(The following Town and Gown column originally ran in the December 31, 2008 edition of the Jacksonville News)
Town and Gown:
Resolve to Walk the Stress Away
By Dr. William A. Meehan
It's a crisp winter morning in Jacksonville. The air is fresh and I breathe in deep, welcoming a new day. I step onto the sidewalk of Trustee Circle on the campus of Jacksonville State University and begin my morning walk. This time is not only part of a regular exercise routine for the health of my body, it is also a time to ponder the day that has passed and focus on the one that is present for the health of my mind.
As we approach the new year, it is important to realize that resolutions are hard to keep if the mind and body are under stress that has gathered throughout the year. And even though the holidays are a joyful time to spend with friends and family, they are often the busiest time of the year.
The JSU Wellness Center reminds the community it is important to decompress stress for better health and wellness. With information from the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Center encourages people to notice the first signs of stress: tension in the neck, clenching in the fists and teeth, irritability, headaches, relationship problems and sudden weight loss or gain.
The Center suggests the best way to combat the added stress of the holiday season is to first acknowledge it and then choose to positively react to it. Not only will you reduce your own stress, there is a good chance you will reduce the stress of those around you, creating a healthier environment.
Wellness Center Director Gina Mabrey supports the following methods of constructive coping mechanisms when dealing with stress: exercising, reading, cooking, relaxing, deep breathing, playing with kids/grandkids, participating in outdoor activities, listening to music, watching a good movie and, above all, not worrying about things you cannot control.
There are a handful of wonderful programs and services offered by the Wellness Center to both test and combat stress. Services include health/fitness evaluations, cholesterol tests, lipid profile assessments, stress tests, body composition assessments, muscular endurance/strength/flexibility assessments and physiological and chronological age comparisons.
Programs are open to the public and can help you keep stress levels down and health levels high throughout the year. Once a month on Wednesdays in Jack Hopper Dining Hall, Mabrey leads Wellness Wednesdays, an informational talk and a healthy lunch. Other programs such as nutrition and weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation and stress management are also available through the Center.
In an article this month about managing stress, the American Heart Association (AHA) warns people not to use smoking, drinking, overeating, drugs or caffeine to cope with stress. Instead, the AHA encourages everyone to "plan productive solutions to problems" such as participating in regular exercise and joining with others for support and encouragement.
If walking as a form of exercising and keeping stress to minimum appeals to you as well, JSU Wellness-Anniston has formed the Community Wellness Walker's Club. Over the course of three months this year, about 160 walkers in the club walked nearly 9,000 miles and had a combined weight loss of 288 pounds!
For me, walking is a wonderful way to begin the day. It is a representation of how to handle what is to come-- one foot after another, one step at a time.
Happy New Year!
For more information visit www.jsu.edu/depart/edprof/hper or contact the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department at (256) 782-5546.
Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.