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“A little island of calm”: YNHHS phone meditations offer callers a few moments of peace

It’s normal to feel many different emotions in these challenging times, including anxiety, fear, sadness and frustration. But through meditation, we can learn to acknowledge difficult thoughts and step back from them for some much-needed relief.

As Vivien Bergl, LCSW, a consultant with Yale New Haven’s Employee and Family Resources (EFR) program, explained during one of EFR’s 10-minute live phone meditations, “The goal of meditation is not to eliminate stress or worry entirely – that’s too big of a task. In meditating, we take those worries and move them outside of ourselves – as if they’re a hurricane headed out to sea – and we’re left on a little island of calm where we can center ourselves and relax.”

During EFR’s phone meditations, the host guides callers to focus on a physical sensation, such as the rhythm of their breath, to dissolve distraction and connect to the present moment. The breath serves as an anchor, or a tool that can be used to help prevent us from drifting too far into our worrisome thoughts when they arise.

“Our thoughts can spiral very quickly, so returning focus to our breath and anchoring to the present can help us separate ourselves from worries and projections about circumstances beyond our control,” Bergl said. “An exercise in mindful meditation can give our minds and bodies a break from the stress they’re under.”

Not sure if meditation is for you? According to EFR coordinator Bud Wassell, “Meditation is quite simple; if you can breathe, you can meditate. It just takes a little practice and patience to put it to good use in your daily life, which will help you master stress, increase focus and enrich your connection with others. These benefits have been demonstrated in numerous studies.”

EFR recently extended its live phone meditations to five days a week to help employees alleviate the stress surrounding COVID-19. Call 888-398-2342, access code 3862125, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at noon and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm. If you’re unable to join a live meditation, pre-recorded sessions are available 24/7 by calling 203-688-6185. Guided meditations are also available on EFR’s website.

EFR offers guidance and support in managing all aspects of work and life to help employees and their family members thrive. Its services are free and completely confidential. Call 1-877-275-6226 or visit the website 24/7/365. Additionally, staff seeking comfort may call YNHHS’ Blessing Line, 475-246-9663, to receive a daily blessing from a member of the Spiritual Care team.