We all have things in our lives that we recognize as major stress factors. For me, being a parent to three teenagers with ADHD was a biggie. By the time my twins headed to middle school, I was beginning to experience severe stress symptoms that, at the time, I feared could signal a brain tumor.

The rollercoaster of riding along as three teens went from fine to anger and insults and back again over and over, day after day, was enough to give me emotional whiplash. The wrong words started coming out of my mouth: “maginal” instead of “magi¬cal,” “capitino” instead of “cappuccino,” “bunky-burvy” instead of “topsy-turvy.”

After a thorough examination from a neurologist, he determined that my symptoms weren’t caused by a tumor; they were caused by extreme stress. His prescription to help what ailed me? Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

MBSR has been used in clinical settings since 1979 and has been vetted by sol¬id science — a huge selling point for me. One key study published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2003 indicated that mindfulness meditation was associated with an increase in immune function and activity in the part of the brain that corresponds with positive feelings. Countless other studies have revealed that MBSR decreases anxiety, depression, and blood pressure and increases well-being, concentration, inter¬personal relations, and the ability to manage pain.

After diving deep into MBSR, I went on to study Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), a research-proven program teaching inner resources and skills to soothe a person during times of stress or pain. Studies done on the MSC curriculum showed similar results as the studies on MBSR: decreases in anxiety, depression, and stress, and increases in relationship satisfaction, emotional well-be¬ing, and maintenance of healthy habits, such as diet and exercise. Mindfulness Self-Compassion was MBSR with the extra component of compassion practice. Adding a self-compassion practice gave me the capacity to take my healing to the next level.

Realizing that there is an effective, evidence-based approach to creating such meaningful results in our lives is a huge relief. It’s easy to believe that we are at the whim of life, especially on the hardest days, but this limiting mindset is now delightfully at risk of extinction thanks to the simple reality that mindfulness classes are more accessible than ever all over the world. The point is, we have options — even in those moments when it feels like we don’t. And maybe that knowing can anchor us to hopefulness long enough to make a new choice in our lives.

Don’t wait as long as I did and let your stress become a frightening physical ailment. And if you’re already there, take heart in knowing that there is a path forward to a more manageable way of living your days.

Author's Bio: 

About Julie Potiker: Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.