Table Health aims to share helpful, relatable information and resources that contain an element of ease to encourage our members and local community to incorporate into their daily lives to bring them healing and personal wellbeing no matter what comes their way; physically, emotionally, relationally.
In regard to mental wellness we wanted to share a very important and accessible resource and service that also offers full and partial financial support, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or (MSBR).
Recently, we sat down with Wendy Weckstein PT, MEd, who is the Director of Wellness – Northern Michigan Psychiatric Services, PC, a Physical Therapist, Certified Wellness Consultant, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction – MBSR Teacher for Adults and Teens to learn more about her and how MBSR can be learned and applied to skillfully navigate challenges.
Q. What is your title, and area of expertise?
A. My name is Wendy Weckstein PT, MEd. I am the Director of Wellness – Northern Michigan Psychiatric Services, PC, Owner of The Mindfulness Center of Northern Michigan, LLC, a Physical Therapist, Certified Wellness Consultant and MBSR – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Teacher for Adults and Teens. My are of expertise is Wellness and Mindfulness Training
A little background…I have been a physical therapist for over 25 years – receiving my degree as a PT and a Masters in Education from the University of Michigan.
During the earlier years I spent much of my time working within brain injury settings – serving this community. My passion has been working with those suffering from brain injuries – and providing wellness programming for this population as well as the population at large. I am a firm believer that lifestyle impacts our overall health and well-being influencing healing, disease management, disease prevention and quality of life!
I became a Certified Wellness Consultant early on to add to my credentials and to better be able to provide a full range of wellness services to enhance the rehabilitation of my clients. I became Clinical Director of three large outpatient and residential brain injury centers and created and integrated Comprehensive Wellness Programs into each facility with marked changes noted in; mobility, function, return to community – work and leisure, emotional stability and behavior.
A number of years ago I was introduced to Jon Kabat- Zinn’s 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR Class during a particularly tough time in my life as I was dealing with a chronically ill child – my son Devin – who was suffering from a horrific and debilitating pain syndrome. His life was turned upside down for many years. This left me paralyzed and helpless and I needed all skills on board!
MBSR absolutely changed my life and allowed me to navigate through this challenge over the years with less reactivity and with as much ease and grace as was possible at the time. I continue to appreciate the power of this practice and have fully integrated this into my life. Ultimately, I applied for and was accepted to train with Brown University School of Public Health to become a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction – MBSR Teacher. This was no easy feat, as it took five long years of intense training, practice, reflection and mentoring. I am truly humbled to be part of this remarkable community of MBSR teachers and to be able to offer this remarkable class to others.
Currently, I am the Director of Wellness at Northern Michigan Psychiatric Services, PC where I work beside my husband who is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and a group of wonderful health care practitioners, offering health and wellness evaluations and customized wellness/mindfulness programming for teens, young adults and parents within and outside of this practice. I spend a large amount of my time teaching MBSR Classes for adults and MBSR-T Classes for Teens (otherwise known as Stressed Teens Class) in the Fall, Winter and Spring each year.
This has absolutely been the most rewarding and satisfying part of my career thus far – hands down!!
Q. What is MBSR Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?
A. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR is an 8-week, evidence-based program that offers secular intensive mindfulness training to assist people with a host of stress-related physical, emotional and psychological conditions. Along with ongoing practice throughout the week, this class trains attention and cultivates awareness, providing one with positive coping tools needed to become strong and resilient in both body and mind.
It was founded by Jon Kabat Zinn in 1979 out of the University of Massachusetts and is a powerful tool, helping one develop a different relationship towards stress and the ability to more skillfully navigate through life’s inevitable challenges. This practice of moment-to-moment awareness and waking up to one’s life with clarity and deeper insight untaps essential inner resource for living a happier and more balanced life… with greater contentment, inner peace and ease.
MBSR is a psychoeducational and highly experiential in nature. In addition to didactic teaching, classes are interactive and dynamic, using a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, yoga and the exploration of patterns of behavior, thinking, feeling and action. The MBSR program helps us become aware of our habitual patterns of reacting and the self-agency to interrupt this cycle and create more choice in our life. MBSR offers us the potential to relate to ourselves, our experiences and the world around us with fresh perspectives and in new and more meaningful ways.
Q. What are the beneficial effects of MBSR?
A. There has been a tremendous amount of research coming out of the University of Massachusetts, Harvard, Brown, UCLA, Stanford, UW-Madison and numerous other institutions around the world providing insight into, not only how MBSR positively benefits the body and mind, but also how it changes the structure and function of the brain through positive neuroplasticity.
This evidenced-based practice, deeply rooted in psychology, science and Far Eastern practices, has more than 40 years of research and neuroscience demonstrating the profound ability to positively impact the health and well-being of the body and mind. Over 1,000 studies have shown that regular practice and mindful living can enhance attention, focus and memory, decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, PTSD, decrease self-harming and addictive behaviors, increase emotional stability and balance, improve mood and optimism, improve communication, social and relational skills, enhance pain management, decrease the risk for disease and reduce symptoms of diseases of both body and mind – enhancing overall immunity.
Q. What is the best, most practical way to start this practice and stick with it?
A. There are many apps that offer nice meditations and guidance such as Insight Timer, Calm and Headspace. Creating an Intention to carve out a few minutes of time in the morning or evening to STOP for a short while whatever it is you are doing in order to engage in this practice is important. Revisiting your intention each day and reestablishing it as brand new is extremely helpful. Perhaps try starting off slowly with shorter meditations, but remain consistent if possible!
Remember this is a practice. Like anything else we hope to bring into our lives in a healthy way – it takes consistency and time to develop new habit and for healthy and strong neuronal pathways to establish themselves in our brain. IF we go about it in this way we will find before long mindfulness will become more easily accessible to us throughout our day.
Q. Is there an introductory exercise you can walk us through?
Simply STOPPING whatever it is that you are doing and giving yourself permission to pause – in either sitting or standing. Now, taking a moment and turning your attention toward the physical sensations of your breath. Feeling the gentle and steady rhythm of the breath. Noticing the full cycle…the moment the inbreath begins, the warm sensation of expansion in the abdomen and chest – maybe noticing the sideways motion of the ribs as they expand – and then being with the momentary pause at the top of the breath before the breath is released. Then… noticing as everything caves inwards, the belly moving towards the spine, the ribs gently gliding inwards and the slight pause here, at the bottom of the breath.
*This brief breathing meditation can be done without needing to change your breath in any way. Simply and gently just noticing… turning your attention towards breathing. Maybe focusing on the breath for 3 full cycles.
This can be quite powerful in terms of quieting down the incessant chatter and helping you to establish a calmer presence!
Q. How can MSBR be applied to times of uncertainty?
A. Excellent question!!
Times of uncertainty offer us a wonderful opportunity to utilize our mindfulness skills – to pause with intention. We can more easily enter into a state of calmness and clarity when we choose to be as fully present with our surroundings, our bodily sensations, our thoughts and our emotions, instead of fighting, pushing away or resisting what is here anyways. In this way we can see more clearly what is actually happening in the moment instead of the stories in our head and wrapping our experience in our intricate and false narratives, ruminations and worries
Mindfulness helps us to see what is real – to more skillfully navigate through whatever challenges we may face by helping us to remain balanced, calm and centered. In this way we are able to be more accepting of “what is” instead of “wishing for things to be different” with greater compassion, kindness, patience, gentleness and forgiveness. We develop the ability to use wisdom to thoughtfully respond to a situation – instead of feeling controlled and imprisoned by our emotions…. which only fuels our suffering and reactivity.
Click here to learn more about MBSR classes.