Mindfulness & how it affects us and what we can do about it was the topic given by (“Dr. Bill”) at PSI’s Fall 2016 Conference at the Crowne Plaza in Independence, Ohio. Without doubt, it seems the five-letter word everyone dreads most every day is stress. Using slides, video, numerous skits and literally working the room, Dr. Bill made the three-hour presentation consistently interesting, fun and a sharing group experience that united the large audience. Learning is easy when you laugh along the way!
About Dr. DeMeo
Dr. DeMeo, a neuropsychologist, said that about a fourth of all employees view their jobs as the number one stressor. It heads the list that includes fear of sickness, paying bills and keeping the car running. With the current national focus on obesity he added, “there’s a strong connection between weight gain and stress.” Each day we face 50-70 stressors with little or no idea how to handle them effectively. A chemical in the brain called cortisol gets released which increases blood pressure and can adversely affect the immune system.
Throughout the presentation, Dr. Bill had the audience form groups of two and three to interact with each another. In one, they would exchange how they handle stress. In another, a partner would tell two truths and one lie and ask the others which was which. With a third, each would show three things done over the weekend without speaking. There were seven skits in all, furnishing great fun, relaxation and acuity. This presentation had no dull moments!
Motivation is a key to avoiding stress.
To wit, if you can wake up to go to work most mornings without the alarm clock, things may well look good. Involvement can translate into commitment. On the flipside, Dr. DeMeo’s view is that “we in education are burning ourselves out.” Anxiety can lead to procrastination, which in turn can lead to a sense of hopelessness and depression. Stress morphs into distress.
As a neuropsychologist, Dr. DeMeo discussed the impact of stress on the brain and cardiovascular system. Neurons can cease to fire, with the heart rate speeding up. Smoking gets seen as a stress reducer. Research is showing many aging-related diseases are linked, even the yellow bands of DNA (telomeres). “We can create our own stress just by thinking!”
What to do?
Start with getting enough sleep at night, eight to ten hours. Exercise at least three times a week, each thirty minutes minimum. Maintain solid social support with those you trust. Avoid negative people who typically have glib solutions to everything. Finally, a positive mindset can be your driving force, for human resilience is a bellwether. Mindfulness is key to managing stress.
Celebrate what you do right rather than be critical of what might be wrong. Everyone has a unique combination of strengths that can be built upon as a foundation to protect against the storms.
A growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset is what’s needed. List five strengths as your building blocks, along with the strengths you most admire in others. Pose the question: “Is what I’m about to do a reflection of who I am and who I want to be?” The answer can be the ultimate game changer.
Dr. Bill said that talking about yourself is a great way to reduce stress. In parallel, thinking positively about yourself can be just as good, perhaps even better.