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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
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.
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
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
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:
techniques include meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, creative
visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, stretching, and biofeedback.
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.
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."
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.
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.
for professional consultation, writing can help vent feelings and
can lead to insights.
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
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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