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RCC relaxes with CommonHealth

RCC relaxes with CommonHealth

RCC relaxes with CommonHealth

A meeting at each of Rappahannock Community College’s campuses during this festive but busy season has taught college staff some badly needed relaxation techniques. Mary Louise Gerdes of Virginia’s CommonHealth program for state employees visited the Glenns Campus on December 3 and the Warsaw Campus on December 9 for sessions, titled “Take a Break,” that included stretching, deep breathing, and good advice about setting priorities for holiday commitments.

Gerdes pointed out that, while situations that people find stressful have changed in the millennia since the human race appeared on the planet, the body’s response to stress has remained essentially the same. Whether a saber-tooth tiger was interrupting your family time, she said, or your boss has just dropped an extra project on an already-crowded desk, your blood pressure, blood sugar, stomach acid, and heart and respiration rates all increase, as do the amounts of cholesterol and clotting factors in your blood. The first four are “getting your body ready to save your life,” she said—releasing extra energy to aid the “fight or flight” reaction. The others will help you to heal quickly if this instinctive response to a threatening situation is not quite good enough to keep you from getting hurt. Another physiological response guards against a danger that is much less common at present and in this country than it was in ancient times—starvation. People who gain weight under long-term stress do so not (or not only) because they eat more, but because their bodies, anticipating a possible famine, have geared up to peak efficiency in storing calories.

Reactions that would save your life in cave-man days, however, are more likely to contribute toward the death of today’s sedentary citizen. That being the case, Gerdes offered a number of strategies to defuse the body’s natural defenses when they occur inappropriately. Simple stretching exercises that office workers can do in their chairs for 15 or 30 seconds at a time will relax muscles that have tensed in order to deal with what the body perceives as a physical threat; deep breathing, from the abdomen rather than the upper chest, forces the lungs to slow down, and with them the heart, lowering blood pressure. A four-minute video at the CommonHealth website,, demonstrates these exercises. The website also gives a list of ways to reduce holiday stress, with the key concept being to simplify as much as possible. The site recommends asking yourself two questions about any holiday project or activity: is it important, and can you keep it under control? “If the answer to either question is ‘no’,” says CommonHealth, “then don’t spend your time and energy on it!”

The college wishes to thank Ms. Gerdes for her timely presentation. In addition, the RCC Student Development Office’s Shelby Jenkins is to be commended for arranging the two events. Gerdes will be returning to RCC in February to speak on home safety.

Photo: Mary Louise Gerdes of Virginia’s CommonHealth program for state employees (standing) shows RCC staff member Shelby Jenkins how to use stretching exercises to relieve stress.

One Response to “RCC relaxes with CommonHealth”

  1. pex supply says:

    Teaching relaxation is something that should be done during college orientation sessions :)

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