Dr. Jeni Shannon spends her days working with athletes, who are focused on going faster, working harder and achieving. Part of her work to help them succeed and meet their performance goals is to get them to slow down.
Shannon is a licensed psychologist and sports psychologist, who works at both Carolina Strategies in Cary and UNC Athletics in the department of sports medicine. She also is the new mom of a two-month-old little boy.
Shannon will be holding a four-part mindfulness series starting this month. She'll teach participants about what mindfulness is and how they can incorporate it into their lives. It's open to all, not just athletes.
I checked in with Shannon to learn more about how mindfulness can help us all - especially moms who live in this busy world. Here's our email conversation:
Go Ask Mom: You work for Carolina Strategies, helping athletes at all levels. Tell us a bit about what you do.
Jeni Shannon: I am a licensed psychologist and a sport psychologist, which means I work with everything from mental health concerns (such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders) to performance concerns (such as confidence, focus, resilience), as well as some of the things that fall into both categories, such as coping with injury. I enjoy working with athletes of all ages and levels, typically meeting one-on-one to address their concerns and develop strategies to work through them. In addition to working with individuals, I facilitate group sessions with teams and small groups of athletes. We also offer a Performance Academy for Junior Athletes, as well as a mindfulness series.
GAM: You'll be a series on mindfulness this month. What is mindfulness and how does that play into your practice at Carolina Strategies?
JS: Mindfulness is an evidence-based technique shown to help cope with stress, increase focus, and manage anxiety and depression. Jon Kabat-Zinn is an expert on mindfulness and describes it as "paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally … simply the art of conscious living." With mindfulness practice, we can learn how to bring our full attention to our present experience, no matter what we're doing (e.g. sitting quietly, doing chores, taking a walk, reading a book or playing a sport). It is very much about knowing what you are doing while you are doing it and being fully present in each moment.
Mindfulness is something I incorporate into my work with almost everyone. The benefits are far-reaching and there are so many everyday applications. I find that it helps reduce stress and helps people live more fulfilling lives – it helps us not be so caught up in always thinking ahead and allows us to be more fully engaged in the things that matter.
GAM: How can mindfulness help us in our busy lives, especially moms?
JS: Mindfulness is perfect for busy individuals, especially moms. When we are running around constantly and multi-tasking, it can be very hard to be present. This adds to stress and feeling frantic, and can often take away from connection with our families. Mindfulness can help moms find more peace and calm in their days, to be more efficient by being present with tasks, and to be more connected and engaged with their kids. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can be incorporated into everyday life. You can practice mindfulness while driving, cooking or taking a shower. Mindfulness also teaches us about acceptance and letting go of judgment. This can be especially relevant to moms. It allows us to be kind to ourselves and bring in some compassion. It is a wonderful way to take care of yourself on many levels.
GAM: Can mindfulness be helpful for children as well?
JS: Mindfulness is incredibly beneficial for children! This is particularly true when we see how over-scheduled kids can be, without a moment of calm to just be present. Technology has also made mindfulness especially important for kids. They are used to so much multitasking and so many distractions, so they may not learn how to be fully engaged in what they are doing. Mindfulness can help kids in both school and sports by teaching them how to quiet their mind and be in the present moment. In fact, there has been a big movement to start teaching kids mindfulness and meditation in kindergarten and elementary schools. The programs that have done so have been hugely successful, seeing students improve self control, academics and mood.
GAM: Tell us a bit about your upcoming series and who can benefit from it.
JS: The series consists of four sessions and will introduce mindfulness through the practice of specific skills that calm and focus the mind in order to be fully engaged in the present moment. Participants will learn about the benefits of a mindfulness practice and will receive detailed instruction in mindfulness techniques. We largely focus on how to apply mindfulness strategies into everyday life.
The series will be offered from noon to 12:50 pm and 5:30 p.m. to 6:20 pm on Wednesdays, beginning on Jan. 20 at Carolina Strategies (2000 Regency Pkwy, Suite 285 Cary, NC 27518). Visit Carolina Strategies' website for more information. If you have questions or want to sign up, contact Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-234-6144.
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