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Reducing Stress through Mindfulness

September 12, 2018 3:00 PM with Dr. Robert Farra

It’s easy to get swept away in day-to-day tasks, keeping us busy and often stressed. What is important is that we find healthy ways to manage our stress or anxiety. Mindfulness is how one can decrease the stress that comes from those issues and most importantly, how to recognize them.

The experts in the Psychiatry Department at NorthShore lead a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program for depression and anxiety. Get your questions answered below. 


Dr Robert Farra - 3:00 PM:
Good afternoon. I’m Dr. Bob Farra and I’d like to welcome you to this chat on dealing more effectively with Stress through Mindfulness Meditation. I’d like to give you a definition for mindfulness and mindfulness meditation: "Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations." This simple practice has research demonstrated benefits: Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety Improved memory Improved ability to adapt to stressful situations Reduced rumination (repetitively going over a thought or problem) Greater satisfaction with life Are there any questions you would like me to address?

Ben (Moderator) - 3:01 PM:
Welcome to the Reducing Stress through Mindfulness chat. The chat is now open and you can submit your questions at any time.

  leonard dalmacio (skokie il) - 3:02 PM:
I suffer from anxiety and depression for about 6 years now and have been taking medication for it. Don't know how it started but I do worry a lot and always question if there is something wrong with me every day. Also, get a lot of chest pains and have gone through so many ekgs and 2 trips to the emergency room. Is there anything I could do to keep these chest pains and the feeling of worry to go away . what do you suggest? Thank you for your time. Leonarddalmacio
Robert Farra
I think it's reasonable to consider starting a daily meditation practice. The objective of mindfulness meditation is not to get rid of thoughts, feelings, or body sensations. It's to learn to observe them without judgement. In learning to do this, worry often decreases.

  Jennifer (Deerfield, IL) - 3:07 PM:
What are some techniques for mindfulness to use at work with a difficult coworker or stressful meeting?
Robert Farra
Jennifer. Thanks for your question. It's important to know that mindfulness is not a series of techniques, rather a change in how we view things. Dr. Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist who survived Nazi death camps and went on to write “Man’s Search for Meaning” wrote, ”Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” When we pause when something happens and choose our response we are able to break dysfunctional pattern of the reactive mind. This is the path towards peace of mind. Be aware of your narrative about this co-worker. It's our narrative or story we write in our heads that creates our reactions.

  Frank (Skokie, IL) - 3:14 PM:
Are there deeper reasons to practice than stress-reduction?
Robert Farra
Frank, I certainly think so. I strive to appreciate every moment of life. Now, I acknowledge that I don't enjoy some of the moments. Mindfulness helps me keep in mind what is most important to me and not allow myself to live on "auto pilot", just going through the motions. Mindfulness meditation is a great help with this.

  Beth (Chicago,IL) - 3:21 PM:
I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety since I was about 10 years old due to trauma. in the last 2 years it has completely taken over my life, and I am unable to work full time. This is new to me since I have been a fully functional adult since then. Do you feel like this is something that will pass in time? I am in psychotherapy 2 time per week currently. Thanks!
Robert Farra
Research has shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication work best for severe depression and anxiety. You are seeing a therapist twice per week. Do you think you are making progress? Only you can answer this. Do you think you are on the right track of recovery? Are you learning new skills and strategies to decrease and manage your symptoms?

  Steve (Chicago, IL) - 3:27 PM:
How do you keep your mind in the present when you have many responsibilities to so many people. I have so little time to do a lot of work and meet many peoples' needs.
Robert Farra
Steve, the simple answer is with practice. What's very important is self-care. Is your self-care high on the list of priorities? It's impossible to take care of others if we're not take care of ourself.

  Liz (Highland Park) - 3:33 PM:
What is the difference between stress and anxiety? I am one that seems to ruminate on the bad things that 'might' happen trying to justfy it by saying that i just "want to be prepared". How can I break that habbit and still feel that I am prepared. How much bad-planning is normal, if any? Is this routed in an insecurity of some sort?
Robert Farra
We have a great program here at NS called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. It’s a four week program (one hour per week for four weeks). In this program I teach participants to use the wisdom of their bodies to help them cope with the stressors of life. The overall objective is to learn meditation to increase the ability to live in the present moment. Mindfulness helps us increase our awareness about where our thoughts and attention are focused and work towards keeping our focus on the present moment. Depression is often related to judging oneself about things that have occurred in the past, and anxiety tends to focus on “worst case scenarios” about the future. In both of these situations, when we give power to these thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations all we are doing is increasing our emotional distress over situations that we cannot control or change, all the while missing out on the present moment.

  Margaret (Evanston) - 3:36 PM:
How can I encourage my teenage girls to use their downtime to practice mindfulness? They'd rather be on their phones texting friends.
Robert Farra
Margaret. Great question. There are a number of good mindfulness apps for smart phones. If you send me an email and request a list, I'll send it right to you. rfarra@northshore. org There is another facet to your question. Do you practice mindfulness? Do they see the benefits of practice reflected in you? If you do practice, do you share your experiences with them? It's all about modeling how mindfulness has made a difference in your life.

  Kate (Evanston) - 3:42 PM:
How can I tell whether my teenage daughter needs a mental health therapist to help with stress? She once mentioned that many of her friends had therapists, and replied "yes" when I asked her if she felt that would help her. But then she changed her mind and says she's handling the stress and doesn't want or need to see a therapist. In both instances she seemed sincere, so I'm confused about when or if I should get her help.
Robert Farra
Kate, I think the answer is to keep up the dialogue about how she is doing. You know this can change over time. Our Department of Psychiatry has excellent clinical psychologists who specialize in treating adolescents. If you are concerned at some point in the future, you can always schedule a consultation.

  Maria (Park Ridge Il) - 3:47 PM:
How do I work on mindfulness before I encounter a stressful situation that causes me to act in ways I regret later?
Robert Farra
Begin practicing today. You'll need some instruction, then it's all about daily practice. Even with practice, sometimes we will regret our reactions. It's important to be kind to ourselves and avoid the harsh inner critic. All we have to do is begin again.

  Elaine (Evanston, IL) - 3:51 PM:
I have an ill relative at home to care for, and at times I feel that I have absolutely nothing left, no energy. Can meditation help with that?
Robert Farra
Yes, you are likely experiencing compassion fatigue. We can't give endlessly without regular self-care. Do you have a support system there for you?

  Beth (Chicago) - 3:53 PM:
Dr. Farra, I do believe I am on the right track to recovery, as well as learning how to manage my symptoms. I am putting my needs, and myself first. Unfortunately while bettering myself some less "self aware" family members are taking this personally. How do I not allow that anger from family members cloud my recovery and mindfulness? This alone makes me depressed.
Robert Farra
Support in the form of a meditation group could be helpful. Ultimately we have to allow others to feel as they do and not allow their emotions to be so influential. Therapy can also help with this. Good luck.

Robert Farra - 4:00 PM:
Thank you all for participating. If you would like additional information about ,you can email me at

Ben (Moderator) - 4:00 PM:
This is the end of our chat. Thank you Dr. Farra for all your insight.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.