Stress Reduction Can Come From Within
It is something we do every minute of every hour throughout the every
day. The same breaths that
sustain our bodies can revive our psyche and nurture our souls.
The simple act of breathing is not something we usually focus on
as we go about daily activities. However,
taking a few minutes to focus on the sensation of breathing leaving and
entering the body can have a calming, stress reducing effect.
Mindfulness meditation is a therapy that combines aspects of
meditation and yoga to bring new focus on stress and how each individual
responds to it. “This
practice allows individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and
feelings by looking at them from a different perspective,” relates
Martin Sowa, MA, NCC, a board certified medical psychotherapist at
Marian Community Hospital.
For many people the word meditation means focusing on one thing
or mantra and excluding other thoughts as distractions.
While these practices are very calming, mindfulness encourages
accepting of thoughts and feelings and observing them without judgment.
The practice of letting thoughts enter the mind and not reacting
begins the process of feeling less caught up in thoughts and emotions. This in turn gives a deeper perspective on reactions to
everyday stress and pressures.
Many individuals literally become “frozen” with stress,
explains Mr. Sowa. We are
creatures of habit. We hold
onto stress and unexpressed feelings, which over a long period of time,
produces tension in our muscles and throughout the body.
While illness and unhealthy lifestyles produce stress, we are
often our own worst enemies and worry about things over which we have no
control or fixate on past injustices or unhappy experiences.
“Mindfulness releases stress by creating an energy flow and
encouraging wellness to take place,” add the psychotherapist.
“During a mindfulness class, we encourage participants to be
more aware of their breathing. We
do some simple exercises where we focus on breathing.
It is very relaxing to experience the sensation of breath
entering and leaving the body. Class
members are often amazed that they not only feel less stressed, at the
same time they feel energized.”
The practice of mindfulness utilizes breathing and yoga to focus
the mind. Researchers in
the field explain that it encourages participants to live fully in each
moment, to accept the moment whether we like it or not and to embrace
life to its fullest. One of
the most well-known proponents is John Kabat-Zinn, a professor at the
University of Massachusetts Medical School, who has intergrated
mindfulness in a structured and systematic approach to mind-body
“A mindfulness approach can be beneficial to anyone, while
those with an illness or injury can gain additional perspective,”
outlined the psychotherapist who also serves as the therapeutic
coordinator for the inpatient Mental Health Unit at Marian Community.
For these individuals, coming to terms with this segment of their
lives is very important in terms of their treatment as well as their
overall outlook. With the
new perspective that mindfulness affords, patients get a better
understanding of their illness and their own response.
They can better explore this new situation and gain the
understanding that they are a well person with an illness rather than a
sick person. They also
appreciate that every life experience, both pleasant and unpleasant,
contributes to who we are. Participants
who have cardiac problems, diabetes or cancer begin to understand that
the illness is a part of their life, but not their whole life.
They also begin to appreciate the person they have become as a
result of their response to their illness.”
“Mindfulness touches every aspect of the spirit-mind-body
connection,” concludes Mr. Sowa. “People become well grounded and have a better
understanding of who they are. This
practice can be a useful tool in putting one’s life in perspective and
learning to understand one’s soul.
In our increasingly fast-paced life, there seems to be a growing
interest in discovering what really matters . . . discovering one’s
spirit. Mindfulness is an
opportunity to gain a better perspective and understanding.”
© 2001 Marian Community Hospital, Carbondale, PA. All
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