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Business people, meditating

Course helps faculty, staff relieve back-to-school stress

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published September 5, 2013

“Mindfulness is like money in the bank.”
Kim Dobson, assistant professor of psychiatry
School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

In academia, early fall is one of the most hectic times of the year.

As UB faculty and staff accommodate thousands of students returning to classes, Kim Dobson, assistant professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is teaching a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course to help employees relieve back-to-school stress.

It will be held on Wednesdays from 6-8:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 11, in 107 Capen Hall on the North Campus. The cost of $299 includes a comprehensive course workbook and daylong retreat; participants will receive a certificate of completion after the final class. To register, contact Amy Myszka at 645-5357 or visit the Wellness and Work/Life Balance website.

MBSR is an eight-week course that introduces participants to mindfulness, a form of moment-to-moment awareness where attention is focused solely on the present and the mind is liberated from mental distractions and concerns.

Mindfulness is a state most people already have experienced during certain activities, such as playing an instrument or running, says Dobson. The challenge is to remain mindful while under stress.

“The present is the only moment that we truly have, and that’s the moment that we need to live in to learn, love, grow and make decisions,” she says. “There is nothing wrong with preparing for the future or reflecting about the past, but you should be able to be present with what is going on around you when you need to be, or when you want to be.”

First taught by Dobson at UB in 2008, the seminar is one of the Wellness and Work Life Balance workshops offered through the Employee Assistance Program.

Through MBSR, Dobson helps her students practice mindfulness by teaching them meditation techniques that focus on breathing and body awareness. Similar to yoga and Tai Chi, these techniques draw from Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, developed the program in 1979 after years of yoga practice and study with Buddhist teachers. Kabat-Zinn combined their teachings with Western science to create a secular approach to stress reduction.

However, mindfulness can do more than prevent a few gray hairs. According to Dobson, those who practice these techniques report dramatic improvements in health, a reduction in perceived chronic pain and improved immunity.

Participants also have displayed increased electrical activity and growth in areas of the brain that manage stress, tension and compassion.

Dobson’s calm and attentive presence is a testament to the physical and mental benefits of the program. Though she admits that she sometimes struggles to keep a clear head, she credits the program with helping her overcome everyday stresses.

“Mindfulness is like money in the bank,” says Dobson. “When situations become challenging, that skillset and experience are something I draw upon to address those difficulties. Mindfulness doesn’t remove the obstacles of life, but it is invaluable toward managing those challenges.”