Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mindfulness and Dealing with Stress

Stress and anxiety can be major problems for individuals on the autism spectrum. For all of us, modern life can be overwhelming, pressured, fast paced and demanding. For those on the spectrum, the stresses can be even greater, because they may include social anxiety, sensory problems, career difficulties, or managing repetitive thoughts.

One very effective way of dealing with stress is through mindfulness. Mindfulness, as the term is used in modern American society, is based on Buddhist ideas, although it is not a religious concept. Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his classic book Wherever You Go There You Are (1994) defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” (p. 4) and states that it is “simply … the art of conscious living.” Kabat-Zinn is a Professor of Medicine Emeritus and the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is a program the center developed to integrate mindfulness and mindfulness meditation into modern medicine and healthcare. Mindfulness techniques have been shown to be effective not just for medical conditions, but for managing stress and anxiety as well.

You can learn more about mindfulness in Kabot-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are, or his Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (1990). There are also websites and online videos on mindfulness based stress reduction, as well as eight week courses available in locations throughout the country.