Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stressed out? Slow down and breathe.

Even before the stock market plunge, I was feeling anxious about life. Things are changing in my workplace, as they may be in yours -- if you still have a job. This week, when I joined a few colleagues for our weekly yoga class, we needed relaxation more than ever.

Our yoga instructor, Nancy Nicholson, read a passage about the power of mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts.

One of his most popular books is "Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness." But Nancy read from another book, "Everyday Blessings," that he wrote with his wife, Myla.

Here's an excerpt: "Mindfulness means moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. It is cultivated by refining our capacity to pay attention, intentionally, in the present moment, and then sustaining that attention over time, as best we can. In the process we become more in touch with our life as it is unfolding. Ordinarily, we live much of the time in an automatic pilot mode paying attention only selectively and haphazardly, taking many important things completely for granted or not noticing them at all, and judging everything we do experience by forming rapid and often unexamined opinions based on what we like or dislike, what we want or don't want...Mindfulness is a meditative discipline... It is a systematic and sustained observing of the whole field of our experience, or of some specific element of it."

Along similar lines, Dr. Andrew Weil, the renowned advocate of integrative medicine, has said that if he could give only one tip for better health, it would be to breathe properly. Here's a link to that discussion on his website.

Do you have other tips for staying calm in the face of uncertainty and change?