Stress is a part of life – sometimes a major and unpleasant part of life. How we respond to the stressors in life will determine in a large measure the health consequences of that stress. The human bodily stress reaction is inherited from our ancestors who lived short lives in often hostile environments. The fight/flight/freeze reaction to external threats kept the early hominids alive. In dangerous situations, a number of changes quickly cascade throughout the body to garner the resources and reactions needed for survival. It is a effective set of reactions as our ongoing existence shows. However, in Australia in the 21st Century we rarely confront life or death situations. And yet, the stress reaction continues to be activated by a variety of situations such as financial challenges, job insecurity, relationship conflict and having loved ones in difficult circumstances. It can even get activated by a belief that in the future we will not be able to cope. What can we do to reduce stress? An effective stress reduction program has been developed at the Medical School of the University of Massachusetts. It is called the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program.
Mindfulness has been shown through clinical research to be an effective way of enhacing our capacity to deal with stress. The 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program has shown consistent, reliable, and reproducible major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical and psychological diagnoses. It has been recognised by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as an evidenced based program through the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. Mindfulness has been an active area of scientific research for over 20 years.
The sense of underlying anxiety caused by stress that many people live can be accompanied by significant health consequences. These include gastroinestinal issues (such as colitis and irritable bowel syndrome), cardiovascular complications (such as hardening of the arteries), endocrine problems (such as erectile dysfunction) and a compromised immune system (resulting in more frequent colds and flus)… Many visits to the GP are stress related.
The Mindfulness approach to stress is not a quick fix nor a magic pill. The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program requires discipline together with self-understanding. “Mindfulness involve purposeful action, focused attention, grounded in the current experience, and held with a sense of curiosity” (The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society, University of Massachusetts). If you are ready to be serious about stress reduction it may be that you have the commitment needed for the MBSR.
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