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Counting blessings at center of Mercy venture

Friday, November 30, 2012

With the pressure to buy more, do more and eat more during the holiday season, Mercy is asking folks this year to take a moment to count their blessings. There's even a website to add your blessings to the tally -- www.OurBlessingsCount.com.

By doing so, it's inevitable you will reduce your stress and find some peace, psychologist Dr. Doug Walker, clinical director of Mercy Family Center in New Orleans and an expert in coping with stress, said in a news release.

"During the holidays, the noise level around us is at an all-time high," Walker said. "There's so much clutter and unrealistic expectations to cut through. With all the holiday hype, we're under increasing pressure to buy expensive gifts for people who don't need them and finish a to-do list a mile long. We burn ourselves out and are unable to experience the joy of the season."

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 68 percent of people feel greater fatigue during the holidays and 61 percent feel more stress, the release said.

But just by being still, taking some time and listing "what we are thankful for, we can change the course," the release said.

"The very act of verbalizing, listing or journaling what you have to be thankful for reduces stress," said Walker, who has helped survivors of Hurricane Katrina, Japan's tsunami, Joplin's tornado and others through some of their darkest days. "It stops us in our tracks. There's almost something magical about listing what you have to be thankful for. It can turn things around very quickly because all of a sudden you are looking at all you have to be grateful for. It's all about perspective."

Tina Rockhold, spokeswoman for Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott, said the idea for the County Your Blessings came up in early October when marketing and communications staff met to talk about campaigns for the holiday season.

"And overwhelmingly, the idea of not promoting a service line, not promoting consumerism" and just counting blessings "really made an impact," Rockhold said.

In the television ad, 5 seconds of silence was built in.

"... That 5 seconds was designed ... for time to reflect. It was strikingly different and really allowed for the consumer to pause and reflect on the blessings in their lives," Rockhold said.

Mercy Hospital Chaplain William James Schafer said he understood the campaign as encouragement to Mercy coworkers to see "all the positive things we have."

He takes his inspiration from Thessolonians 5-18, which says we should always be joyful and give thanks continually, no matter the circumstances.

"Counting blessings is a choice. When I count my blessings, I'm focusing on what I have instead of what I don't," Schafer said.

"Counting blessings reminds me of God's divine provisions. Some of those are my life, hope, faith, family, gifts and talent. ... Blessing counting empowers me to endure life's ups and downs by knowing that I am called to give thanks whatever happens," he said. Schafer said he thinks the campaign is a positive thing.

As of Thursday evening, there were 2,898 blessings logged on the website.

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