Dr. Sophie Kaufman Shares the Benefits of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

As we all cope with the new reality of social distancing and quarantine in the COVID-19 era, it's important that we develop routines that promote our mental as well as our physical health, according to CHP professor Sophie R. Kaufman, DPS, MBA.

Kaufman, who is teaching a course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Pace, said stress and anxiety can drag down our immune system, making us more vulnerable to illness.

"Staying mentally fit is just as important as staying physically healthy,'' said Kaufman. "A large part of managing stress involves being in touch with our feelings and regulating our emotions.''

Kaufman is a CFM Qualified MBSR Teacher, trained at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (CFM). Kaufman has been practicing yoga and meditation for more than 20 years and has been training in MBSR at the CFM since 2015.

In her course, Kaufman explores mindfulness mediation as a practice to reduce stress and develop a greater balance in life. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created a detailed curriculum for learning, practice, and even scientific research about mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts in 1979, to help people who were falling through the cracks in the healthcare system. His Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School has been the main driver of academic research, teacher training, and development of a worldwide community of mindfulness practitioners, and their banner program has been Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR.

Kaufman offers these exercises for coping with stress:

Practice STOP:

S-Stop

T-Take a breath

O-Observe – what you are feeling internally in the body (heart beating faster? Tension in the shoulders? Knot in the stomach?) and externally (alarming news, sounds, voices…)

P-Proceed or Pause again before proceeding

The STOP practice helps us practice pausing which is at the heart of mindfulness practice.

Recognize emotions while not identifying with them

Take a moment to notice emotions: do you feel unsettled? Anxious? Afraid? Angry? Depressed?

What sensations do you notice in the body? Tightness? Pain? Cold? Warm?

"Rather than pushing emotions and sensations away, simply practice being aware of them, observing them with curiosity, like clouds passing in the sky," said Kaufman. "When emotions or sensations seem too intense, bringing the awareness to the breath, placing one hand on the chest and one hand on the belly, and simply breathing slowly – gently closing the eyes to allow focusing inward. Practice putting some distance between yourself and your emotions, gently letting go."

Feel our interconnectedness, our common humanity:

"With social distancing, there may be a feeling of isolation, anxiety, particularly when living alone. Paradoxically recognize that we are all sharing this social distancing and we are actually more connected than ever,'' said Kaufman. "Social distancing doesn't mean social disconnection. Fortunately, in 2020 technology allows us to continue to foster social connection and a sense of