floor beneath your feet, noticing how it is grounding you and supporting you. Begin to gently move in a way that feels best for you... wiggle your fingers and toes, stretch your arms... shifting back into the movement of your day. Close your mindful self-awareness practice by offering yourself another moment of kindness: May I be safe. May I be peaceful. May I be well.


*If you have experienced trauma, you may find it difficult or overwhelming to tune into your body. It's important to honour your needs and boundaries around mindfulness work. If tuning into your body is too much right now, give yourself permission to explore what you need in the present moment without focusing on body sensations. 

There are many different types of meditation that you can practice, including mindfulness meditation, self-compassion or loving-kindness meditation, movement meditation, mantra meditation, and progressive relaxation.

Here is a simple mindful meditation exercise* that you can try to get started:

  • Take a seat in a calming environment and get comfortable.
  • Decide how long you want to meditate for - even practicing for a few minutes can have a positive impact on your day. It may help to set a timer on your phone or computer with a gentle ring so your mind doesn't have to worry about the time.
  • If it feels comfortable to you, close your eyes. If you would prefer to keep your eyes open, find a spot on the floor in front of you to focus on with a gentle gaze. 
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose. Turn all of your attention to the sensation of the cool air on your nostrils, flowing slowly into your lungs. Exhale deeply through your mouth with a gentle sigh.
  • Continue taking slow, mindful breaths and notice when your mind wanders. Be kind to yourself when this happens, as it is a normal part of being human - our brains tend to wander and get lost in thoughts whenever they have the opportunity to do so. Notice your thoughts as though they are clouds in the sky just passing through, and gently bring your attention back to your breath. Each time you bring your attention back to your breath, you are training your brain to hold your attention longer on the present moment.
  • Continue this practice for as long as you wish, noticing how you feel as you move through your practice.
  • When you are ready, gently open your eyes and stretch. Thank yourself for taking the time to practice being in the present moment.


For additional meditation practices, please visit the Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion.


*If you have experienced trauma, you may find it difficult or overwhelming to tune into your body. It's important to honour your needs and boundaries around mindfulness work. If tuning into your body is too much right now, experiement with other types of mindfulness practices that place attention on your surroundings, rather than your body. For example, practice mindfulness of sound by focusing your attention on the sounds around you rather than on the sensations within you.

Yoga and other types of mindful movement exercises can help soothe your nervous system, release tension, and allow you to find a sense of calm. The Toldo Lancer Centre offers several yoga classes each week that you can attend, and there are many free yoga videos available on YouTube if you want to practice at home.

Mindful journalling is distinct from other types of journalling as it is intended to help you stay focused on the present moment. To practice mindful journaling, try experimenting with:

  • Writing down what you are experiencing through each of your five senses (what do you see, hear, smell, taste, touch?)
  • Naming your emotions.
  • Describing an interesting object in detail. 
  • Listing all of the colours you see in the room.
  • Identifying textures and temperatures that you can feel and describing what those sensations are like (e.g., smooth, rough, cold, etc.).
  • Drawing out your observations to any of the above instead of using words.

Taking a break from technology is an important way to help your mind and body rest and recharge. Technology, screens, and social media can be draining, can increase feelings of anxiety, and are often a big part of our day. Getting purposeful about setting boundaries around how much time you spend on your phone, social media feeds, computer, and video games can help you feel more in control. 

Things to do instead of engaging with technology:

  • Read a book
  • Go for a walk
  • Connect with a friend in-person
  • Spend time with pets
  • Practice a hobby
  • Get creative with an art project
  • Go for a picnic
  • Spend time on a beach
  • Do a puzzle
  • Write a story, poem, or song
  • Practice an instrument
  • Take a nap
  • Clean your room
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Journal
  • Exercise
  • Meditate

Another simple way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life is to turn everyday tasks into opportunities for mindfulness practice. For example:

  • Savour your morning coffee or tea (notice the smell and taste, how it feels to drink, etc.)
  • Focus on the sensation of folding laundry (textures of the fabric, muscle movement in your hands and arms, etc.)
  • Notice how the sunlight passes through the trees.
  • Pay attention to the sounds, temperatures, and sensations of the air around you as you walk between classes
  • Appreciate a sunrise or sunset (notice the patterns of clouds and colours, the textures in the sky, etc.)

Little moments of noticing small details in your world can help ground and calm you.