Health Team

Class offers stress reduction techniques

Posted June 18, 2009 5:36 p.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2009 6:26 p.m. EDT

— After a divorce, Alison Davies said she wants to live more "in the moment" – rather than stressing over the past or future.

“Those ‘what if's’ will kill you. So I'm too young to live the rest of my life that way,” Davies said.

So, Davies enrolled in a stress reduction class at Duke’s Center for Integrative Medicine. The class focuses on mindfulness.

Duke psychiatrist Dr. Jeff Brantley said the class is about developing “mindful attention, a non-judging attention" to your life.

Mindfulness is also used to help people control eating habits. Brantley says it's also effective in reversing the stress response.

“So maybe they’re worried about losing their job and it's like, ‘Oh I'm going to lose my job. I'll never get my bills paid, kids…,’” Brantley said. “You know, the mind starts proliferating a worried story.”

“In this class, you don't push that away, you acknowledge it,” Davies said.

Davies uses meditation and yoga to focus on sensations in and around her body. She also discards self-critical thoughts.

“You have to forgive yourself and you have to be kind to yourself,” Davies said.

“When we fall into a habit pattern of self-criticism and self-judgment, that's like a threat and we go into that threat reaction, that stress reaction,” Brantley said.

Brantley says mindfulness works best with professional instruction and daily practice. He says the result will be a calmer, more focused reaction to every day stresses and a healthier mind and body.

Davies said she now takes things in stride.