Practice what you Teach.

This course, the Psychobiology of Stress, has taught me over and over again how important it is to take care of both mental and physical health and well-being.

I am trying to take that message to heart as I transition to a job that will help me to better balance my family and work life. I will be taking a job at the Goddard School in Woodlake, a really nice early childhood development center. I’ll be just 3 minutes from my home… as opposed to driving an hour to work each day- and believe me, that will be a lot less stress in my life!! I’ll also be working in the same building with my daughter and will be able to continue learning about parenting and education (some of the things I’ve been studying in lab rats) in some hands-on and human kinds of ways.

I hope to be able to make use of all the time I’ll save not driving to exercise more, garden more, and create more home-cooked and healthy meals… creating the healthy body and mind I advocate in our class!

While changing jobs is stressful, I hope the result will be a lot less stress in my life, and less stress for my family. I’ll have to let you know how this big experiment goes!

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Farewell for now RMC!

I attended RMC from 1995-1999. During my first few years in college, I loved everything about the school, the campus, Ashland, and being away from home! Gradually, however, I grew comfortable with RMC and then bored with it. I longed to move on. In my senior year I feel like I spent more time off-campus than on it, between a J-term in ireland, student teaching through the spring, loads of interviews for grad schools all over the country, and just visiting family a lot more. I was thrilled to leave Ashland and move to Chicago, so ready for many new adventures. I never thought I’d return.

And yet, in 2008, I did return. This time it was to take a postdoctoral teaching/research position with my former mentor Kelly Lambert and to become a professor where I was once a student. It was awkward for about the first month, and then it just felt like home.  As a professor I go out of my way to see my dad (Professor George Lowry), whereas when I was a student I tried to pretend we weren’t in the same universe. For the past 3 years I’ve helped Dr. Lambert build a fantastic Behavioral Neuroscience lab and conduct loads of cool research. I’ve taught hundreds of amazing students. I’ve loved my time here. But for many reasons, the time has come to move on. New adventures are waiting for me. And I find myself saying goodbye to RMC again.

This time I am wiser and I know that RMC is in my blood. I never know when, but I’m sure I’ll return again, even if it is only to visit. Never say never again… at least not as it pertains to RMC! Somehow it soothes me to know that RMC will be here and that I’ll be back. Somehow I feel less stressed by the move. It isn’t “goodbye”, but “see you later”… and that makes all the difference.

Texting away the present

Ok, don’t get me wrong. I’m no techno-phobe. I email and facebook and text and pix message. I don’t know what I’d do without the internet. I am newly addicted to my Kindle and here I am learning to blog. I love all that technology lets us do. We can take action on a global scale to help those in need halfway around the world, we can share scientific breakthroughs with medical labs and political advocates everywhere, and we can keep in touch quickly and easily with friends we haven’t seen in years.

A fast-paced lifestyle.

All this technology is moving us faster and faster. That’s a great thing if we want to save a life, but how is it affecting our daily lives? The sense of urgency that all this technology creates makes it feel impossible to unplug for an hour and a half class, much less a whole weekend of hiking in the woods. What if something happens without me knowing about it?!

It’s so pleasurable to feel wanted. To feel needed. to feel that your response is the most important thing in the world to someone else. When they reply back  instantly, you know that you are on their mind right now. You know you are the topic of someone else’s conversation. You can even participate in their conversation. Essentially you can be in two places at once.

Multitasking is a misnomer.

No one can do two things at once. Ok, maybe you can walk and breathe at the same time, but (unless you’ve had pretty radical brain surgery to split the hemishperes of your brain) you can’t focus your conscious attention on two tasks at one time. The best you can do is go back and forth between two (or more) tasks rapidly. You can’t pay attention in class and text at the same time. You can’t drive and text at the same time. You’re asking your brain to do something it isn’t capable of doing. Not to mention, you can’t see what you aren’t looking at. if you’re looking at a text screen, you’re not looking at your professor’s presentation or at the road in front of you. Anything can happen while your attention isn’t there. Paying attention in class might not be life or death, but paying attention while driving is. Check out this video and quiz on texting and driving.

What is so important?

I think we have to occasionally stop and ask ourselves what the most important thing is in any given moment. Live in the present. If the most important thing right now is conversing with your best friend, then do that, even if it is a few short texts. But if the most important thing is trying not to die while driving, then the texts will wait for a stoplight or rest area. If you’re in a conversation with someone, don’t you want to feel like the most important thing to the person you are standing in front of? What does it say when they quit focusing on you and text someone else? Maybe we all need to practice living in the moment a little bit each day. That’s the message of one of my favorite blogs, Positively Present.

What do you think? Has texting taken you away from living your life to the fullest? What happens when you unplug for a while?

Beginning Blogging: Stressful or Stress-free?

Well class, here we go. We’re off on a mission to learn about stress and what it can do to our bodies.

The new tool we’ll use this semester is this blog. Blogging is an amazing way to share thoughts and ideas. Your challenge is to create or find interesting and useful photos, lyrics, poems, stories, videos, news stories, recipes, thoughts, etc. and share them with the class as a blog post. You’ll be required to create 5 blog posts, but of course you’ll get extra credit for more, and I’ll grade the top 5 you create, so I’d create a couple extra, just to be sure. The better rated your blog posts are with the class, the better your grade! You’ll also be graded on comments you leave on other classmates’ blog posts, so be sure to read and interact with the posts you find here.

Why blog?

First, we can use this blog as a creative outlet to relieve stress. Second, we can educate each other on stress and share tough times with those experiencing similar stresses. Third, we can discover new resources and techniques for managing stress. There are many reasons for us to blog, and by the end of the semester I’m hoping YOU will be able to tell me about your blogging experience.

The question now is… what will you blog about first?

Sapolsky is Smart and Silly

The “textbook” (and I use that term lightly, as this is no traditional text!) that will guide much of this course is Robert Sapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. This is a fantastic book which educates the non-scientist on the perils of stress, with a healthy dose of nerdy humor. I really love this book and hope you will, too.

Robert Sapolsky has written a number of acclaimed books which help to make neuroscience approachable for the average person. He mixes humor with insight, blends research with human interest stories, and while he draws the reader’s attention to important issues, he doesn’t scare the pants off of anyone.

He’s a fascinating character who gives a great lecture.

Robert Sapolsky has inspired my way of thinking and my approach to science and teaching. Enjoy the book!


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