Thursday, June 3, 2004

Students learn de-stress method

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Susan Auffart and James Schweickart are monitored for stress as Ronald Leslie (left) and Michael Vislocky look on.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
BATAVIA - In Linda Baker's surgical technology class at University of Cincinnati Clermont College, stress is part of the job.

That's why her students spend some class time learning a biofeedback technique to deal with high stress.

"There's a lot of applications for knowing how to de-stress quickly in the operating room," said Baker, a professor in the associate degree program that covers the art and science of surgical instruments. "There's no cigarette breaks, no bathroom breaks in the OR. There's a lot going on to save a patient's life. You need to think quickly on your feet, so it's great having this quick method to get back to focus on the job at hand."

The method is Freeze-Frame, which teaches students to achieve physiological balance and mental clarity and to reduce performance blocks such as test anxieties and emotional turmoil. Once trained in the technique - basically synchronizing breathing and heart rates through focusing on positive emotions - it can be used as needed.

Two professors, trained in the technique at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, Calif., use the "Freeze-Framer" computer program to study heart-rate variability and teach college and high school students the technique.

"Lots of people are afraid of math," said Michael Vislocky, a mathematics professor at the UC satellite campus. "Learning to relax in stressful situations can help these students perform better on tests, and it also opens up their life choices. So many people will switch majors just to avoid a specific math class."

Vislocky and Dr. Ron Leslie, an associate professor of psychology, hope to open a full-time HeartMath lab at the college to help students with stress training.

Students use the technique in everyday situations. When cardiac surgical technology student Susan Auffart was driving recently and a man started tailgating her, she said, she calmed herself by using the technique.

Surgical technology student James Schweickart calls it a quick form of meditation. "You get more focused," he said. "You can zone in, just like an athlete."


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