Mindful Mainers - Part 2

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Stress is an everyday part of life.

An American Psychology Association study says the U.S. is at its highest stress level yet.

But managing that stress - by becoming more mindful of it - can be an everyday part of life, too.

When we're stressed out, it's usually because things like work or home or the environment are pressing on us - experiences that are outside of ourselves.

Focusing on what's going on inside of us can change that.

Dr. Mary Eyerer practices family medicine in Brewer.

Sometimes the patients from her office find themselves here.

Eyerer is one of only two certified instructors in the state to teach mindful-based stress reduction.

The eight-week program was developed in 1979 by molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn.

It centers around meditation and breathing.

"Begins with learning the body scan, which is dropping attention to the breath, just as it is. And then going down, we usually start with a left heel or left big toe and experiencing whatever's there. So first, there can be a desire to think about it, to say this is stupid, whatever. But to just let there be an intimacy of awareness with whatever sensations are coming up."

The tenets of MBSR are two of the eight facets that make up yoga.

Like yoga, the focus is also on the here and now.

"If your boss has just said something to you that you're not sure what it means and all of a sudden you're becoming tight and worried - if you can move into that and say it's like this now, this is what it's like. I can take a breath. I can pause, this is not an emergency, I can be with this, it has a way of dissolving."

As Mary Ford found out, learning the technique takes lots of practice.

She came to MBSR to help with the stress of trauma and addiction.

"Oh I pooh-poohed it! I was a horrible student. I hated it! I turn my hearing aids off, no I was awful! Because it's not easy that's why I did all those things to not feel those feelings, so when I sat down, I started to feel them."

"If you can see it and pay attention to it, which is the scary part, that's what you don't want to do. But as soon as you start doing that and then the practice is that you do that so much that then you stop being afraid."

The idea of mindfulness to reduce stress is even gaining traction in technology.

A variety of apps can now remind you to slow down and turn your focus inward.

Although mindfulness is an individual experience, Janet Hamel found comfort in the community here.

"Nobody was there saying that their life is going great and things are really easy. So you go and you experience being with a group of people that are trying to change the way they handle things in their life."

Eyerer believes meditation - specifically mindful based stress reduction - can make a difference for anyone who's open to it.

"But it doesn't make life hundred percent happy and pleasant. It's like waking up."

And these students say they're proof.

"It's just a breath away and it's just a thought away, peace is you know."

Dr. Eyerer says she usually sees 15-20 students each session, doubled since she started teaching M-B-S-R.

Student Liz Downing says we've all probably done some bit of meditation and breathing to help de-stress, so the concepts really aren't that foreign.

To learn more about Mindful-Based Stress Reduction, log on to www.mindfulnessmaine.org