College of HHD

Here's How to Find Calm in the Chaos

October 28, 2014

Mohinder SethiWe hurry, we rush, we race for the finish—even at the expense of our peace of mind. But if we can take some time each day to be alone with our thoughts, we can calm the mental noise. Focusing on the present moment allows a refreshed perspective to emerge. This is the heart of mindfulness based wellness, and wellness is at the heart of our healthcare disciplines in the College of Health and Human Development.

Nursing alumna Mohinder Sethi participated in our Professor for a Day event last spring, visiting Nursing classes to talk to students about how she uses mindfulness every day in her work as Director of Patient Care Services for Preferred Excellent Healthcare (PEC) and as an Integrative Nursing Coach.

As we move into the holiday season and stress levels rise, we thought it would be helpful to our friends and alumni to share Mohinder’s experience and expertise beyond Professor for a Day. We talked with Mohinder about how she brings mindfulness practices to her work and how she coaches her clients.  We started with the most basic question: How do we find calm in the chaos?  

“It's a matter of being present with yourself," she said. "Everyone was born with inner wisdom. Through mindfulness you can learn how to listen for it and strengthen it for a healing way of living.”

The first step to developing a mindfulness practice is to learn a centering meditation technique.  Find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. Twenty minutes is great, but even a couple of minutes can be helpful.
flower in half sun half shade
Where to go? You might be surprised how many little escapes you can find in your daily environment: a quiet spot in the garden, a room with a door that closes, even, in a pinch, the parked car.

“Deep breathe and let your breathing become relaxed,” Mohinder said. “Ask yourself a question like, ‘who am I being?’ and, ‘am I getting stressed because I’m trying to be someone I can’t be?’ As you connect with yourself, you find that sense of balance.”

“We are in constant propulsion forward,” she said. “We are multi-multi-tasking all day. Before we know it, we are living for external rewards and incentives. Rather than living as human beings, we have become human beasts. This makes it all the more important to find some time to practice, even if only for a few moments. Quality time is more important than quantity. To really get in touch with the self, ask ‘who am I and what do I want?’”

You can approach your mindfulness based on your personality, too. You can start the day with a meditation to set your intentions for the day, take a break to get centered in the middle of a stressful day, or take some time at the end of the day to reflect and wind down (or all of the above!). The key is to start where you are.

“People who wake up thinking about their goals are not in the present moment. So it is especially important for goal oriented people to take that time for mindfulness at the start of the day,” Mohinder said. “To move forward in life and keep an awareness of the present moment is a discipline in itself.”

Of course achieving goals calls for planning ahead, so how does a person approach goal setting from a mindful place?  “Think of a map,” she said. “It shows everywhere at once, but all over it are potential focal points. If you are starting at point A and you want to get to your goal, point X, you need to know first where you are. Then you need to know where you want to go,” Mohinder said.

“Think about any stops or even detours along the way. Will they support you in reaching your goal, or distract you from your purpose?  It’s the same on the internal map of the self,” she said. “Mindfulness not only gets you where you want to go in a timely manner, it gives you the best quality of a day.”

Routine and habit have their place, but when they become distractions in themselves, it’s time to take a pause. “Have you ever driven to a destination and kind of wondered how you got there?  That phenomenon has a basis in our neurology,” Mohinder said, “The neurotransmitters get trained and awareness skips out.”

It may seem ironic to move forward and be still at the same time, but this is the magic of being present every step of the way.  “Stop and think about what your real needs are then take baby steps toward accomplishment. Start with yourself, and you can help others later,” she reminded.

"This is an exercise that will help you center yourself on the path to mindfulness,” she said, “Ask yourself, ‘Where am I? (Am I present with and connected with myself?) How is my body doing? And what do I know about my soul?’ Turn the noise in your mind down by deep breathing and focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale.  As the noise calms down breathe slower still.  Be aware of each breath and ask yourself, ‘What am I hoping for?’ Drop this question in your mind and let it be.  You may see an image or hear an answer.  Be patient with yourself and allow the space to yourself to be quiet and listen.”

In August, 2013, Mohinder lost her son Jusdeep to an accident. Following in his mother’s footsteps into higher education, he was a CSUN student, a born motivator and inspiration to everyone he met. You can learn more about Jusdeep and read about a celebration of his life in the Daily Sundial. The techniques Mohinder has shared with us also help her and the family through the grief. “Really be present with your true self,” Mohinder said. “Your inner voice will answer. My son Jusdeep got to the point where he could say, ‘Mom, I did hear my inner voice,’ and I knew I didn’t have to tell him anything.”  

Sharing Mindfulness with Nursing Students at Pinning Ceremony

Rebekah ChildThe mindfulness message accompanied our most recent Accelerated Bachelor of Science (A-BSN) in Nursing graduating class into their careers.  Rebekah Child (Assistant Professor, Nursing) shared mindfulness techniques with the Nursing graduates at the pinning ceremony and graduation of the 12th Cohort of the A-BSN in August. Knowing that giving to others can develop into compassion fatigue, she told the graduates, “I see so many nurses fizzle out because they just give, give, give and forget why they chose nursing as a profession. It is so important for all of us—especially nurses—to spend time reflecting on ourselves and staying connected with our own spirits.”

She gave each graduate a sleep mask to put over their eyes and told them, “Every day spend at least 20 minutes pulling into ‘Relaxation Station.’  Tell family, friends or co-workers that this time is sacred. In a profession that is mandated to care for others, when we neglect ourselves we get burned out and become dissatisfied. This self-kindness will help you remember why you chose nursing as a profession.” Read more about the ceremony.


Jean O'Sullivan