Mindfulness in the Age of Anxiety

By Lynda Guzman, Director of ACT

 

Mindfulness and Anxiety are two ever-present buzz words in today’s media (both social and formal) which mirrors professional discussions concerning the harmful effects of anxiety and stress on the body and mind. Webster’s Dictionary defines anxiety as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it” Clearly this describes many of the issues that have caused angst for people today.  The best remedy available (without prescriptions) is the practice of mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness has been defined as “an act of consciously focusing the mind in the present moment without judgement and without attachment to the moment.” (Linehan 2015) It seems so simple but is excruciatingly difficult in this age of heightened stress.  Many people are struggling with how to control their anxiety and how to live their best possible life.  The answer can be found in creating a meaningful mindfulness practice that honors the best of today while honing the skills that one might need for tomorrow.

Meditation is a form of mindfulness where the practitioner focuses on one thing (Beit their breath, a focal point outside of themselves, or some type of counting exercise) for a specific time period which allows the person to connect with that moment.  This type of activity is considered a grounding exercise and can be used in times of high stress as well as part of a daily ritual.  Meditation can also be used to focus one’s energy in the sense of an internal monologue about an aspect of one’s life such as “I will think through all the options before making a decision about my next vacation.”

 

Mindfulness can also be the totality of one’s senses in any given moment.  An example of this can be found in weight loss programs where the program will encourage the participant to use all their senses while eating. “I see a lush red strawberry with small seeds dotting the outside.  The strawberry feels bumpy as I hold it in my hand.  There is a slightly sweet earthy aroma. I hear the gentle smack of my lips as I bite into the strawberry.  I taste the sweetness which fills my mouth.”  This is the total berry experience.  Obviously, this can be done at any moment and in any set of circumstances.  Occasionally, when someone has difficulty with panic or high levels of anxiety, a mental health professional will suggest a naming exercise where the person will name all of the blue things in their environment or all the things that begin with the letter T.

 

NEW TIMES and DATES for SOS

The SOS (Survivors of Suicide) Group meets the first and third Wednesdays of each month at MHA (The Mental Health Association of Rockland County) at 140 Route 303, Valley Cottage, NY 10989 from 7 to 8:30 pm in Room 132.

The group provides support to individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide.

The death of a loved one through any cause is painful, but losing someone we love to suicide adds another layer of pain and emotions to the experience of loss.

Please call 845-267-2172 x324 for questions or attend the meeting. No registration required.

Resources:

American Foundation of Suicide Prevention    Toll-Free: 1-888-333-AFSP (2377)

 

To download a flyer for the SOS Group, please click here.

Mental Health & Wellness 101

By Wendy Blanchard

 

With Mental Health Awareness week approaching, the MHA of Rockland is excited to announce the release of the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.’s (MHANYS) training program, Mental Health & Wellness 101! MHA’s Wendy Blanchard was honored to be a part of creating this training as a resource and support for the newly implemented New York State Mental Health Education Law which began on July 1. New York is the first state to implement this law.
MHANYS asks “Why is it important to talk about mental health and wellness?”
The median time between the onset of mental illness (when symptoms first appear) and when an individual gets appropriate treatment is 10 years.  During that time, a person is likely experiencing periods of increased symptomology and periods of wellness.  Mental Health and recovery are dependent on an individual’s ability to recognize and manage where they are each day on the continuum between wellness and illness, and to take care accordingly. Education and early intervention promotes wellness and leads to better outcomes.
MHA of Rockland is now offering training sessions which are approximately 90 minutes long, including a Q & A session.
Goals of the Training:
  • Increase basic knowledge of mental health to help reduce stigma.
  • Understand Mental Health as a continuum of wellness that defines us every day — it is illness, recovery and all of the space in between.
  • Promote wellness, treatment seeking behavior, recovery and self-care.
Ideas for training location/audience:
  • Community events or civic organizations (libraries, wellness conferences, etc.)
  • Workplace wellness (chamber of commerce events, business “lunch and learn”, etc.)
  • Staff development (schools, hospitals, community service providers, etc.)
For more information, or to schedule a Mental Health and Wellness 101 training, please contact Wendy Blanchard, M.S., CHHC, CPS, Client & Family Advocate and Community Educator at blanchardw@mharockland.org, or 845-267-2172 Ext. 296.  Wendy will also be a speaker and panelist at the MHANYS Healthy Minds, Healthy Schools, Healthy New York Conference on October 17th in Albany!

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Join us for “The Ripple Effect”

By Sonia Wagner, EVP

 

In the many years when I worked at a crisis response center, answering hotline calls from people who had suicidal thoughts, I was often amazed by a common theme – their sense of being invisible.

 

I had expected the feelings of isolation and hopelessness that callers also related to me, but I was taken aback by something that seemed to run still deeper and often against all evidence to the contrary – their conviction that no one noticed their pain or, by extension, them.

 

I have known many people who have struggled with depression, and their withdrawal from life was quite palpable to nearly everyone around them – the phone calls that went unreturned, the food that went uneaten, the parties that we were missed, the sick days that were called in. I have also known people who could feign happiness, at least for a short time. However, after the party was over and the guests had gone home but well before the dishes were put away, the heaviness would set in and the energy required for all of that levity would visibly take its toll.

 

Many who struggle with suicidal feelings believe that no one notices these things. Without a doubt, many of their friends, relatives and colleagues have noticed and may be quite worried but are afraid to bring up their concerns or simply don’t know how to pursue the issue when they are told “Thanks, I’m fine – just a bit tired.”

 

Eventually, people stop asking questions. For the depressed person, this may falsely translate to “nobody notices or cares.” Kevin Hines, a passionate mental health advocate, leaped off the Golden Gate Bridge at the age of 19. Being among a very small number to survive this jump, he subsequently described his bus trip to the bridge, during which he was in tears. At the time, it seemed to him that nobody noticed his distress; at least, nobody approached him. He told himself that if anyone said anything of concern to him, he would not jump.

 

It is hard to imagine that people sitting near him didn’t notice his crying. Perhaps they were afraid to talk with an emotional stranger, or perhaps the bystander effect kicked in and they felt sure that someone else would intervene. Whatever the reason, Kevin Hines felt increasingly invisible and ultimately jumped.

 

How does it help to understand that a false sense of invisibility is a common ingredient in suicidal thinking? It has given me much greater comfort in asking questions, commenting in a gentle voice on what I’m seeing in someone that concerns me, and not being dissuaded by their trying to put me off. When we overcome our own discomfort and inquire about thoughts of suicide to someone who is struggling, offer help or insist on getting help, we address the fundamental human need of that person to be seen.

 

 

Sonia Wagner is the Executive Vice President of The Mental Health Association of Rockland County. The agency is co-hosting a showing of the film “The Ripple Effect,” featuring Kevin Hines, on September 26 at 7:30 pm at Nanuet Stadium 12 & RPX. To order tickets, go to https://gathr.us/screening/24062