Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.
- Hans Selye
mindfulness. attention to and awareness of the present moment.
click here to learn how mindful you are.
sress. stressor + your reaction to it
click here to take a quiz to see how stressed you are.
What does it mean to practice Mindfulness & Stress Management?
It is the utilization of Mental, Physical, and Emotional coping skills and techniques to help deal with the constantly changing demands of daily life.
You don’t need to move to the mountains to live without stress (although, of course, that would certainly be easier!). You also don’t have to quit your job, move into a new home, get a new car, or make any other major physical changes. You can do it all right here, right now in the midst of your current life. It won’t be a quick change, but you’ll feel the results immediately. You’ll learn tools that will help you now and for the rest of your life. Learn how to be present and how to manage your stress in a sustainable way so you can enjoy your life instead of rushing through it.
Does this sound familiar?
I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.
I don’t notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.
I forget a person’s name almost as soon as I’ve been told it for the first time.
I find myself listening to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time.
I tend to walk quickly without paying attention to what I experience along the way.
If so, this course could be the jumpstart you need to a less stressful and more balanced life.
Me + Stress
I became interested in the concept of "stress" first when I was in college. Actually, I recently found an essay from middle school where I claimed that "being a teenager is so hard because you always have stuff to do."
When I was 20, a junior in college, I suffered from chronic and persistent headaches. Headaches that were debilitating enough to create enough concern that my parents had me travel between Harrisonburg, VA and Monmouth County, NJ for doctor's visits multiple times throughout the academic year. After CAT scans and MRI's, the neurologist, radiologist, internist, and endocrinologist all concluded the same thing --- I was in perfect health and the only thing causing my headaches was STRESS. I was prescribed a stronger version of Tylenol and sent back to school.
When I was 23, 2 years out of college, living in New York City and working in the Music Industry, I found myself in doctor's offices again. This time for digestive problems. After endoscopies and colonoscopies (and confirmation of lactose intolerance), I found myself in the same place I was 3 years earlier...a perfectly healthy digestive system (aside from the confirmed intolerane for lactoce). Only this time they gave me a low-dose anti-anxiety (seratonin reuptake inhibitor) medicine which was moonlighting as a treatment for IBS at the time. My wonderful GI doctor (Dr. Joseph Felder) advised me to make some lifestyle changes and suggested that I only stay on the medication for 3 months, as it was simply a "band-aid" and wouldn't fix the inherent cause of my digestive problems. Always a good student and good patient, I followed the doctor's orders. I immediately set out to make some lifestyle changes and marked my calendar for 3 months in the future.
How did I begin managing my own stress?
Although I first practiced physical yoga when I was a freshman in college, the philosophical components had always peaked my curiousity from a young age. And now, as a twenty-something struggling to be "mindful" and suffering from pretty strong anxiety, I began to recall some of the philosophical lessons I learned in the past. I studied Buddhist texts - this helped a lot. I started working out daily. And I started going to Yoga classes consistently.
After Dr. Felder's prescribed 3 months, I was able to ween off my "IBS medication (shhhh...anti-anxiety drugs)" and began using exercise as my main source of stress management. I also used reminders (e.g. "be present" notes all over my apartment, Outlook Calendar reminders to "breathe" or "stretch" during my workday), I tracked my performance (kept a log of my gym visits and yoga classes), and I modified my diet and I began sleeping 8 hours a night consistently.
By age 26 I had things under control. I had also taken a Yoga Teacher Training, a Pilates Teacher Training, a Group Fitness Certification, and a whole bunch of other fitness-related courses. These all helped me get a graduate assistantship in the Exercise Science Department at GWU, which meant I was able to earn my Master's Degree for free - and in exchange I taught classes (yoga, pilates, cardio conditioning, aerobics, cardio kickboxing, step) for the Department.
In 2008, after completing my coursework, I left the country for 3 months and traveled around SE Asia and Europe - both alone and with some friends who met me along the way. This was a big turning point for me in terms of stress. Seeing the rest of the world (and, by comparison, how blessed I was for the life I had) and developing the sense of independence needed for solo world travel were both wonderful enhancements for my path towards stress management. I learned that even if you don't know what the future holds, everything will be okay. I learned that even if you don't have more than a few dollars to your name, people will still love you, you will still survive, and life will still be worth living. I finally stopped worrying about "what comes next" in life and began learning to "go with the flow."
After that I returned to Washington DC and began teaching Yoga full-time almost immediately. I also finished my Master's Degree in 2009 with a thesis titled "Yoga Vs. Exercise: an Empirical Investigation of Differences in Psychological Well-Being," where I proved that Yoga, moreso than traditional exercise, helps decrease perceived stress, increase stress coping skills, and increase mindfulness.
I began teaching an academic course called "Stress Management" at GWU in Fall of 2009 and have continued teaching it ever since. My life experiences, coupled with my formal education and yogic studies had, at that point, made me a budding expert on the subject. I immediately loved sharing this knowledge with college students. I want them to learn these valuable lessons so they don't have to endure the pain and suffering that I went through when I was their age!!
I also must give credit to the two amazing text books I have used for the Stress Management courses I taught. These texts taught me a surplus of information on the science of stress and skills for stress coping. Thank you to their talented authors.Comprehensive Stress Management by Jerrold Greenberg and Stress Management for Life by Michael Olpin & Margie Hesson.
Upcoming Mindfulness & Stress Management Courses: Dates coming soon!
I have been teaching Stress Management at GWU since 2009 and have adapted my Stress Management Course (which I have successfully taught for 12 semesters at the college level) for adults.
I am really looking forward to sharing this program with you.