Lynn Rossy, Ph.D gave a presentation Sept. 16 on "Turning Toward Discomfort: Using Mindfulness and Self-Compassion to Change Your Relationship to Stress" at Westminster College's 15th annual Hancock Symposium.
The goal of her presentation was to help individuals change their mindset from one that avoids stress at all costs to one that embraces stress as a normal part of life.
She started by having students and faculty join her in a mindfulness practice. She asked them to become aware of their bodies and notice how they feel. Participants said tired, relaxed and hungry.
Rossy then shared the symptoms of acute and chronic stress: muscle tension, agitation, anxiety, worry, racing heart, sweating, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, fatigue, lack of energy, lack of motivation, frequent illness and sleep disorders.
The first mindset about stress is that it is harmful.
"Experiencing stress depletes my health and vitality; experiencing stress debilitates my performance and productivity; experiencing stress inhibits my learning and growth," Rossy said. "We often associate stress with these types of things."
The second is that stress can be enhancing.
"Experiencing stress actually enhances my performance and productivity, experiencing stress improves my health and vitality, experiencing stress facilitates my learning and growth," Rossy said. "The effects of stress are positive and should be utilized. Stress is good for you, the minute we are not experiencing stress, we're not alive. Stress is always with us."
She then emphasized how important perspective is when it comes to stress. Because an individual's first response to any situation is fight or flight, but mindfulness helps people realize what to do once those signs of stress begin.
The main idea of mindfulness is to pay attention on purpose. If people are not in the present then their minds have wondered to the past or the present. These tend to bring up questions like: "What did I do wrong?" or "What is going to go wrong?" People stuck in those mindsets tend to be more depressed.
"The present is here and you're not paying attention," Rossy said. "So the best thing you can do is train yourself to be in the present moment, but it takes time if you're not here you're missing your life."
Rossy had students and faculty join her again in another mindfulness practice where they focused on their breathing, and allow them to notice their stress.
"When you experience those symptoms of stress," Rossy said, "just stop, take a breath, take a few deep breaths and then observe what is happening. Examine what is going on, what is causing the stress and then go about it."
After participants open their eyes, Rossy asked if any of them were perfectionists — hands shot up.
"You are never going to achieve perfection," Rossy said. "It's absolutely impossible. It sucks the juice out of everything, because you're never happy, and it can be a big stress production for you. So be perfect at imperfection, imperfection is life, human beings are imperfect, life is imperfect, can we just learn to celebrate that?"
From her presentation, she wanted viewers to understand their perspective on stress is important. If they chose to see it negatively, it will affect them negatively, and if they choose to see it positively, it will affect them positively.
She then had them call to mind something currently stressing them out. She wanted them to notice the feelings and the discomfort it brought about.
"We're not going to run away from it," Rossy said. "Because if we don't deal with it directly, it's going to be there. So acknowledge it hurts, acknowledge suffering is part of life and then bring kindness to yourself in some way."
Rossy is a health psychologist specializing in mindful eating and living. She has developed a 10-week Eat for Life class in 2007 that teaches people to eat mindfully and intuitively, love their bodies and find deeper meaning in their lives. She wrote a book in 2016 called "The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution," which is based on the concepts in Eat for Life class. She is a long-time practitioner of mindfulness meditation and yoga-certified in Kripalu and EMYoga as well as the president of the Center for Mindful Eating since 2018.
She finished her latest book, "Savor Every Bite," this year which offers 50 short chapters and mindfulness exercises that teach you to live and eat mindfully, different ways to move your body, and live with greater ease and joy.
She also teaches yoga at alleyCat Yoga center in Columbia as well as yoga and mindfulness retreats to Pura Vida Retreat and Spa in Costa Rica.
For more information about Lynn Rossy, her books or yoga center, visit www.lynnrossy.com/.