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Mindfulness program helps participants address stress, anxiety

| Date Posted: 3/16/2011

PINEHURST – Do you spend a lot of time dwelling on the past or thinking about the future? That doesn’t leave much time for enjoying the present, does it?
           
Often, when people feel overwhelmed by stress, it is at least partly because they can’t stop re-living what has already happened or fretting about what is to come.
           
The Mindfulness-based Stress Management Program offered by FirstHealth of the Carolinas teaches people how to relieve stress and anxiety by focusing on the here and now. A new eight-week mindfulness program will begin April 25. Sessions will be held Monday evenings from 6:30 to 9, and there will be a workshop on Saturday, May 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
           
Medicare and most major insurance cover group sessions. Admission personnel verify health insurance coverage and discuss rates and payment options with potential participants.
           
Elizabeth Manley, MSN, R.N., C.S., a clinical nurse specialist with FirstHealth Outpatient Behavioral Services, teaches the mindfulness program. “Anyone who considers himself or herself negatively impacted by stress is eligible,” she says. “Mindfulness training also can help people with a variety of psychological and medical conditions that are made worse by stress.”
           
Clinical studies have found that mindfulness-based stress management can be an effective component of treatment for conditions including chronic pain, fatigue, high blood pressure, recurrent depression, sleep disorders, compulsive overeating, and even heart disease and cancer. The FirstHealth program has yielded similar outcomes.

“People often realize that their busy minds and physical tension – the manifestations of stress – are exacerbating their health problems,” Manley says.
           
Mindfulness involves various forms of meditation that enable a person to block out distractions and fully experience the present moment.
           
“The concentration and focus that this requires can give us our life back,” Manley says. “If we are preoccupied with other things and just going through the motions at any given moment, then we’re not really experiencing the moment. Mindfulness is a way to have a quality of life that doesn’t include so much stress.”
           
Mindfulness is different from relaxation therapy in that the goal isn’t simply to relax your body and let your mind go blank.
           
“The objective of mindfulness is to observe your thought processes and how you are being affected by your thoughts and then, over time, to be able to choose your thoughts,” Manley says. “This is not a quick fix. It requires daily practice and discipline.”
           
Manley has taught mindfulness-based stress management at FirstHealth since 1998. She took training for health care providers with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the largest academic medical center-based stress reduction program in the country.
           
To learn more about the FirstHealth Mindfulness-based Stress Management Program or to apply to participate in the program that begins on April 25, contact Elizabeth Manley at (910) 715-5217. Preregistration is required, and registration for this program closes April 8.

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