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Mindfulness for mental health through PRS

The teen gets in the car and slams the door scowling at the parent. She glares at you. “I hate you. You’re so mean.” How does the parent react? Backhanded slap? Hours of self-doubt? A glass or five of wine? Self-hatred? The overwhelming feeling of where did I go wrong?

Or the parent who was going to do the opposite of how he was raised, but his unhealed emotional reactions are such that he’s headed where he didn’t want to go.

Or just the overwhelming nature of parenting when three humans need you at once and you haven’t showered in two days.

The practices of mindfulness in mental health could connect the parent with some awareness that could potentially deescalate whatever is coming next. There’s a way to acknowledge the emotion that is present, an acknowledgement as to what our beliefs are without stepping into the negative coping mechanisms.

What is mindfulness?

What do we mean when we say “mindfulness?”

“It’s a practice in awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, emotions and body sensations,” said Leslie Wall, Plumas Rural Services Mindful Living coordinator and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy provider.

Wall is excited about the practice that she’s brought to PRS and to the nurturing parenting classes that she’s been teaching for two decades. She added the “mindfulness” component and reports measurable success (according to parent exit surveys).

Almost two years ago, Wall earned her Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction certification through University of Massachusetts Medical School, and in January she was certified in Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The switch in her nurturing parenting class and her interest in the mindfulness additions to her practice came after her own personal breakdown.

“I applied the practice to me first and wanted to share it with others,” said Wall.

“We utilize this evidence-based program and added to our class a three-minute hand on the heart breathing exercise. We don’t teach meditation, but we talk about awareness and triggers and reactions [in parenting], creating dialog,” Wall noted.

Results

The results for her parenting classes have been very positive. Of parents who have filled out the exit surveys, almost 100 percent request additional mindfulness practice.

“We have a huge need to address stress reduction,” said Wall, “almost every human being is experiencing stress.”

Last year, classes were offered in Chester, Portola and Greenville with several local attendees at each. The Quincy classes that were offered were full.

Currently Wall is able to offer an eight-week course at the rate of $20 a week. She’s also offering one-to-one private coaching sessions at an hourly rate.

But she’s looking into partnering with other agencies to offer more of these classes later in the spring. She has her fingers crossed that she’ll be able to reach more Plumas County residents through collaboration with perhaps Plumas District Hospital or Plumas County Behavioral Health.

More benefits

What are some of the benefits of incorporating mindfulness meditation into one’s life? According to Suzanne Kane in psychcentral.com (a literature that PRS uses), it can help those practicing it get better sleep, make progress with weight goals, lower stress, improve attention, manage chronic pain, reduce anxiety and increase brain matter. It can also help with temporary issues such as “banishing negative feelings” and preventing depression relapses and loneliness in seniors.

Mindfulness really requires that each person take stock in their every day life and get out of autopilot and into being aware of — everything — from what we hear in our environment, our own movement, and what we intake (food).

According to the Mental Health Foundation — whose mission is to “help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health,” one can practice mindfulness by just taking a minute out of the day to be aware. In meditation terms, it would mean being in the moment. Present.

The practice is a chance to do a self-check of one’s self. Noticing one’s breathing. Taking a “body scan,” which includes closing the eyes and going toe to head noticing everything. Aches and pains? Tightness of muscles? How is everything feeling?

The practice entails other aspects like “mindful walking” (walking slowly paying attention to the sensations in the soles of your feet), and “mindful eating” (paying attention to the taste and other senses involved in eating).

Perhaps the hardest for the contemporary world: “mindful listening” — taking the time in a busy world, with busy obligations to stop for a second and listen to the sounds around you in your environment. They encourage, labeling and recognizing what those sounds are and then “moving on.”

“Remember: You don’t need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to invest in your mental health. The vast majority of us can benefit from learning to more effectively interact with the world around us. We have an opportunity to make a commitment to ourselves by investing time and resources into whatever mental health challenges we are experiencing, or simply improving our overall mental well-being,” said Dr. Judson Brewer in Psychology Today.

For more information on possible upcoming classes in mindful nurturing, mindful co-parenting and mindfulness based stress reduction classes and services, contact Wall at Plumas Rural Services, 283-2735.

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