Stress Management Using Mindful Awareness

It seems that constant contact with media your smart phone, tweeting or text messaging or answering your email, constant contact with family friends and strangers is actually causing more stress than a fax or TV commercial could ever have done. These communication devices plague us at home, at work, on the road, and for many they sleep right next to us. In fact, the more you read about stress the more you realize just how pervasive it really is.

Just about everyone in the medical area, whether it be a family physician or a podiatrist, is concerned with the unhealthy impact too much stress can have on their patients. It seems that stress is a major factor even for kids in elementary school who show concern about getting good grades or being in the good graces of a friend or getting on the baseball travel team.

I recently received a mailer that a local hospital was giving classes on Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. The concept of Mindfulness has been around for some time. I remember reading about mindfulness-based stress reduction in the 80s and 90s. At that time it was considered a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life so that you can take charge of your life. It was considered a way of doing something for yourself that no one else could do for you. It was a question of paying attention to what was causing the stress so that you could deal with it better whether it is dealing with your job loss, the fact that you have breast cancer or your marriage is falling apart. The concept is that being mindful you can consciously and systemically learning to respond to your own stress, pain, illness as well as the challenges and demands of every day life

Some call it a new area of interest where medicine and psychology meld but those of us who have been long aware of the mind body connection simply see the concept as another how to for making the connection. I have always thought that mindfulness would work well with adults who have an attention disorder because basically what it is training the mind through certain exercises to stay more focused on the present rather than letting the mind ruminate about the past and agonize over the future.

In other words being mindful, being in the present is another way of approaching reducing stress. If we learn to stay in the present we are likely to feel more at peace about where we are. Mindful stress reduction works for many especially those who must deal with serious illnesses. It also works for many people who are becoming ill because of their stress. There are many meditation techniques and practitioners tend to apply their own descriptions and emphasis when teaching. The terms don’t really matter because all of meditation involves arriving at a peaceful, a calm state of mind.

A hospital with an Integrative Medicine department, patients who want to decrease their stress level and their blood pressure often engage in mindfulness based stress reduction. So do cancer patients who are trying to keep a more positive attitude as well as boost their immune function. The hospital found that participants in this program were able to reduce their sleep disturbances. There were also significant reductions I stress, fatigue and negative mood.

Medical research repeatedly demonstrates that the power of the mind really does influence the body. When you think, for example, your brain is firing various neurotransmitters and other neural activity. This is the same neural network that is responsible for all your physical activities such as walking and breathing. By learning to actively calm your mind you figure out how to be your own best ally in the mind and thought response reaction you have to what is taking place around you and play a support role rather than staying oblivious to the role you’re playing.

For example, cancer patients need to learn positive self talk and practice meditation or yoga to help them feel grateful for all they do have instead of always being fearful and feeling lost. The point is most of our thinking is habitual and we have been conditioned to think this way or that whether we have been diagnosed with breast cancer or have not found a job in 10 months. Once we understand the trap our thinking has become, then we can focus on whatever energy it takes to focus on promoting our own health.The thought behind the mindfulness philosophy is that once we learn to stay in the present we develop the ability to experience life in richer ways.

Stress and anger are part of life. However, the way your body reacts to uncontrolled stress and anger is a risk factor for heart disease. In fact, some research reports that anger can be just as much of a risk factor for heart disease as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise.

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