Jan Term class teaches stress management techniques
They’ve popped bubble wrap, mindfully savored a tangerine and chocolate, tested acupuncture, immersed in yoga, colored with crayons and more. In fact, the students in Paul Mazeroff’s Jan Term class, “Coping with Stress,” have been introduced to an arsenal of tactics to deal with the inevitable stresses of life.
“My goal is to plant the seeds – to introduce them to tools that will help them manage stress not just in college but beyond,” says Mazeroff, a senior lecturer in Psychology who has been teaching the Jan Term class for more than a decade. “The nature of life is that we have stress, but there are effective ways of dealing with it.”
Mazeroff opened a second session of the popular class to accommodate all of the students who wanted to register. Their reasons varied as much as their majors.
Junior Lucas Frangou’s interest was not just personal.
“I’m interested in meditation and dealing with stress for myself,” says the Music major from Silver Spring, Md., who started a music meditation club on campus. “But I’m also interested in this class for my career path – for graduate school and a career in music therapy.”
The idea of music meditation is nothing new to classmate James Robinson. The Communication major from Stevenson, Md., learned to meditate as a child from his Thai mother.
“I exercise, meditate and then do something with my music to deal with stress,” says Robinson, who took the class to learn more strategies for dealing with stress. “One of the techniques I use is to dance myself clean – nodding my head to music has a cleansing effect on my mind.”
Most of the class eagerly tested aural acupuncture, meditating with five hair-thin needles placed at certain points in their ears. They learned how nutrition factors into stress levels, and that stress can cause overeating.
Lucas Frangou with acupuncture needles in his ear.
The variety of strategies is important, says Mazeroff, because different techniques work for different people. The students prepare stress portfolios as they explore their individual issues of what stresses them and what tactics they can use to manage and ease that stress.
“The main lesson that I took away was that of practicing meditation for stress reduction,” Frangou says. “Through our exercises in class, I was able to truly appreciate meditation and all that it can do for me.”
“I also really enjoyed the acupuncture. After I got over the short pain from the needles, I was able to thoroughly relax my whole body. After about 15 - 20 minutes of this relaxed state, I opened my eyes as if I had just woken up from a wonderful sleep.”
His classmate Robinson had a similar experience with acupuncture and sees breathing as imperative to most of the coping strategies he learned in class.
“One of the most important things in this class was breathing. Everyone as a little kid is told to take deep breaths and count to 10 when they get angry or frustrated, and it's funny how we forget such a simple lesson, especially one that can be so helpful,” Robinson says. “Focusing on your breath is key to relaxing and de-stressing through hypnosis, meditation, yoga and acupuncture.”
Foreign Languages Professor Amy McNichols teaches an introduction to yoga for the class.
“Life is stressful,” says Mazeroff, an alumnus of McDaniel. “I had the draft when I was in college here. They are worried about getting a job when they graduate. And some of my students aren’t stressed at all.
“But the important thing is to have the skills – the strategies – that can help you cope.”