How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times

Learn out how to de-stress with this post from Kim Colegrove author of Mindfulness for Warriors

In any given moment, you have the choice to resist or accept what is occurring in that moment. Choosing to accept the moment as it is, does not equate to giving up or giving in — it’s not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is an act of sanity, and can empower you to make adjustments if desired.

Asa part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Colegrove.

Kim Colegrove, author of Mindfulness for Warriors, is a 40-year veteran of meditation, and the founder of Pause First: Mindfulness for First Responders. Colegrove is the widow of a law enforcement officer who died by suicide. She previously taught mindfulness in corporate settings, but now leads a team of instructors who offer resilience training, meditation and mindfulness to help first responders cope with stress and trauma.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Iwas originally trained in meditation in 1976 when I was ten years old, so meditation has always been a part of my life. In January of 2011, I quit my job to teach meditation and mindfulness full time. I started out working with private clients and teaching small classes, and then I started to get corporate jobs with companies like Garmin International, United Way, Department of Veterans Affairs, The National Court Reporters Association and others.

In 2014, my husband David retired from a 30-year law enforcement career, and less than three months later, he shot and killed himself. As you can imagine, David’s suicide was devastating, and the ripple effects were catastrophic. David’s death led me on a journey of discovery about stress and trauma and specifically how trauma impacts first responders. I learned that many first responders suffer with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress and that we lose more police officers and firefighters to suicide each year than line-of-duty deaths. The more I learned, the more I wanted to do something to help.

In 2017, I created Pause First: Mindfulness for First Responders, with the support and backing of a local police commander, and I started teaching classes. I now lead a team of instructors who offer resilience training, featuring meditation and mindfulness, to first responders and other warriors. The team is comprised of first responders, veterans and a mental health professional. These are carefully-vetted and experienced people and I am honored to work with them to bring relief to the heavily-traumatized populations we serve.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I encounter a lot of skeptics in my work. Meditation and mindfulness are still new and strange to many people, and first responders are notoriously slow to trust outsiders. So, I begin many trainings staring at a classroom full of crossed arms, being sized up by people who would not be present had they not been voluntold to attend.

However, a few weeks after one such class, I received a communication from an attendee. He told me that my story had cracked his hard shell, and that so much of what I had shared about my husband resonated. He said my class was a part of his healing path and that he was doing much better. His message was deeply personal and raw, and he confided in me that prior to finding this healing path, he had a suicide plan. He actually included my work and my story in his list of things that helped him, saved him — prevented him from wanting to end his life.

This story is far beyond interesting to me. It’s confirmation that I’m doing the work I am meant to do and that human connection combined with vulnerability creates a potent salve that can help heal the collective wounds of our warriors.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

For me, fantastic work culture is purpose-driven, progressive, and supports creativity. I wouldn’t presume to advise other leaders, but I’m not a fan of a strict hierarchy. I prefer a culture of collaboration, which I think breeds pride and drives productivity.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are two books I would note as being impactful on my life and my work. On the more spiritual, metaphysical, philosophical side, there was Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Although I was already a regular meditator when I read it, the book helped me gain a deep sense of how to develop the ability to be fully present in my life.

On the clinical, practical side there was, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel Van Der Kolk. This book clearly explains what trauma does to a human being, and it helped me better understand my husband’s trauma-related symptoms.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

I would describe the state of being mindful as a settling into the here and now without expectation. It has to do with one’s own attention and awareness. Mindfulness is observational and accepting.

I was thinking recently that one could imagine a court reporter when trying to conceptualize mindfulness. A court reporter sits in the middle of the action, observing and capturing what is happening. The court reporter is neutral. He or she is not there to litigate, analyze, criticize, argue or intellectualize. Court reporters must stay fully present in order capture every word, moment-by-moment, just as they are spoken. They cannot, nor do they wish to, alter or edit what is being said. They are not concerned with what came before this moment or what will come next. They are simply present and aware.

When a person is mindful, they are simply being in the now moment in time — observing, noticing, and experiencing. But really, just being.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

First of all, I’d like to admit that mindfulness is counterintuitive to most people. We are conditioned to think, go, problem-solve and act. So, it takes practice to release the need to do and learn to just be.

But, once you get the hang of it, there are many positive benefits. Experientially speaking, here are some things you might notice:

  • Physically. Practicing mindfulness can help you relax and even calm your own nervous system. This could result in improvements such reduced muscle tension, fewer headaches, and improved digestion.
  • Mentally. Developing the ability to drop your awareness from head to heart, or from your analytical mind to a more sensory or perceiving experience of any given moment, can help settle mental activity and provide much needed relief.
  • Emotionally. Learning to adopt mindfulness as a way to ease worries about the future and ruminations of the past, can serve to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Gently guiding awareness into the here and now can therefore facilitate emotional balancing.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

1. Accept that the breath is the body’s natural stress reliever and learn to use it on purpose.

In every class I teach, I encourage people to use breathing exercises to calm their own stress symptoms. If you stop what you’re doing right now, take a slow, deep, full inhale, then exhale fully and completely, all the while focusing on this breathing, you will most likely notice some sort of internal improvement. If not, take another breath. And another. Place your full awareness on your breathing as you do this. Slowing down and regulating your breathing is the easiest and most effective way to calm your own system and initiate stress reduction.

2. Spend a little time thinking about resistance and acceptance and learn to recognize these responses within yourself.

In any given moment, you have the choice to resist or accept what is occurring in that moment. Choosing to accept the moment as it is, does not equate to giving up or giving in — it’s not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is an act of sanity, and can empower you to make adjustments if desired.

As an illustration, imagine that you are suddenly tossed into the ocean without a lifejacket.

Resistance. You begin wildly flailing your arms around in the air, using an enormous amount of energy. Your thoughts start racing: “I can’t believe I’ve been tossed into the ocean! I do not want to be in the ocean! I’m going to drown! I’m going to die! I wish this didn’t happen! Why did this happen?!”

Acceptance. You tread water and observe that you have been tossed into the ocean. You think: “I am in the ocean. What will I do next?”

This might seem silly, but it’s a good metaphor for how people are living.

Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up and allowing yourself to go under water and die. The non-resistant nature of acceptance provides you with the space and clarity to manifest your next moments as you would like them to be. In this example, maybe you notice a boat not too far away and you begin swimming toward it.

If you stay in resistance, however, your awareness might never expand to allow for this solution.

3. Learn how to meditate and practice daily.

I like to say that meditation is to mindfulness as exercise is to fitness. If you want better physical fitness, you have to exercise. If you wish to increase mindfulness, meditate. Meditation promotes mindfulness.

4. Cultivate mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a state of being, a way of living — more present in each moment, and more present in your own life. Practice bringing your awareness into the present moment regularly and learn to sense, feel, observe and accept as part of this practice.

5. More being, less doing.

Once you get the hang of this, you will notice a strange phenomenon. Spending time each day doing nothing will actually help you get more done. Of course, what I mean by “doing nothing” is, spend time practicing meditation and mindfulness. These skills free up space in your head and promote mental clarity. Without all of the mental clutter, you’ll notice subtle improvements in decision making, self-control, time management and more!

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Honestly, I would recommend becoming familiar with the five steps I just described, practice them regularly, and then model them for others and teach them to anyone interested in learning. These are effective personal practices and they are empowering. I cannot imagine anything that could be more important in these times than for individuals to feel empowered.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

There are so many great resources available! It really depends on how you like to learn. There are great books you can read or listen to, like Dan Harris’ 10% Happier and Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. There are countless meditation and mindfulness apps available. I like Insight Timer, but there are so many to choose from. You can subscribe to Mindful magazine, it’s full of great information. And, there’s a lot to discover on YouTube.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

This is so cliché, but I love the old adage: Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

I am not a person who can sell widgets, unless I really believe in the widgets and I know the widgets can help other people or help make the world a better place. I am purpose-driven. It’s baked in. So, the work I’m doing benefits me every bit as much as it benefits the people I serve. This work feeds my soul.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Oh that’s easy! I would start a meditation movement that would include ubiquitous meditation and mindfulness instruction and experience! I would put meditation stations and salons on every corner, in every school, office building, hospital and airport, on college campuses and in retirement homes. I would provide drop-in mindfulness groups on Capitol Hill, in the White House, on Main Street and on Wall Street. I would make meditation training and support available everywhere, around the globe, 24-hours a day!

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

My website:

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Check out Pause First Academy when it comes out!

Mindfullness for Warriors by Kim Colegrove

Mindfulness for warriors

Empowering First Responders to Reduce Stress and Build Resilience

A traumatic way of life: First responders have the incredibly difficult job of running toward danger while the rest of us run away. No training can prepare them for what they will see and endure. Kim Colegrove understands what it’s like to watch someone go through that. After 30 years in law enforcement, her husband took his own life. This agonizing experience opened Kim’s eyes to the desperate need for an effective form of stress-relief and support for first responders.

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