Wednesday, October 18, 2017

You might not be able to fully control the chaos of everyday life, but you can control your response. This is something University of Iowa staff member Stephanie Preschel discovered through a UI course called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

Preschel works full time in Academic Support and Retention in University College. She also is a part-time doctoral student in the Higher Education in Student Affairs program in the UI College of Education. When she is not at work or studying, she enjoys being an aunt to her two nephews, building forts and reading race car books.

“Over the last couple of years, I made positive adjustments to my sleep, eating, and activity habits,” Preschel says. “I have always been interested in spiritual health but had never done anything about it. As I was getting ready to start my PhD program, I knew I needed more strategies for stress management and overcoming anxiousness.”

Many people on campus recommended Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an eight-week program that assists people who want to learn to use their own internal resources to respond more skillfully to stress, medical, and psychological conditions, and promote healthy living. “People told me it was life-changing, yet they each had a different takeaway on what was most meaningful to them,” Preschel says.

The University of Iowa provides free health promotion services, including MBSR, for eligible employees through the UI Wellness liveWELL program. Stephanie Preschel visited liveWELL Health Coach Erin Litton to receive a full scholarship to the MBSR program.

Preschel felt supported by the MBSR class: “You really begin to form a community and a little mindfulness family.” Daily homework helped Preschel discover the mindful practices that worked best and provided joy, and she learned more about herself in the process. Since completing the course, she enjoys sitting meditation and mindful walking.

Preschel sees benefits from her mindfulness efforts: better sleep; reduced stress and anxiety; improved focus and concentration. “This class helped me be OK with quiet,” Preschel says. “I used to always have a podcast, music, or some noise in the background. Now I have really grown to enjoy the quiet; I no longer feel like my mind is going non-stop.

“Working with my health coach, Erin Litton, and completing MBSR have positively impacted my life. The biggest gift is the realization and feeling that when life gets chaotic, and I cannot fit in exercise, mindfulness, or other healthy behaviors, I know it is temporary,” Preschel adds. “I now recognize the role my health plays in allowing me to stay centered.”