Mindfulness can combat the cycle of constant busyness

An overflowing to-do list. Places to go and people to see. Bills to be paid. Nonstop activities and taxi service for your kids. Late hours at the office.

In America, we often wear our busyness like a badge of honor, and fastpaced lifestyles combined with never-ending news of local, national and worldwide tragedies are pushing our communities over the edge.

In 2015, the American Psychological Association released the report “Stress in America” with all signs pointing to the obvious — stress is up. A majority of Americans self-reported suffering from moderate to high stress with 44 percent saying their stress levels had increased over the past five years. Stress is also impacting younger generations, including Millennials and Gen Xers well on through to Baby Boomers.

What can be done? Science would tell us bringing mindfulness techniques and approaches to daily living can make all the difference. Mindfulness — paying attention on purpose to what is happening in the here and now — can allow us to combat the busyness, slow down and be present. When this is done, with kindness and selfcompassion, it leads to happier and healthier lives.

Don’t believe me? Believe the science. The growing field of neuroscience continues to prove that practicing mindfulness can be useful in many areas of life. Because of this, Mental Health America in Sheboygan County looks forward to bringing mindfulness to Sheboygan County classrooms, businesses and our communities as a whole.

MHA staff members were recently trained as facilitators for an evidence- based curriculum through Growing Minds, an education and training agency for mindfulness. MHA’s long-standing youth education program — covering important topics of mental health, illness and wellness — throughout Sheboygan County classrooms always has been well received. However, in recent years — with reports of increased mental health and behavioral challenges with kids as well as, understandably, stressed-out teachers and families — the agency felt like more could be done.

The enhanced MHA youth education program, using the social emotional curriculum with mindful skills training, covers four categories — focus and attention, self-awareness and self-regulation, thoughts and emotions, and social skills. The implementation in classrooms is set to start this fall with a variety of participating school districts throughout Sheboygan County.

Driving the curriculum is the idea that space in the classroom to pause and reflect is foundational to academic learning. Benefits of the program found in classroom environments include increased focus and concentration, decreased stress and anxiety, responsive rather than reactive behaviors, increased teaching time and overall increased empathy for others — to name a few.

Following a roll out in the schools, MHA is focused on bringing mindful skills training to the overall community including employer-based, parent-focused and general community training and workshops. Mindful communities equal less stress and healthier people.

Those interested in learning more about mindfulness in the school, business or community setting may email trisha @mhasheboygan.org or request to be added to a new mindful eblast, sent out weekly from MHA with articles and information on mindfulness for those interested in learning more.

Kate Baer is the executive director for Mental Health America in Sheboygan County, co-chair of the Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee and chair of the Stigma Committee