By Rachel E. Watson
When my husband and I took the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class at Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness in 2013, we weren’t sure what to expect. I approached the class with trepidation. What if it’s too much work? What if there’s an Eastern religious angle that conflicts with my Christian faith? What if it doesn’t help reduce my stress? Won’t it be stressful to attend a class every week and do homework every day?
Turns out, my fears were groundless. Yes, the class was a bit of work—maybe an hour a day, or up to two hours at the zenith of the curriculum. But the techniques I learned have paid dividends since then that have offset any short-term stress I experienced during the eight-week course.
Here are the ways MBSR has helped my anxiety:
1. I learned how to do gentle yoga in the class. I had never tried it before. Gentle yoga was a springboard to learn many other styles of yoga, all of which I have loved. I find that the quietness of practice, the fluid movements, and the emphasis on nonjudgmental personal growth have helped me be kinder toward myself, which reduces my anxiety.
2. Deep breathing techniques taught in class have helped me grapple with panic attacks. Whenever I feel panic rising, I slow my breathing, take three deep cleansing breaths or do alternate nostril breathing.
3. I try to take mindful eating timeouts at lunch each day. This helps me be more aware of what I put into my body. It also helps me feel grateful for the color, flavor, and texture of food. Gratitude is an essential component of reducing anxiety.
4. I now pay attention to what I am feeling (or not feeling) in my body. Paying attention helps me target the areas in which I carry stress and consciously try to relax them. It also helps me have better posture, reduces lower back pain, and gives me an overall sense of well-being. All of these physical benefits, in turn, help reduce my anxiety.
Rachel E. Watson is a Grand Rapids journalist, award-winning blogger and author of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. She addresses issues such as mental health, faith, spirituality, creativity and the writing life at her blog, http://www.rachelewatson.com Her creative writing has been published in literary magazines such as Indiana Voice Journal and Splickety Magazine, and her nonfiction work has appeared in The Daily News in Greenville, Michigan; The Grand Rapids Press; and in a book called Campus Voices: A Student-to-Student Guide to College Life. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.