Guest blog post from Benefits by Design’s Marketing Generalist, Jessica Bredschneider.
Like many Canadians – I don’t manage stress very well.
When I feel overwhelmed, I stray into the territory of a high-functioning insomniac. I wake (most nights) at about two in the morning with running thoughts and fail to fall back asleep before the alarm bell rings at five.
It should be noted that I have tried to manage stress in different ways in the past. Everything from doing yoga to changing sleep habits to keeping a diary and even utilizing herbal supplements: nothing has stuck long term. While stress is a natural part of life, finding the right tools to help you manage stress has long term benefits on your overall mental health and wellbeing.
When Peter Gove, Health Innovation Leader at Green Shield Canada (GSC), mentioned the new Mindfulness program on Change4Life, I was intrigued but also skeptical. Finding complete silence through meditation is something I’ve strived for especially when I was doing yoga fairly regularly – what could this program offer me that I haven’t already tried before?
GSC Mindfulness Program
The GSC Mindfulness Program is based on the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) system by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This system brings people into the moment using systematic, and easily doable, instructions.
The program includes:
- 6 x 30 minute modules. The modules are done in sequential order giving yourself about a week to work on the exercises before progressing to the next one.
- After each module, you reflect on what you’ve learned by typing out your thoughts to a few simple questions.
- Once you complete a module, you earn points to bid on Change4Life gift cards.
Before you start, you complete a simple questionnaire. At the end of the entire program, you complete the same questionnaire to evaluate your progress.
The modules are self guided and allow you to progress through each lesson at your own pace. Along the way, you’re asked to reflect on what you’ve learned by answering a few key questions about your experience. This is your opportunity to evaluate what you’re feeling and what you’ve taken away throughout the exercise.
Becoming More Mindful: What I’ve Learned
Like training your body, it takes a bit of time to train your mind. As I’m progressing through this program, here are a few tips I have for anyone looking to get started:
Tip #1: Remain open to the experience.
Trying something new can seem daunting. Thoughts creep in like: “what if I’m not good at this?” or “why is it so hard to turn off my brain?” You may also feel silly trying to sit comfortably and close your eyes to meditate. The key to remember is to be open to the experience. Find a comfortable location and environment to try out the exercises and be willing to feel a bit uncomfortable tapping into your thoughts and body in the beginning. Just like trying a new exercise routine, training your mind to do something new takes a bit of time and patience.
Tip #2: Give the program your complete focus.
This is probably the easiest thing to remember and the most challenging thing to do. While it may feel possible to sit quietly for 5 minutes and not let your mind wander, it’s a lot harder to do in practice. The important thing to remember is to give yourself permission to focus on the exercise and only the exercise.
Tip #3: To quote GSC, “Stick with it.”
Changes don’t happen overnight: commit yourself to making time to completing the modules and practicing the skills that you’re learning in your own time. Not only will you be establishing a lifelong skill, you’ll also be earning points towards Change4Life prizes. Who knows, you might even master mindfulness and be one of the lucky Change4Life winners!