Jan. 24, 2023

Masterclass in mindfulness: Podcast dives deeper into the benefits of meditation in dealing with stressors

Season 2 of UCalgary series ‘brings mindfulness not just to the chaos, but to the every day’
Photo of a sunny winter day at the University of Calgary campus
Podcast co-host Julia Imanoff looks to mindful moments, such as going for walks, as a way to drop mindfulness into her busy days Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

As the hosts of UCalgary Mindfulness gear up for their second season, they hope to dive deeper into the importance of practising meditation to help deal with complex emotions and day-to-day stressors.

Julia Imanoff compares the podcast she co-hosts with Justin Burkett to a swimming pool. “Season 1 was about dipping our toes in,” she says. By comparison, Season 2 of the podcast, titled Setting a Mindful Intention, wades a bit further.

Season 1, titled Stepping out of Reactivity, was designed by the duo after their experiences during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, having seen how many nurses, including themselves, were experiencing stress and burnout. “Everyone was highly reactive and hyper-stressed,” says Imanoff. The two wanted to help their listeners with managing emotions and regulating mood to cope with stressors. 

For Burkett, BN’14, MN’22, and Imanoff, MN’16, Season 2 represents the next step in that journey. “How to bring mindfulness not just to the chaos, but to the every day,” says Burkett. “It’s about the intentionality of honing mental skills so that we can have greater degrees of choice in our day-to-day interactions.”

The second season, Imanoff says, “layers up,” moving from foundational knowledge and meditation practices that inform posture and breathing, to helping listeners “increase their capacity to cope with life’s challenges.” 

Imanoff and Burkett are also educators in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Nursing, so they wanted to design the new season with a curriculum in mind. 

“We really wanted to draw on diverse philosophies and some science, from Buddhist philosophies to neuroscience … really weave things together to make it accessible, but also grounded in what's currently known about mindfulness and mindful practices,” says Imanoff. In the podcast, Imanoff and Burkett offer various perspectives so listeners can gather information and come to their own conclusions, depending on what resonates for them.

Burkett says he’s excited about the impact the new episodes may have. “In a systematic way, these episodes get under the hood,” he says. “They purposefully rise with elements of the posture, the breath, the mind-body connection, and then arc and open into exploring feelings and emotions, before pulling it all together.” 

How facilitators and podcasters practice

For Burkett, mindfulness works best when he follows a regular meditation routine, consistently utilizing the tools he’s learned. 

“When I'm practising daily, I notice a tremendous difference,” he says. “People respond to me differently, and I’m more compassionate in the way I respond to people.”

Consistency and regularity, Burkett finds, allows for the tools he’s learned to become more automatic. “That way, it's not as challenging, or not as much of a struggle,” he says. “It's kind of always running in the background; I can access it when I need to.” 

When Imanoff doesn’t have time for a meditation session, she looks for “mindful moments,” such as listening to leaves crinkle as she goes for walks with her kids, or by simply noticing the sunrise. “I'm just paying attention to what I’m seeing in this moment right now,” she says.

“Sometimes, people have a hard time transitioning into that daily practice. So, if you can find mindful moments in your day already, and when you feel those benefits, then you might start to incorporate more: more resources, sits, walks.”

The podcasters’ hope is that, by taking in this eight-part series, listeners will have a foundation to begin a meditation routine that works for them, picking and choosing what they’d like to sustain or bring to moments of everyday life.

Meditation as a tool for personal growth 

While facilitating meditation sessions, the co-hosts have encountered students and colleagues who have commented that their ability to cope with workplace, school and personal stressors has improved with a mindfulness practice. Feelings of compassion, being more grounded and more at ease have been identified to them as ways of better navigating interactions and situations. 

Imanoff says people who are leaders in their own workplaces have also expressed interest in increasing their knowledge of mindfulness and meditation. 

“I’ve had people come up to me and say they need this in their leadership role more because, post-pandemic, there's been a lot more psychosocial conversations in the workplace,” she says. “As leaders, they're taking a bit more accountability for the wellness of their employees or students.”

The pandemic has had lingering effects that Burkett and Imanoff see in other facets of their lives, as well.

“The people I talk to are really soul-searching and asking, ‘How do we want to proceed in this new world?' What was kind of working [before] isn't really working anymore.” says Burkett. He points to meditation and mindfulness as being tools to work through some of these questions. “It’s an investigation of our souls and our minds.” 

To access the UCalgary Mindfulness podcast, supported by the Campus Mental Health Strategy, click here.

The University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential. If you think you or someone you know needs help, please visit resources here.

UCalgary Nursing leads the generation of research and scholarship to improve and innovate nursing education, health outcomes and systems transformation. It delivers resiliency-informed experiential programs that develop the future leaders and innovators of the discipline and nursing practice and engages with local and global communities to develop sustainable relationships for mutual benefit.