How my daughter and I use mindfulness for anxiety, and life
Being present in the moment has changed my approach to living with CF
In 2014, when my daughter was entering her freshman year of college, I watched a segment of the TV news program “60 Minutes” that changed my life.
In the segment, presenter Anderson Cooper reported on a mindfulness retreat he attended led by Jon Kabat-Zinn, often considered the grandfather of mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn, who has a doctorate in molecular biology and is a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, founded its world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979 and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in 1995.
To him, mindfulness is less a practice than a way of being. It’s choosing to be present for each moment of each day to help minimize our mind wandering to fears of the future or dwelling on the past. This habit reminds us that we have only this moment, and in this moment we are alive — which, in the world of cystic fibrosis (CF), is an important goal. I find it similar to the popular “one day at a time” advice, but mindfulness also includes appreciation of that moment.
When you’re in the shower, for instance, mindfulness asks you to simply “be” in the shower, paying attention and enjoying that experience. When you eat, just eat. Don’t think of the stressful work meeting you have later today because you’re not there yet. In the segment, Kabat-Zinn explains that the more you’re mindful, the easier it is to accomplish. He encourages meditation as well.
Mindfulness with cystic fibrosis
This episode spoke to me like nothing before. I realized immediately that mindfulness could help my daughter and me in dealing with the uncertainty of my CF diagnosis. As an adult with the disease, I’d already been surpassing every adjusted life expectancy announced by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, but a certain level of fear and anxiety is inevitable.
As the mother of a child without CF, I’ve spent much of her life balancing age-appropriate talks with her about my disease to protect her from anxiety as best I could, but the internet and social media changed that quickly as she got older. Despite my best efforts, anxiety has crept into both of our lives.
Now, though, my daughter and I have both embraced this mindful way of being. It’s an exercise of our minds to stay present, be grateful, and appreciate each day. We also share a strong faith and lean on that as well. When the days are hard, from CF or other factors, we try to stay in the moment and not let our fears run out of control. We can slow our minds down and breathe instead.
I’ve found I get much more enjoyment out of life from this perspective. Slowing my pace to be present in relationships and experiences is more rewarding than rushing through my day. My daughter and I remind ourselves that even when times are difficult, we’re still here and still together. Our years of mindfulness even helped us get through the scary time of my double-lung transplant in 2020.
All anyone has in this life is right now. My daughter and I choose to be grateful for that. We find the hope and beauty of the day and hold on to it tightly. In this way, I feel we’re both living beyond CF.
I’ve forwarded the “60 Minutes” segment to so many people in my life and have encouraged them to research mindfulness and Kabat-Zinn. I promise them they won’t regret it. I don’t.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.