I am pleased to share information about a wonderful opportunity to enter the holiday season with tools for managing stress and eating environments over the holidays and beyond. This call is offered by Narmin Virani, RD who also has training in mindfulness. Narmin has a wonderful way of combining these two areas of expertise with practical tools and guidance. I hope you can take advantage of her generosity of time and talents.
I will be offering a 45-60 minute phone session starting at 7:30 pm on October 29th and 30th, and November 1st and 2nd (the 2 days before and after Halloween!), including 15-20 minutes of guided mindfulness meditation and 20-30 minutes discussion after. I will take you through a body scan, which is a simple mindfulness exercise where you scan your body in your mind’s eye, starting with your feet, moving all the way up to your head, while breathing slowly and deeply, all the while observing your thoughts as they arise, without judging, trying not to get carried away with the thoughts, using your breathing/pulse/heartbeat as an anchor for your awareness, every time your mind wanders. By the end of the exercise you might find yourself feeling more centered, focused, and calm. We might even do guided imagery and mindful eating exercises with trigger foods later in the week, following the body scan exercise.
What are the benefits?
Mindfulness has clinically shown to reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and chronic pain. There is evidence that regular practice shrinks the area of the brain associated with fear and anxiety (amygdala) while thickening the area of the brain responsible for rational/ logical thought and impulse control (prefrontal cortex). Our natural human instinct is to avoid unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations, but this just prolongs our suffering as the distractions we seek hurt us more than they help, and the unpleasant thoughts/sensations don’t really go away when we distract, but keep trying to get our attention. Mindfulness is based on turning towards these unpleasant experiences rather than away from them, with an attitude of curiosity (what are my thoughts/feelings trying to tell me? Are these changing from moment to moment or do they last forever?), non-judgement (thoughts are not right/wrong, I am not good/bad for thinking this way, all emotions are organic), and self-compassion (it’s okay to feel this, what I am going through is natural, I am only human, I am trying my best). How does mindfulness reduce anxiety? It increases body awareness. With practice we get better at noticing what anxiety feels like in the body – heart racing, muscles clenched, holding our breath, etc, instead of getting caught up in our thoughts – “Why am I so anxious? Why can’t I just relax ?” When we feel anxious about feeling anxious or try to “think anxiety away”, it actually just makes it snowball; but when we notice what it feels like in the body, without judging, we instinctively unclench and breathe, which instantly loosens the grip that the anxiety has on us.
I have professional training in mindfulness-medicine from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where I worked for 10 years, and am currently pursuing advanced teacher-training at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School.
Why is this a good time to do this?
- Holidays can be a stressful time, especially for someone who has had bariatric surgery and is trying to eat healthy. From Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, it’s 2 months of temptations. All the impossible-to-follow rules being tossed at you by online forums and well-meaning relatives/health-care professionals – “avoid carbs, stay away from sugar” – make this time especially difficult.
- Winter evenings can be depressing as it gets dark sooner.
- I have done this with quite a few of my patients who were struggling with stress-eating, and found it very effective
- Regular mindfulness practice has personally changed my life and personality for the better over the last 10-15 years, made me less reactive, more responsive, and kinder to myself and others.
I am hoping that this four-day mindfulness session, followed by practicing on your own, will help you feel more calm, collected, and centered as you navigate the holidays. You can’t control the food-filled environment at this time of the year, but facing it with anxiety and fear could actually leave you more vulnerable to breaking down and eating distractedly or quickly, while facing it calmly and fearlessly might help you eat mindfully, in a way that leaves you satisfied, not filled with regret. If people find it helpful I might offer it again around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
How can you participate?
You can dial in at 7:30 pm on Sunday October 29th and Monday 30th , and Wednesday November 1st and Thursday 2nd, using the number 712-451-0901 and access code 222264. You can join anonymously if you want, you don’t have to tell us your name, just your initials or an alias before we start the discussion, so I can get a head count, to help me decide if it’s worth offering again. I would recommend doing some gentle stretching exercises for 5-10 minutes before dialing in, because a relaxed body is more conducive to a relaxed mind. We will start with a brief description of the exercise at 730 pm, do the exercise from 740 to 8 pm, then answer questions pertaining to the exercise itself, or general questions from 8 pm to 8.15-830 pm. If you join after 740 pm, please press Star 6 to mute yourself, and stay muted until we start the discussion. You will need a quiet place in your home where you wont be interrupted, a comfortable spot to sit or lie down, comfortable clothes that allow for free breathing, and ear phones or head phones so you can rest your arms. I assure you that I will be in a room by myself, to protect your privacy. You can call in, any or all of the four days. This can be a break for you from your busy day and responsibilities, time devoted to just you, to de-stress. You don’t have to RSVP for this event, I plan on doing this even if no one shows up on the call, because if nothing else, I’ll get a good meditation out of it, and sleep better that night! Please let me know if you have any questions. Narmin.Virani@umassmemorial.org
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