I’m Stressed About My Stress-Reduction Class

by Bill Brenner on September 26, 2012

Tonight is the first of eight weekly stress-reduction and mindfulness classes I’m taking. I have to admit the whole thing stresses me out a bit.

It’s not that the description is bad. In fact, it sounds delightful. I’m going to learn how to use yoga and other techniques to keep my thoughts in the present, where they belong. Here’s a little background from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction website:

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Since its inception, MBSR has evolved into a common form of complementary medicine addressing a variety of health problems … MBSR is an 8-week intensive training in mindfulness meditation, based on ancient healing practices, which meets on a weekly basis. Mindfulness practice is ideal for cultivating greater awareness of the unity of mind and body, as well as of the ways the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can undermine emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

I certainly qualify for such a program. I have a history of stress-induced maladies — Crohn’s Disease, OCD, ADD, depression, fear and anxiety, migraines — and I’m still in the process of making peace with a lot of what happened in my past.

For my back story, check out “An OCD Diaries Primer“.

I’ve gotten pretty good control over the anxiety and OCD in recent years. Heavy therapy, medication and spiritual growth have all played a role. And work, once the biggest source of stress in my life, no longer rattles me. Having a job I absolutely love helps on that score.  I’m also much healthier in my 40s than I was in my 20s and 30s. Crippling back pain is years into the past, and I’ve maintained a significant weight loss. I don’t eat flour or sugar and weigh just about everything I eat. I no longer drink, and cigars and cigarettes have been replaced with e-cigs. I’m also playing guitar again. Making music has been more appealing to me of late than staring at the Internet for hours, which is another addictive behavior I’ve struggled with.

But I still experience stress. There’s a lot of family drama, including a long estrangement from some parts of the family and an erosion of patience that intensified when my father had a stroke last year and we really began the work of helping our younger child manage his ADHD.

No surprises there. That’s the garden-variety stress everyone experiences. Only the names, dates and circumstances change.

While these things no longer incapacitate me, they still make it difficult for me to keep my mind in the present. When your mind is in the past or the future, it makes it very difficult to listen when people are talking to you in the present. The result is that you don’t retain important information like dates, appointments and the like. Worse — much worse — is that you’re robbing the people you love of your undivided attention.

My therapist once told me that there’s no better gift you can give a person than your time and attention. A lot of what he says annoys me. But on this I think he’s right.

That comment from the therapist is what compels me to take this class. I want to be a better listener and less scatterbrained when the house chores stack up.

So why the stress?

It’s yet another appointment to keep every week, shoehorned into the schedule between all my kids’ Boy Scouts activities and various family check-ups, school activities and an awesome but demanding job.

Of course, that’s me thinking in the future instead of the present, which just makes me more comfortable with the notion that this is the right thing to do.

I’ll report back to you on all this tomorrow.

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