Published: May 18, 2006
Updated: Apr. 19, 2011
An important component of recovery and prevention for cardiac patients is stress management. One powerfully effective technique taught by Jessica Psujek Wakefield, a health counselor at Duke, is mindfulness meditation.
“People can use the technique to better manage or cope with the stressors in their life,” Wakefield says. The practice facilitates relaxation and has been shown to reduce blood pressure and lower heart rate.
Mindfulness meditation means tuning into the present moment and its accompanying sensations. One is aware of thoughts and emotions without being overwhelmed by them.
Psujek defines it as, “Careful, open-hearted, present-moment awareness. So often our thoughts are taking us to past events or worries of the future, our plans and to-do lists, and we lose that present-moment awareness.”
Psujek presides over weekly mindfulness meditation sessions for people enrolled in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program. In the dimly lit Stedman Auditorium on the Duke Center for Living Campus, participants lie down on mats or seat themselves comfortably on chairs or the floor.
In soothing, measured tones, Wakefield guides them through one of three meditations.
Each session lasts about 45 minutes and is followed by a brief discussion of the experience.
With consistent practice, the benefits of mindfulness meditation will extend into the participants’ daily lives. “Being centered in the moment may keep you from being carried away by strong emotions like anxiety or anger,” Wakefield explains. “You may start thinking, ‘What are some other choices I can make in responding to this?’”