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Free program for SU students trains mind to reduce stress
Free program for SU students trains mind to reduce stressAugust 31, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
American college students are feeling more stressed than ever before. According to a national survey conducted in 2004 by the American College Health Association, nearly half (45 percent) of all college students reported feeling so depressed at one point in their college careers that they were having trouble functioning and 63 percent felt “hopeless” at times. Ninety-four percent reported feeling “overwhelmed.”
For many students, the pressures of school, relationships, work and other obligations can result in a heightened level of stress, anxiety and depression. To help them cope with and reduce stress, the Syracuse University Division of Student Affairs Counseling Center and David Monsour, M.D., are offering SU students a free course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR is a program pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The eight-week course meets on campus, once a week for two hours, and will be offered either Thursday evenings from 7-9 p.m. and Friday afternoons from 1-3 p.m. at a location to be announced. The start date is either Oct. 5 or 6, depending on the section chosen. An all-day retreat is scheduled for Nov. 11 for both classes’ participants.
Further information and registration for the programs will be offered at the mandatory orientation/screening sessions held Sept. 14 from 6:30-7:30 p.m., Sept. 15 from 1-2 p.m., Sept. 22 from 1-2 p.m. and Sept. 25 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Rooms 304A and B of the Hildegarde and J. Myer Schine Student Center.
To register for one of the mandatory pre-program orientation sessions or for further information, contact the Counseling Center at 443-4715 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Class size is limited.
“In our culture, we have no problem understanding that the body can be trained to run faster, lift more weights or to become better at a sport, but not much attention is paid to training the mind to be more focused, balanced, stable and present,” says Monsour. “In this course, we will work with training the mind to attend to the present moment more openly and nonjudgmentally. This has great applications to our health and our performance in daily life and work.”
The MBSR program teaches mindfulness meditation and its application to everyday life and work. Mindfulness is a practice that cultivates an open, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.
The course is made possible by a three-year federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The grant, the first of its kind, is dedicated to teaching college students emotional life skills to help them cope with the demands and pressures of college life.
“The SU Counseling Center is pleased that for the second time, our students will take this course with Dr. Monsour,” says Rebecca Dayton, director of the SU Counseling Center. “The MBSR program has proven effective in bringing stress relief to so many individuals around the world. Through this program, we hope to provide our students with yet another resource to enable them to live happier, healthier lives here at SU.”
Monsour offers the program privately to individuals and groups and as a corporate consultant. He has taught as adjunct faculty at the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic, where he has led stress reduction programs as well as professional teacher training programs for others who come to UMass to train to teach the program.
Introduced by Kabat-Zinn in 1979, MBSR is taught around the world and in more than 250 programs in North America. More than 16,000 MBSR graduates based at the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic experienced a greater ability to handle stress, pain and illness, and felt an increased sense of control, well-being and appreciation in their everyday lives after completing the program.
Says Monsour: “The toxicity of chronic and inappropriate release of stress hormones is hardly a debatable topic anymore. The question is how to keep from residing in this zone of damage for long periods of our lives. Mindfulness practice is a way to focus our attention fully on whatever our experience contains so that we can work with it rather than spending large amounts of time and energy struggling against it.”
From the bereaved to sufferers of chronic pain, MBSR has helped thousands of people cope with stressful situations and learn how to tolerate the situations with a greater level of comfort. Newsweek, Time and National Geographic have reported on MBSR, and it has been featured on Bill Moyers’ “Healing and the Mind” television program.
Over the course of SU’s program, participants will learn several mindfulness meditation practices, including sitting, walking, gentle yoga and body scan meditations. They will also integrate the understanding cultivated by these practices into daily life. Weekly exercises will include CD-guided meditation practice and other homework assignments.
Monsour teaches that mindfulness meditation improves the ability to concentrate and train one’s attention. “Paying attention to our experience in this way allows us to turn toward our moment-to-moment experience and connect with it more fully and openly. This allows a clearer appraisal of our actual experience and a greater chance for responding with more ease rather than reacting and struggling against what is already here,” says Monsour. “It is possible to get better at riding the inevitable waves of our life and experience by practicing to deal in a more balanced way with what arrives.”
For more information on MBSR, visit the Counseling Center’s website, http://counselingcenter.syr.edu.