Education Week: How to get stress out and not stress out

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When participants walked into the Clyde Building classroom on Tuesday, August 16 they received three items: a “stress” dot, a smiley-face sticker, and essential oil.

“The peppermint essential oil energizes you and the lavender calms you,” said Kevin R. Miller, who delivered a lecture titled “Stress OUT: Managing Stress in a Busy Life” at Education Week.

Miller said when things get harder, the answer is not to run faster.

“Chill out,” he said.

Quoting scripture, Miller said that God did not say, “Stress I leave with you, stress I give unto you,” but rather, “Peace I leave with you, peace I give unto you.”

With this in mind, he enumerated the many ways individuals can find peace — and “stress OUT” — in the busy world.

Miller began by explaining to participants that a certain amount of stress is good and necessary for survival. In fact, a low stress level can lead individuals to be unproductive and ineffective; however, there comes a point where an overwhelming amount of stress can lead to a similar poor productivity, explained the speaker.

Photo courtesy of Elliott Miller.
Photo courtesy of Elliott Miller.

Miller said the number one cause of stress is “our own thinking.” It stems from our thinking or feeling we are out of control of the situation.

“Stress enters into our lives when we feel like our agency is not in force — in other words, when I am not choosing, when I am being forced,” Miller said. “It’s not how busy we are, it’s how much choice that we feel we have.”

Stress-relief comes with an increase of choice.

Individuals can choose to recognize and manage their stress in a series of ways. For example, people can recognize their stress through biofeedback — that’s where the “stress dots” or Biodot comes in.

The Biodot is a small sticker that regulates temperature. Depending on the stress-level of a person, as well as other non-stress related factors, the color will change.

Another way for people to recognize when they are stressing is to knowing their “pain points,” or specific, individual places that are painful when stressed. Some people’s stress manifests itself in headaches and for others they begin feeling aches and pain in their back or other areas, according to Miller.

Individuals can choose to fight stress with positive self-talk. Miller suggested writing  a list of “three things you love about yourself” every morning.

He also suggested subscribing to clean humor emails. Humor is one of the best ways to fight stress.

Miller also said participants should learn to say “no.”

“You can’t say yes for anything without saying no to something else,” Miller said.

This kind of limit-setting allows individuals to prioritize their time and resources, explained Miller. Other ways to set limits is respond, when asked a favor, “Here’s how I can help,” or “I can help you for only two hours on this day.” Limit the time spent and the services offered.

Miller didn’t ignore the importance of seeking tangible aids for dealing with stress. He said that Baroque music is the best music to listen to when stressed because it matches individual’s biorhythms. Deep breathing and calming imagery is another strategy for overcoming stress. Certain foods like proteins, calcium and potassium are best for short term, intense stress.

“Don’t forget exercise. Thirty minutes a day three times a week will give you 80% of the available benefits of exercise,” Miller said.

At the end of his lecture, Miller pointed to the smiley-face sticker and reminded individuals to simply smile.

“‘To be spiritually minded is life eternal,’” he said, quoting part of 2 Nephi 9:39.

The last five words create the acronym “SMILE,” pointed out the speaker. This kind of “smiling,” he said, was the best way to overcome stress.

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