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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June 12, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Stress Management From One Who Knows

Fay Elliott Moore knows from stress. Yes, she

was recently laid off from Merrill Lynch, but really, in the greater

scheme of things, the lay-off was a small potatoes event in her life.

"I was upset momentarily," she says, "but then I thought

I could start my own business, and I got excited."

That business is the Lawrence Center for Mind*Body*Spirit at 1213

Lawrenceville Road. It’s genesis was a really bad job that brought

Moore to the brink of a breakdown and started her on stress-busting

strategies — including exercise, biofeedback, and meditation.

Over the past seven years, she has needed to draw upon the serenity

she taught herself to achieve as she has coped with everything from

a serious car accident to the death of her husband to a battle with

breast cancer.

On Tuesday, June 25, at 7:30 p.m. she speaks on managing stress to

Jobseekers, a free group that serves as a networking, support, and

information resource for individuals who are out of work under the

direction of Niels Nielsen, president of Princeton Management Consultants.

Call 609-924-2277.

In addition to running the Mind Body Spirit Center, and to teaching

meditation at the Aroga center in Skillman, Moore, who left Merrill

Lynch in December, has a new job as an account manager with Caliper,

the human resources consulting company with offices on Mount Lucas

Road. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Marist (Class of 1977) and

an MBA in organizational behavior from Rutgers. She started her career

at Chase Bank and then in the mid-1980s took a job at a data corporation,

running its software division. "I was working 17 hours a day,"

she recalls. "I was so stressed out. I was practically at the

point of anxiety attacks."

It was then that she began to learn and practice the stress reducers

that she credits with seeing her through the difficulties that, unbeknownst

to her, lay just ahead.

"I was in a car accident six years ago," she recounts. She

was injured, but not as severely as was her husband. He was in a coma

for 18 months and died of his injuries.

After the accident, she began to take classes in mindfulness-based

stress management. "I learned I could not control anything but

my response," she says. "Most stress is caused by mental reaction.

We are genetically programmed for fight or flight." When presented

with a danger — whether it be a charging animal or a lay-off notice

— adrenalin kicks in and the body’s sympathetic nervous system

takes over. Blood flow to the muscles increases fourfold, heart rate

goes up, sweating increases, and rational thought often becomes impossible.

The opposite of a sympathetic nervous response, Moore explains, is

a passive nervous response. "It calms you down," she says.

The two can not function at the same time. So if a passive response

is cultivated, "you calm down," says Moore. This leads to

the possibility of positive action. "A lot of people think meditation

means you don’t do anything," says Moore. "No. You spend enough

time not doing to see how there may be other ways of approaching a

problem."

In mindfulness-based meditation, says Moore, individuals "learn

to sit with what is." They learn to experience their situation

and see it will not kill them. "You begin to learn that what has

gone on in your life is not something to be afraid of. You tame adrenalin

and put yourself in a place to be conscious of the opportunity to

change circumstances."

Moore used this power to see her through breast cancer surgery. She

developed the disease two years after her car accident, and is not

surprised that she did so. Researchers assign points to life stressors.

Pile up enough points, and, says Moore, you will get sick. Not maybe,

but definitely. At the time of her accident, Moore had enough points

to put her stress level off the charts.

Still, she survived. Now cancer free, remarried, the owner of a new

business, and delighted to be starting work with Caliper, Moore credits

meditation with helping her make it through a truly tough decade.

Despite all that she has been through, Moore does not minimize the

angst laid-off workers are suffering. She saw how distressed many

of her fellow pink-slippers at Merrill Lynch were. And after her lay-off

she spent some time at Project Re-Employment, where she met central

New Jersey workers who had been out of work for months. One client

had been let go with two weeks notice and no severance. Few were finding

it easy to jump back into the labor market.

"This is a bad time to be unemployed," she observes. "There

is a huge push toward slowdown."

On a list of the top 20 stressors, losing a job ranks eighth. But

changing careers, financial difficulties, marital problems, and relocation

also carry high degrees of stress, and many times laid off workers

have to deal with all at one time. Here are some ways to get that

stress under control:

You’ve got to relax. Your health depends upon it. Relaxation

techniques include meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, creative

visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, stretching, and biofeedback.

Movement is a great help. Try jogging for six miles and

feeling tense. It’s nearly impossible. Rhythmic exercise, whether

it be jogging, biking, roller blading, or swimming has an incredibly

calming effect — and the effect generally lasts for hours after

the exercise ends.

Find someone to love — or even like. One strong personal

relationship offers tremendous stress relief, and so do a number of

more casual relationships. Moore says people who have 12 personal

contacts a day — street corner conversations, phone chats, meals

out with friends — reduce their stress levels considerably. To

add yet another level, consider adopting a dog or cat. Says Moore,

"interactions with pets are relaxing."

Be good to yourself. Within the bounds of the often-tight

budget that accompanies unemployment and the time constraints of the

job hunt, pamper yourself as much as possible. Take in the summer

air, tend a garden, hang out in the library, go to the beach.

Get help. If you have meditated, practiced yoga, ridden

your bike up and down the canal until its tires threaten to unravel, maintained

contacts with a variety of friends — and maybe a cat or two —

and still can’t shake your stress, consider giving your doctor a call.

Write about your troubles. Not necessarily a substitute

for professional consultation, writing can help vent feelings and

can lead to insights.

Laugh. Feelings and attitudes appear to play an important

role in health — and in a job search too. Employment interviewers

can smell fear as well as your average dog can. Try to stay upbeat,

looking for any and all hidden positives that will spring from your

lay-off.

As with saving, exercise, and any number of other good habits,

starting a program of relaxation — and particularly meditation

— is best done early. "Practice when nothing is going on,"

advises Moore. People who are helped most by meditation, she finds,

are those who have been meditating for a long time. "If you wait

until you’re distressed," she says, "you may not be able to

think well enough to meditate."


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