Everyone is affected by some form of stress but there are positive ways to combat it.
Trained in the Western model of health care, Bonnie Schroeder has studied Eastern healing methods and combines the two in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. It is being offered in Oak Bluff through the Macdonald-Headingley Recreation District for the first time. Beginning in March, the program runs over eight weeks, with a one-day Saturday retreat, and is open to adults.
Schroeder said mindfulness-stress reduction is one of the most widely researched programs of its kind.
"It’s proven to help deal with conditions like chronic pain, high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety and so much more," she said.
She explained that chronic stress breaks down our immune systems, increasing our risk for various diseases. Research has shown that by using techniques included in the program, new pathways are created in the brain that can improve our physical and mental health.
Schroeder teaches the stress reduction program at Yoga Public in Winnipeg every spring and fall. She added that it is also used within large corporations to support employees’ wellness.
"One of the greatest benefits for students seems to be their ability to be more present in their lives. They are able to shift out of auto-pilot living and become more aware of what is truly important in their lives," she said.
Each of the eight weekly sessions has a different focus and builds on the previous one. A large component of the sessions is spent practicing various stress reduction techniques.
The program description notes that participants should be willing to spend 45 minutes weekly on homework, primarily practicing the techniques they have learned in class.
"It takes 21 days of practice to change a habit," said Schroeder. "During this eight-week program, many participants have experienced life-changing results, and the tools they learned are very transferable into their everyday lives."
The deadline for registering in the program is Feb. 26. More information on mindfulness-based stress reduction is available at www.umassmed.edu/cfm/home/index.aspx.