Practising online mindfulness together can help families tackle stress of lockdown

Glasgow Caledonian University’s Ben Parkinson says online mindfulness resources that are helping stroke survivors and their families cope with anxiety and depression could help us all manage our stress during lockdown.

Ben is exploring how accessing mindfulness resources remotely can help stroke survivors and their partners work together to manage the stress and mood difficulties commonly experienced by families dealing with the condition. He says practising mindfulness – particularly with our partners and families  – could help us all manage our mental health while we are social distancing.

Ben says: “There is growing evidence to suggest mindfulness can help people manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Our research explored the use of online mindfulness resources for people affected by strokes and found some stroke survivors and their partners experienced reduced anxiety and improved mood when learning together.

“Mindfulness is a tool that we could all tap into now to help us and our families cope with the complex challenges of self-isolation and deal with additional strains such as health and financial worries. Using online mindfulness is a good way to improve mood and our research shows learning with a partner can be particularly helpful.”

Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment and experiencing what is happening in a non-judgemental and accepting way. It is practised by millions of people globally and can be learned in classes and online. Learning mindfulness involves regular meditation practice, which can be studied through exercises such as sitting, walking and breathing meditation and mindful movement.

Says Ben: “These meditation practises are versatile, don’t involve any specialist equipment, and can be completed at home during lockdown.

“Our research focused on stroke survivors and their partners practising mindfulness together but mindfulness approaches are used widely in health, education, and workplace settings. One of the great things about mindfulness is its flexibility and the fact it can be practised anywhere – perfect for our current situation.

“Online mindfulness offers people in lockdown the chance to learn mindfulness anywhere with internet access, and at a time and pace of their choosing. Once you have learned the basic principles, you can start using it throughout the day or when you’re feeling particularly stressed. You can practise mindfulness when you’re out for your daily walk, sitting around stuck at home, or even just eating a meal.

“Practising mindfulness regularly – ideally daily – is going to be most helpful and we’ve found learning with a partner could help you support each other and prompt each other to use mindfulness when you’re stressed.”

Ben particularly recommends the following sites, which can be freely accessed:

The results of Ben’s research will be published in 2021. He is part of a GCU team led by Professor Maggie Lawrence who is leading the HEADS:UP project. Funded by the Stroke Association, HEADS:UP – Helping Ease Anxiety and Depression After Stroke – is exploring the use of a stroke-specific version of mindfulness for people affected by stroke.

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