Sometimes life seems like a series of stressful events strung together over time. Many of us have felt that way, especially over the last few years of struggling with the demands of the pandemic and the changes it brought. Still, even without these new stressors, a normal life would include a great many challenges faced over time. We all must deal with accidents and incidents, strains and gains, or wins and losses.
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, the brunt of stress is experienced in our bodies. We might be aware of headaches, backaches, or digestive ills. Or perhaps we are more aware of mental strains like nervousness, depression, or irritability. Many people try to manage their stress by seeking ways to take a break from it—and this is certainly helpful in the short term. However, some of the hardest things people deal with are not short-term problems. The toughest stressors are the ones that are long-lasting: health problems, family or relationship problems, and grief or trauma. To learn how to co-exist more peacefully with these enduring stresses, we have to develop a different way of receiving them. One very helpful skill to cultivate along these lines is the quality of mindfulness.
You have probably heard that mindfulness is living in the present moment. That’s generally true but, more specifically, mindfulness is being aware of what is contained in our present moment without being overly reactive to it. Developing that mindset is a learnable skill. It involves training your attention, interrupting your typical stress responses with a pause, and evaluating how you will respond. Mindfulness teachers use a blend of meditative techniques, mindful movement, and practices in everyday living to encourage the growth of new connections in the nervous system and brain. This can totally change our capacity to be present with difficulty in our lives.
The Gettysburg Hospital Foundation has been funding mindfulness training in our Adams County community for several years now. If you would like to engage in such training, at no cost, a series of mindfulness workshops is planned for the spring. The first is Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: The Foundations on March 13th. This is followed by Building Skills on April 10th, and Life As Practice on May 15th. All workshops are on Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., online using the Zoom platform. The workshops are designed to build on each other so there is value in taking all three. You can register easily by calling Healthy Adams County at (717) 337-4137, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Falk PhD has been teaching mindfulness in Adams County for more than a decade. She teaches yoga and somatic movement at the YWCA and chairs the Healthy Adams County Behavioral Health Task Force.