Sep. 1, 2011
Emory Expert Offers Tips for Coping with Life-Threatening Illnesses in New Book
ATLANTA – Receiving a life-threatening diagnosis is often considered one of the most difficult things a person can go through, causing feelings of fear, worry and loss.
In her new book, “Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious and Life-Limiting Illness Through Mindfulness, Compassion and Connectedness,” Susan Bauer-Wu, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate professor of nursing at Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, offers practical guidance on using mindfulness meditation for coping with physical pain and life changes or when faced with serious conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or caregiver stress.
“When a person is diagnosed with a serious illness, they often feel they have lost control, and they worry that they still have much to do,” says Bauer-Wu who is also a Georgia Cancer Center Coalition Distinguished Scholar. “My goal is to help people cultivate mindfulness, compassion and a sense of connectedness –to loved ones and with what matters most--so that they can live well despite challenges beyond their control.”
Bauer-Wu has studied the effects of meditation on patients and caregivers for more than 12 years. Her research has shown that meditation can bolster physical and mental health.
According to Bauer-Wu, mindfulness is a way of bringing awareness to one’s experience in the present moment with a sense of openness rather than resistance. It can be cultivated through practices such as meditation. Mindfulness meditation and programs like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction have gained popularity due to research supporting its benefits for a broad range of conditions and populations.
“Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and any time,” says Bauer-Wu. “There are countless opportunities to practice it in the course of a regular day during routine activities, like eating, walking, doing household chores, working or brushing your teeth. The more you practice it, the more it will become part of you.”
Tips for Practicing Mindfulness
An easy way to remember how to be mindful in the course of a busy day or when you are worried, angry, or uncomfortable is to STOP:
- S – Stop and slow down.
- T – Take a few slow, deep breaths, noticing the sensations of your inhale with your chest and belly expanding and then the release with your exhale.
- O – Observe your thoughts and notice how you are feeling
- P – Process with awareness and kindness.
For more information about Bauer-Wu’s book, visit www.bit.ly/LeavesFallingGently
The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.