“How to wake up mindful.” With Beau Henderson & Christy Pennison

During this time, we are all experiencing the same reality, but in different ways. To offer support to others, we must lead with kindness. Before you talk to those who are feeling anxious or worried, ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say kind?” As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness […]

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During this time, we are all experiencing the same reality, but in different ways. To offer support to others, we must lead with kindness. Before you talk to those who are feeling anxious or worried, ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say kind?”

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christy Pennison, LPC-S.

Christy Pennison is a board-certified professional counselor, mental health consultant, and owner of Be Inspired Counseling & Consulting. She is passionate about inspiring hope for change through counseling, consulting, and speaking to help individuals of all ages move forward and live fully.

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?

Growing up I knew I wanted to help others, I just wasn’t clear on how I would do it. As a young adult, I traveled to different countries with nonprofit organizations. It was through those experiences my passion to help others grew.

After completing a bachelor’s in sociology, I was trained as a child forensic interviewer. I interviewed children and adolescents who were alleged victims of abuse, creating a safe place and environment to assist them with telling their story. Through my work with child victims, I realized I not only wanted to help children tell their stories but assist them in overcoming whatever obstacles they faced. It was this experience that set me on the path of becoming a board certified professional counselor and mental health consultant.

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

You never forget the first client you work with. I was fresh out of graduate school when I got a job as a Multisystemic therapist in a rural community. Feeling excited and nervous, I walked into the house of a grandmother who was raising her teenage granddaughter. The distraught grandmother, who looked like she hadn’t slept for days, sat in her chair, and told me the story of how overwhelmed she was that she could no longer manage the behaviors of her granddaughter. The girl had been sneaking out of the house, using substances, and getting involved with negative friends. Her mother was in and out of her life due to substance abuse, her father wasn’t involved, and this left the grandmother to raise her. During our first session, the granddaughter cursed and yelled, with the grandmother yelling back while also trying to tell me the story of what brought me to them in the first place.

I remember, in that moment, my excitement to work with my first family turned into, “How in the heck am I supposed to help here?” I felt unequipped. But, I showed up twice a week (if not more) to their house. I met with the school, the probation officer, and others, to find ways to influence change in the life of this family. Things didn’t change overnight. In fact, when my time working with the family ended, the problems that brought me into their life weren’t completely resolved. However, eight months later, I got an invitation to attend a graduation with a letter from the grandmother. The granddaughter had just completed an alternative education program, obtaining her GED. When I showed up to the graduation, I no longer saw a family in crisis; I saw a confident teenager and a proud grandmother. I saw happiness.

I have no idea where that family is today, but their story reminds me that no matter how hopeless a situation seems, change is possible. That family taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that I don’t need to know everything; I just need to show up. Sometimes showing up, offering hope that things can get better, and putting one foot in front of the other goes a long way in helping individuals actualize the change they want for their lives.

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?

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl helped me shift my outlook on life. In his book, he chronicles his horrifying experiences as a prisoner in the concentration camps during World War II and how he found meaning even in the midst of it. Life can present challenges far beyond our control, similar to the one we are experiencing with coronavirus. However, it’s up to us how we assign meaning and purpose to our experiences. Victor Frankl taught me that we can be stripped of everything in our life, even our dignity, but it is up to us how we choose to respond. Our response to the challenges that life throws our way ultimately influences the trajectory of our life.

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?

A state of mindfulness can be summed up into two words: awareness and acceptance. We cannot accept the things we are not aware of, nor can we be aware of the things in which we cannot accept. Our brains are constantly processing tons of information: sights, sounds, physical sensations, smells, feelings — many of which we are completely unaware. Many times our thoughts can be like an intersecting highway with multiple lanes going in various directions. Mindfulness is the ability to recognize what’s going on inside your mind or happening around you at any given moment without getting carried away by it. It’s purposefully bringing your attention to the present, focusing on what is happening now.

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?

Becoming mindful allows you to become more attuned to your body. We often don’t realize it, but we store emotions in our body. When we become more aware of the physical sensations of our body, we can learn to relax and release the tension we have stored. Mindfulness has been seen to help reduce physical pain, lower high blood pressure, improve immune function, and promote sleep — just to name a few.

Mentally, through mindfulness, you can learn to bring awareness to your mind and thoughts. At any given moment of the day, our mind has many thoughts running around aimlessly in our head. When we are unaware of our thoughts, our thoughts control us, and we are at the mercy of them. Through increased awareness, you can learn ways to help gently guide your thoughts back to a more balanced or helpful place. Mindfulness can help increase focus, concentration, and mental clarity. It has been shown to improve memory and lead to greater self-insight.

Our thoughts influence our emotions. Therefore, the emotional benefits of mindfulness can be extensive. In fact, mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety or depressive feelings. When you can become mindful, you become present and focused, shifting to a conscious awareness of the present. It can reduce stress, decrease emotional reactivity, and promote greater adaptability and flexibility.

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.

Mindfulness takes practice. And in the midst of uncertain times, it may be difficult to master because your mind will want to go in many different directions. Just remember to give yourself grace in the process. Incorporating small, mindful moments into your day can be a great way to start. Here are a few ways to do that:

Wake up mindful.

Wake up and notice how you feel. Don’t pick up the phone or read the newspaper. Just allow yourself to focus on the present. How does your body feel? Take time to be still and just take in everything around you. Set an intention for your day. And if you have time, meditation is a great way to start your morning before all of the distractions of the day come your way.

Take deep breaths.

Practice taking deep breaths throughout your day. Notice how it feels when you breathe in and out. Take longer exhales than inhales. Just becoming aware of your breath helps to ground yourself in the present moment.

Create a cue or prompt to remind yourself to practice being present.

Having a prompt or subtle reminder to reference during your day can go a long way in bringing you back in the moment. You can create a word or phrase to remind yourself to focus on the present. It can be something as simple as “now”, reminding yourself to shift your focus to the here and now. For example, I have a bracelet that says “Be Still”. When I see it throughout the day, it reminds me to slow down and be still.

Pick one activity a day to be mindful in.

Right now my mindfulness activity is walking, but it could be something else like eating or brushing your teeth. This may sound silly, but when you are repeatedly mindful with one activity in your day, it helps you begin to also bring it into other areas of your life. While doing the activity, focus on the sight, sound, feeling, smell, or taste.

Pay attention.

Become a curious observer to your thoughts and emotions. When you notice a shift in your mood or thoughts, pay attention. Instead of avoiding painful or negative thoughts, acknowledge them. Choose to focus on the things you can control. The more you are aware of the thoughts or feelings, the more you will be able to begin to challenge or shift unhelpful thoughts or feelings to more balanced, grounded ones.

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?

Be kind.

During this time, we are all experiencing the same reality, but in different ways. To offer support to others, we must lead with kindness. Before you talk to those who are feeling anxious or worried, ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say kind?”

Seek to understand.

Empathy goes a long way in times like these. Empathy means you may not understand how another person feels or thinks, but you try to put yourself in their shoes. Seeking to understand will go far in supporting the individuals in your life during this time.

Listen and validate.

Listening to someone talk about how they’re feeling, and validating how they feel, can help ease someone’s anxious feelings. Validating someone doesn’t mean you have to agree with how they are feeling, or what they are saying, but it communicates to them you matter to me.

Help them challenge their thoughts.

When we are “stuck” in a problem or way of thinking, it can be hard for us to shift perspective. Being able to ask someone a question to help them shift their perspective can be powerful. One way to do this is to ask someone what they can do right now to help themselves or improve their situation. Ask them what went right with their day instead of what went wrong.

Encourage them to do something to relax their body.

We all need to be reminded to take care of ourselves from time to time. If someone you know is anxious and tense, encourage them to do something that helps them relax. Can they go for a walk, take a long bath, listen to music, plant a garden, or complete a puzzle? Whatever is calming or relaxing to them, encourage them to do it. And then check back in with them to make sure they took the time to do it.

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 resources online around mindfulness or practicing mindfulness. From YouTube to apps, you can find ways to practice becoming present in the moment.

Here are a few apps to help guide you into a space of more awareness:

  • Insight Timer
  • Headspace
  • Smiling Mind
  • Stop, Breathe, & Think
  • 10% Happier
  • UCLA Mindful

You can get a mindfulness journal such as Do One Thing Every Day that Centers You: A Mindfulness Journal, or create your own by identifying one thing you did each day to be more present in your life.

Another way is to engage with groups in your community that practice mindfulness. Many communities have meditation classes or yoga practices, all which help guide you in learning ways to become more present. During this time, most of those groups have moved online so it’s a great way to still remain engaged even if it’s not in person.

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

I’m a quote lover, so there are many favorites that have guided me along the way. However, one that I believe is relevant to our current situation is by Mother Teresa: “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

I’ll be the first to admit remaining present is hard. I get caught up in my thoughts, to-do lists, things I feel I should be doing, or just the busyness of life. There are days I want tomorrow to happen now, and I want to reach the goals I’ve set for myself immediately. But life doesn’t work that way.

That’s why the reminder Mother Theresa gave us is so important. Many times we feel as though we’ll always have tomorrow, but unfortunately, that’s just not true. It’s during a crisis like the one we’re living through right now that we become ever more aware of the brevity of life and our humanity. No one wants to get to the end of their life, whenever that is, and feel like they missed it. And if we can learn to be mindful enough to live in each moment, that’s a real gift.

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. 🙂

Our mindset is powerful. It influences our habits, what we believe about ourselves, and how we live our life. If I could start a movement, it would be to help individuals cultivate a mindset that empowers and supports them. So often we get “stuck” in our lives, and I want individuals to know that you don’t have to stay there. Each individual possesses unique strengths, talents, and skills. I would want the movement to help inspire individuals to believe in themselves and realize they have the potential to do whatever it is they set their minds to. If we had more people who were able to get past the fears, self-doubt, or limitations they place on themselves and their lives, what a world that would be! Never underestimate the importance of your life or the influence you have on others. You have greatness within you!

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

Website: &


Instagram: @christypennison


Feel free to reach out; I would love to hear from you!

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

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