September 25, 2020

BY GREG STAMPER

Whether it be from school, work, financials, or simply from the issues that come from inside the walls of your own house, stress, even if it is just a minimal amount, affects almost every person on the planet on a daily basis.

According to Statistics Canada, about a quarter of the Canadian population aged 15 and older reported experiencing quite a lot or extreme stress most days of their lives. For the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo metropolitan area alone, Statistics Canada estimates that 113,683 (28.1 per cent) of people aged 15 and older perceived they had significant life stress over the 2011/2012 period.

These numbers are staggering and the Spiritual Heritage Education Network Inc. (SHEN), located in Kitchener, is looking to change them.

SHEN is a non-profit community agency that, according to their website, “aims to form a globalized concept of core spirituality in order to create a more peaceful and tolerant universe.”

On Feb. 26, SHEN launched a new initiative called the Stress Free Community that will allow citizens of Waterloo Region to attend Train Your Brain courses at the SHEN Centre on Charles Street West, across from the bus terminal, in which the only fee associated is in the form of a free will donation to SHEN after taking the training.

The Train Your Brain courses focus on a fundamental aspect of life, breathing, but takes it to a much “deeper” level.

“It is a matter of common observation that when our nervous excitation and stress levels are high, our breath goes fast and shallow. We have the ability to train our brains to run our breathing processes at a slow pace making the breath deep. This enables us to reduce stress conserving both physical and mental energy,” said Shiv Talwar, president of SHEN.

Through the training provided in the Train Your Brain courses, participants will learn how to deep breathe their way out of stressful situations, as well as, after a few training sessions, be able to teach the process to others.

The process is deemed effective if a learner regularly practises deep abdominal breathing for a few minutes, in addition to creating a habit of being breath-aware, taking a few deep breaths many times during the day.

Although SHEN has been using the Train Your Brain program for a number of years, teaching the staff and clients of many local community agencies including students at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo and Grand River Hospital, the application of the program on a community-wide scale in the Stress Free Community initiative is a new idea designed to help everyone make it through their day.

A 2011 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that toxic stress can play a disturbing role in brain development, negatively influencing social, educational, economic, cultural, behavioral and developmental outcomes, which is one of the reasons Talwar stresses the importance of this program to the community.

“Stress keeps us self-centred, fragmented and unable to see our connectedness and essential oneness. In addition, it makes us unhealthy, unhappy and unable to learn. The lower the level of stress, the higher is our ability to learn, self-develop and be both healthy and happy.”

Stress can never be completely cured, it will always be there, but knowing how to manage stress is something every person is capable of.

For more information on the Stress Free Community initiative or the Train Your Brain programs, visit the SHEN website at www.spiritualeducation.org.

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