Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Desperate to reduce your stress? Try
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It's a unique program
that incorporates meditation and teaches you to ground yourself
as you go about your day. MBSR is backed by dozens of medical
studies proving its effectiveness for reducing stress caused by
sleep disturbances, overwork or medical conditions, such as
The brainchild of Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the stress
reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical
School, MBSR has been so successful in reducing stress that
health professionals across Canada are now conducting their own
research on the practice and teaching it to their patients. And
respected medical institutions such as the Tom Baker Cancer
Centre in Calgary and St. Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto
include it in their treatment programs.
Start with five minutes a day and prolong your meditation by
five more minutes every day. If you're really serious, the MBSR
Program entails 45 minutes of daily meditation, plus attending a
once-weekly class for eight weeks and one full-day retreat. But
even if you can only commit to 10 minutes daily, meditation can
still help you combat stress, since you can use it as you need
to whenever you're feeling frazzled and be happier for it. Just
follow these five practical steps:
Find your spot
You can meditate sitting up, lying down or standing next to a
tree. It doesn't really matter where you are as long as you feel
comfortable. Sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, if that
appeals to you. Your meditation spot should be free from
interruptions: no phones, dogs, children or partners are allowed
to disturb you.
Don't do a thing
That's right. Just close your eyes and be mindful of your
breath. Pay attention to the air flowing in and out of your
lungs. Inhale. Exhale. That's all. Don't force your breathing or
try to control it. If you're lying down, place your hands on
your diaphragm between your rib cage and navel. Feel your hands
rise and fall with your breath. Whenever you feel restless or
fretful, return to your breath. It will anchor you in reality.
Scan your body
Mentally scan your body for tension. Start off with your toes.
Wiggle them. In your mind's eye, slowly move your awareness up
your legs. If you feel tight muscles anywhere, relax them,
especially in your stomach and chest. Breathe tightness away. Be
aware of your hands, then arms and shoulders. Go to your neck,
jaw and forehead. Gently exhale all the stress.
Follow your thoughts
You'll be amazed at how often your mind will rehearse incessant
monologues. Did you forget to send a birthday card to your
sister? Have you signed that summer camp form for your son? At
first, you may find your thoughts annoying and intrusive. In
fact you may start judging yourself harshly (why can't I control
my brain?) or getting impatient (I'm not getting any better at
this). Just follow the flow. Every time a thought pops up,
breathe. Letting thoughts come and go without getting attached
to them will help you stop reacting automatically to the strains
and stresses of every day.
Give your emotions room
Whenever you allow yourself time to be still, repressed feelings
may surface. You may find that anger or sadness starts bubbling
up, especially when you breathe. That's OK. Let your emotions
be. You don't have to act on them. Just name your feeling: is it
fear? Then simply say to yourself, "Here is fear." Your emotions
will quickly lose their punch once confronted. In fact, it's
when you deny them that they can become overwhelming.
After a few days, you may start seeing a difference in your
behaviour. Are you less impatient with your teenager? Can you
get through a meeting without your eyes glazing over? The
approach can also be applied to your normal activities. When
your dog greets you at the door, register his excitement and
wagging tail. On your way to work, notice the flowers in
people's front gardens. The more you practise, the better you'll
be at staying centred.
MBSR is good medicine
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been
proven to ease certain medical conditions:
• Cancer patients using a version of MBSR experienced 65 per
cent fewer mood disturbances, according to a study by the Tom
Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary.
• A MBSR-based therapy program prevented depression
relapse—without antidepressants—in 66 per cent of participants,
according to a study conducted by Canadian and British
• MBSR can be effective in the treatment of pain, psoriasis,
fibromyalgia, eating and anxiety disorders and other ailments
exacerbated by stress.
Whenever you find yourself under pressure, take a
couple of minutes to do the following centering exercise,
created by Zindel Segal, head of the cognitive behaviour therapy
unit at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto,
and his colleagues.
MIN 1 Awareness
Focus your mind on the present moment by adopting a straight,
regal posture. Close your eyes and ask yourself what thoughts,
feelings and bodily sensations you're experiencing. Accept those
feelings, even if some are unwanted.
MIN 2 Gathering Gradually refocus on your breathing. Pay
attention to every breath in and out.
MIN 3 Expanding Keeping your eyes closed, become aware of
your body as a whole. Expand your awareness to your posture and
Now open your eyes. You'll feel more calm as
you go about your day. Try this meditation when you need stress