March 30 Day 387: Stressed? You Are Not Alone

Today’s MAA Social Hour gave me (and the other participants) permission to take a break from the demands of pandemic life to purposefully relax and breathe. It was a refreshing session led by Dr. Hadas Moshonov-Cohavi. She has been leading stress awareness and mindfulness sessions with her students and we collaborated to offer a similar session for the math community.

I took care of the Desmos activities and time management. Hadas was the content expert and led breathing exercises and guided mediation. We relied heavily on the wisdom and experiences of the crowd.

What do you notice about the check-in activity? (The horizontal axis was a stress test score with 0=no stress and 40=very high stress, the vertical axis represented energy level.)

Nobody appeared in the third quadrant—low stress, low energy. Most participants are experiencing moderate to high stress and their energy levels are all over the place. We asked participants how they defined stress. Perhaps you relate to some of the (anonymized) responses:

Other activities included:

  • Sorting stressors from things that affect you the most (at top) to things that affect you the least (bottom). Top responses were overcommitment, life experiences (death, illness, marriage, divorce, having child), and tied for third were self-doubt, pressure to succeed, job demands, and fear of the unknown.
  • Identifying warning signs with a multiple check list.
  • Sharing strategies for dealing with stress both physically and mentally. Exercise was a common recommendation.

Even after our official hour was done, almost half the participants stayed around to continue socializing.

Several folks were involved in the AWM Notable Women in Math/Even Quads Card deck including Monica Morales Hernandez, from the AWM project management committee; Lauren Rose, co-creator of the card game Even Quads; Bronna Butler, artist for the Sophie Germain profile, and me, artist for the Nalini Joshi and Zaha Hadid profiles. The picture below shows seven participants proudly holding up their Kickstarter decks.

And I chose to include eight cards because of their connection to the session. Nalini Joshi, Zaha Hadid, and Sophie Germain because the artists of their cards were present; Fan Chung and Florence Nightingale because they were in attendance (as anonymized names); Julia Robinson since Nancy Blachman, founder of the Julia Robinson Festival was present; and Hortensia Soto and Deanna Haunsperger because of their leadership in the MAA.

As with many online activities, only about 2/3rds of the registrants attended. I always worry about people who are missing. I hope they got too involved in other (positive) activities rather than being so stressed that they didn’t feel they could take this time for themselves.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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