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Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Meditations: 3 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress

Please enjoy this wonderful guest post by T. Hilda White, MD and Co-Founder of Upstream: A Center for Mindfulness Practice and Holistic Mental Health

3 Quick and Easy Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Techniques

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes teach students self care skills to enhance awareness of and acceptance of present moment experience. In MBSR we call this innate human capacity "mindfulness," and it can be cultivated through practice. Why cultivate mindfulness? With this increased acceptance and awareness skill, you are able to notice, in your inner and outer world, important elements that create stress for you which you might otherwise miss.

Several skills we teach involve awareness of breathing, awareness of the body and release of tension in the body if possible and gentle stretching movements. If you are you a person with many demands on your time and it seems impossible to come to an MBSR class for two hours a week, here's a way to begin to touch into these powerful practices.

Try these three moments of self care throughout your days:

1) Set an hourly reminder on the device of your choice. At that moment, stop what you are doing for 3 minutes. Sit or stand tall with dignity and take 3-4 deep breaths, making sure you expand your chest and belly with the breath.

2) Throughout your day, try this delicious stretch: sit straight but relaxed on the edge of your chair with your feet firmly resting on the floor. Bring your attention to your shoulders and let them drop away from your ears. Bend your arms as if you were going to rest your forearms and hands on your thighs. Now, imagine you are trying to press your elbows into the floor, very firmly, and hold this for a count of five. You should feel a stretch in the top of your shoulders where we all hold so much tension. Let go after a count of 5 and feel the release of tension. 

3) Once a week, eat lunch or supper alone in a quiet place if possible. When you eat, put your fork down between each bite (or your sandwich or glass) and focus on the experience. For example, what does the food feel like in your mouth, how does it taste, what happens when you chew, or swallow. If your mind wanders, as it surely will, just come back to your experience of eating your meal.

You may have noticed these practices all involve an intimate connection with your body. Your body is a wonderful source of information for how stress may be affecting you, for example breathing with shallow breaths, holding muscle tension that drains you of energy, or feeding yourself in a hurried and unconscious way. Try these simple ways of checking in and letting your body give you important feedback you can use for increasing self awareness and healing.

Upstream brings mindfulness practice to Columbia, SC, in an 8-week class series format, focused on teaching self-care techniques for stress relief to students of all ability levels. Upstream co-founders Hilda White, M.D. (pictured here, and author of this post) and Jemme B. Stewart use the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) toolset to help busy individuals combat stress, anxiety, sleep issues, pain and more.

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