Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures awareness, a different mode of mind to our usual busy, doing mode. With this practice comes greater clarity, patience, acceptance and ease. It allows us to gain access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation and healing. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Chronic Stress is Harmful to Health
Many of us experience stress, sometimes on a chronic level. This may translate into a broad range of physical and psychological symptoms from headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, stomach ailments, sleeplessness, anxiety to irritability, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed and burnout. Long-term stress can be a factor in serious illness, like heart disease, diabetes and chronic pain. The way many of us cope with stress often make matters worse ie smoking, drinking to relax, substance abuse, overeating and overworking. In the long run, these strategies create more stress on our bodies and mind.
Mindfulness Reduces Chronic Stress and has overall Health Benefits
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn established the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program for Chronic Stress, Pain and Illness, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. This Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was offered to patients who were looking for an alternative or supplement to their regular medical care. Kabat-Zinn’s early research was startling. Not only did measures of stress and anxiety fall dramatically, but patients with heart disease, psoriasis, and chronic pain, all showed significant symptom reduction after participating the 8-week program. Currently there is a plethora of research demonstrating the health benefits of mindfulness practice and MBSR is now offered in health clinics around the world, and these practices are not only reducing the negative effects of chronic stress, but also in helping people to develop a different way of relating to self and others with greater compassion, acceptance and balance, no matter what the conditions being experienced. Even where there isn’t a ‘cure’ per se, in cultivating mindful presence, there can be healing.
How can Mindfulness Help?
Mindfulness involves stepping out of our usual, ‘doing mode’ and into a different mode of mind, we call ‘being mode’. Just being – paying attention to how it is, right now and coming in touch with one’s essential wholeness. It is an invitation to step out of the busy, evaluating, and critical mode we often find ourselves in, especially when we are ‘really stressed out’. It involves meeting the challenges of life in a different way: bringing a gentleness, acceptance and compassion, for what we are experiencing right now, whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ such as thoughts of our difficulties that are going around and around in our heads. Our thinking underlies a lot of our stress and, if you stop to notice, you might find your mind is often preoccupied with rehashing the past or worrying about the future. Rarely is the mind right here, in the present moment. By helping us to recognize, and stay with, our automatic thoughts and behaviours under stress, mindfulness helps us to become aware of the internal feelings of stress, as they are arising, and how they are being expressed in our thoughts, emotions and body sensations. We are then developing our capacity to stay with our experience, see it clearly, as a first step to being able to choose to step out of stress reactivity. Being fully present, we are able to respond to the inevitable stressors in our life with greater wisdom and compassion, for ourselves and others.
Sara Escott MEd, BFA
Sara has been facilitator and educator for over 15 years. She is the co-director of In Forma Theatre, a community-based arts and education company in Toronto. Her work is grounded in the theory and practice of community-based transformation and peace-building. She facilitates mindfulness programs to adults, youth and children. Sara has a Masters in Adult Education and Community Development (OISE/UT), and an Honours BFA in Theatre Directing (York University). Sara is a Qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Instructor (Centre for Mindfulness Studies & Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto) and SMART Education Instructor (Mindfulness Everyday).
Judy Waldman RN, MN, NP-PHC, RYT
Judy is a Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in mental health nursing. She has a private psychotherapy practice specializing in managing trauma, anxiety, and depression. She is also a Registered Yoga Teacher and incorporates yoga and mindfulness practices into psychotherapy. Judy is a Qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Instructor from The Centre for Mindfulness Studies (certified through the University of Toronto) and is being mentored by a senior MBSR teacher.
Sandra Store, RN, MN
Sandra is a Registered Nurse with over 10 years of clinical and educator experience in hospital and community settings. She has worked in the areas of surgical oncology, home care, and fitness, and is currently employed as a care coordinator for a Toronto-based health network. Sandra is a strong champion for health promotion and disease prevention approaches to wellness, and aptly completed her Master of Nursing Degree in health policy and education in 2010. Sandra became interested in Mindfulness in 2015 following participation in a mindfulness program to assist with personal stress reduction. Experiencing first-hand the benefits of Mindfulness, Sandra was inspired to combine her love of education and health promotion by becoming a Qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher in 2016 (through the University of Toronto and The Centre for Mindfulness Studies). Sandra has facilitated a series of 8-week MBSR Programs for healthcare professionals and university graduate students in Toronto.
Insurance coverage: Upon request, a receipt will be provided by Judy Waldman (Nurse Practitioner). If you have extended health insurance, it may cover all or part of a therapeutic course. We recommend contacting your insurance provider to confirm what services they cover.