Real-Life Stress Management

Jennifer Polk, PhD welcomes Kara Santokie, PhD to share ways graduate students can cope with life’s pressures and anxieties. Jennifer, along with L. Maren Wood, PhD, is the Co-founder of Beyond the Professoriate, a hub for PhD professional development. Together, they offer community support for PhDs and graduate students transitioning into their careers.

Kara Santokie is the Executive Director and Owner of Real Life Meditation. She is a certified Meditation instructor who enjoys using mindfulness meditation to help people get through life. In the webinar, “Real Life Stress Management,” Kara shares triggers that cause stress and ways to overcome them.

What Causes Stress?

Believe it or not, stress exists only in our imaginations. While stressful triggers are real, we usually spend much of our time trying to avoid them. Either we get caught up mulling over what went wrong, or we get stuck thinking about how our future might unfold.

“These [thoughts] aren’t actually real,” says Kara. “There are things that are unfolding in our mind and that’s what creates overthinking and ultimately, it’s what causes stress; it’s what creates suffering in our minds.”

Negative thoughts create layers of additional suffering that are not necessary to solve the original issue.

What Can You Do to Manage Stress?

Kara suggests practicing mindful meditation. Kara likes to think of mindfulness as “bringing an awareness to your everyday experience.” Rather than get caught up in the past or future, mindfulness implies a focus on the present, what’s happening right now. Kara also suggests that you think of this question–what’s happening right now–as a research question. Take some notes about your emotions and what is going on in the moment. Re-focusing our energy on the present helps us realize that we are usually stressed over something that isn’t actually happening.

Perks of Mindfulness

“Awareness of pain or discomfort in the body is different from getting caught up in the throws of pain,” says Kara. Take a headache, for example. Headaches have various causes and triggers, and are painful experiences. However, there is a difference between pain from a headache and additional stressors that intensify headaches.

The anxiety of juggling research assignments, meeting with students, and attending non-stop faculty meetings in addition to suffering from a migraine doesn’t alleviate the actual headache – they only make it worse. Mindfulness meditation helps you pinpoint the “difference between actual bodily sensations and the thoughts and emotions that are being generated in your mind because of the pain.” Scientifically speaking, mindfulness meditation “helps to down regulate parts of the brain involved in recognizing fear and stimulating responses,” says Kara.

STOP the Stress

If you are ready to give in to the pressures of work or home life, mindfulness meditation is a must, especially for you to decompress. In closing the webinar, Kara outlines 4 easy steps that can help you unwind when things get rough:

*S* – Stop/pause
*T* – Take a breath
*O* – Observe, open your lens
*P* – Proceed or pause again

If you want to try mindful meditation with Kara, check out the webinar below. If you want more professional development tips from Beyond Prof, feel free to check out our blogs and join our community of PhDs!

Beyond the Professoriate Community Members attend events like this for free each month and access replays free for two weeks. Ready to launch your next great career? Join the Online Career Hub for PhDs.

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