In the Fall of 2015, The Foundation for Faces of Children took its first step toward the goal of providing our families with programs promoting positive self-esteem and strategies for coping with anxiety. The event, “Facing the World: Optimal Strategies for Children & Families with a Facial Difference,” launched our plan to offer better psychological support to our craniofacial families. One aspect of the program highlighted techniques for focusing on mindfulness to elicit a relaxation response and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Laura Gray, PhD, and Eric Riklin, BA, discussed stress, the power of the mind and the relaxation response which can be used as a tool for coping. It was pointed out that physical and emotional self-care is important for staying balanced, feeling more calm and having increased control over one’s life. This balance ultimately leads to greater self-esteem and self-confidence.
If a person gets stuck in a pattern of negative reactions, the stress response can become chronic and lead to problems such as difficulty concentrating and impulsiveness or other physical and emotional symptoms. But if we are able to learn coping skills to change how we view stress, we can reduce that stress and the potential for anxiety or depression.
It has been proven scientifically that there is a strong mind-body connection. Persistent, toxic stress changes the chemistry of the brain and can cause an increase of blood pressure and blood sugar, digestive problems, memory and learning issues, as well as anxiety and depression. The good news is that the mind is flexible and we can change how we respond to the world and our experiences. Relaxation as a coping strategy can diminish the stress experience by counteracting its negative effects. Positive, engaging activities elicit the relaxation response and combat stress and physical and emotional pain. The relaxation response can be triggered by using a number of meditative techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, repetitive prayer, Qi Gong, Tai chi, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, jogging or even knitting. There are also programs where one can learn how to elicit their own individual relaxation response.
The Benson-Henry Institute of Mind Body Medicine of Boston, Mass., offers training programs to deepen understanding of how stress influences health and illness. Students acquire skills in mind body practices to mitigate stress and build resiliency. FFC and the staff from the Benson-Henry Institute (www.bensonhenryinstitute.org) are working together to craft such a program to assist our craniofacial families in coping with anxieties that accompany our children’s long craniofacial journey. The goal is to guide these families toward learning to reduce stress, build resiliency and enhance quality of life. We hope to schedule the initial Stress Reduction training program in late spring or early summer. Information about the program and how you can participate will be shared once the details are finalized.
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