Category Archives: Nursing Relaxation

Nursing with the Stars

By Jonathan Schroeder

Grace, poise, attention to detail….and all while wearing two-inch heels under what feels like a pound of facial makeup and blazing 100-degree stage lights. Ever since she was 10 years old, that’s been Janica Holden’s world, as a competitive dancer and now as a member of BYU’s prestigious Ballroom Dance Company.

Over the past two years, Holden has graced the dancefloors of the National Dancesport competition in Provo, performed in front of thousands in Argentina and Chile, and has appeared in viral videos alongside BYU Vocal Point and Studio C.

“I’ve done ballroom since I was so little that sometimes I just think that that’s just how life is, Holden says. “I mean, doesn’t everyone go to practice after school? I forget that that’s not always normal.”

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Holden and her husband, Matt, at the finals of the 2018 Amateur Smooth National Dancesport Championship

Holden started dancing competitively in 4th grade as part of her school’s ballroom program. Eventually, she joined BYU’s Youth Program and began competing in the annual Dancesport competitions at the BYU Marriott Center.

“As a kid, I think my favorite thing about dancing was practicing,” Holden recalls. “Most people like the competitions, but I just liked being able to practice, work hard, and feeel like I was improving. I felt like an Olympic athlete who was constantly training. I enjoyed driving myself to be better.”

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Holden’s practice paid off. During high-school, she was granted a scholarship to be on the back-up tour team for the BYU Ballroom Dance Company where she excelled in the smooth and standard dance genres. Now two years later, Holden has become one of the stars of the Ballroom Dance Company tour team. This past summer, the team dazzled South American audiences during a tour of Chile and Argentina.

“I love all the people we get to meet on tour,” Holden remarks. “While we were in Chile and Argentina, we had a lot of opportunities to interact with other dance groups. Even though I didn’t speak Spanish, it was cool to be able to dance with them and experience the culture through dance.”

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Janica and Matt competing at the semi-annual Dancesport competition

Life on the tour team is no cakewalk. Each show contains around 13 specific dance numbers; each one requiring extraordinary amounts of grace and technical skill. Before the tour even begins, team members devote countless hours to practicing and perfecting their routine. Once on tour, the focus then turns to setting up lights and sound, applying make-up and elaborate costumes, and engaging with the audience. By the end of the tour the dance team will have repeated this process nearly 12 times.

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Holden and the Ballroom Dance Company pose with Broadway starlet Kristen Chenoweth
after their performance on BYU Homecoming Spectacular 2017

“For me, dancing is a way of expressing yourself without using words,” Holden reflects. “I love being able to dance on the floor and perform, but at the same time still be in my own little world. I don’t like telling people how I feel; I prefer to show them.”

As if her life didn’t seem busy enough, Holden also finds ways to express herself off the dance floor by practicing the Healer’s Art. A second-semester nursing student, Holden loves actively helping people and is thinking about working in an ICU after graduation.

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Holden and her first-semester classmates during the semi-annual Blood Pressure Clinic

“As much as I love dancing, it’s kind of a crazy world to get into,” Holden says. “I knew if I wanted to have a family someday, I’d have to find something else.”

So during her senior year of high-school, Holden decided to do an internship on a hospital Coronary Care Unit (CCU). She absolutely loved the experience, and made the decision to pursue a career in nursing; at about the same time that she was offered the Ballroom Dance Company scholarship.

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On any given weekday, Holden will spend two to four hours practicing with the team and separately with her dance partner. This is on top of her rigorous nursing course-load, clinicals, and a part-time job working at a tax office. When asked how she manages to find time to get everything done, she says the secret is in the planning.

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Holden with the cast of the Studio C Sketch, “One Last Dance”.
Her husband, Matt (not pictured) is also featured prominently in the same sketch.

“My calendar is my best friend,” she explains. “I have to have things very planned out; I can’t just “go with the flow”. I have to know when I’m going to do things; homework time, dance time, etc. because if I don’t plan it out, time escapes so quickly. When I take the time to plan things out, it’s amazing how everything just fits in.”

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Holden and her husband on the set of Vocal Point’s hit music video, “Beauty and the Beast”.
Holden had the special opportunity to give Lexi Walker some dance pointers during the filming.

Sadly, Holden says her competitive dancing days are probably coming to an end once she and her husband (and Ballroom dance partner), Matt, graduate from BYU. However, until then, she says she plans enjoy the time she has with BYU’s diverse dance program.

“One thing I love about BYU’s Ballroom program is that there are so many different levels and options available. You can do anything from taking basic 100-level dance classes to trying out for upper level tour teams. Whatever you feel like you can do, there are options for it.”

Janica and Matt will be performing in the BYU Dance in Concert Showcase at the BYU Marriott Center on April 6 and 7.

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Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie! Yoga and Fingerpainting Are Back In Style In Nursing Relaxation

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major. This post contains the summaries of two of the previous classes, with the first focusing on yoga and the second on fingerpainting.

Part One: On Pain, Reflexology, and Yoga Nidra

I showed up to the stress management class excited, ready to finger-paint. I noticed quickly that everyone was wearing comfortable clothes, and was informed that there had been a change. It was now yoga day, and I was in jeans.

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Students prepare to follow instructor Maria in yoga.

Yoga and I have always had an interesting relationship. Once while visiting the mission doctor, his wife had made me do intensive yoga while I waited, a process that just barely fell short of violating the eighth amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

I thought that I had escaped, but I was later called in to translate for a meeting with her and my mission president, in which to my horror I found myself communicating my mission president’s desire for her to teach yoga to the entire mission. That’s how the Chile Santiago North Mission found itself doing yoga at zone conferences in suits and ties, and how I became a wanted man.

For the class, we had an instructor named Maria who teaches therapeutic yoga as a way to help patients recover from medical issues. Maybe, just maybe, she could de-stress a bunch of Type A nursing students and an Arabic major doing yoga in a button up.

We started by rolling a racquetball under our feet. This was based on the ideas of reflexology, a school of thought that says that points on the hands and feet are connected to the rest of the body. By relieving those points, you can relieve other areas like the back.

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Students massage their feet with racquetballs. Reflexology says that this will help them take pressure off various points in their bodies.

Now came real yoga. We did moves that aimed to help our muscles relax. We bent over, twisted, and performed various motions. Through it all, I found myself slowly starting to feel a bit less tense. All the while, Maria explained the benefit of each move. At one point, she told assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles that we would be working on something to help her back.

“Yay, we’re going to fix me!” she cried out in glee. We all were repeating that statement in our heads.

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Maria shows students how to prepare for the puppy pose.

One of our final move combinations was first to put our legs against the wall and leave them there for several minutes. Then we laid on our backs and adjusted our feet so that our backs had less pressure.

That was when it happened—I suddenly felt asleep, but I was awake. It was a weird, halfway point. I stayed in that immensely relaxed state for a few minutes until it was time to get up, upon which Maria informed me that I had been in yoga nidra. I’m still not sure what that means, but it was nice.

By the end of the session, I felt more relaxed, as usual. This class is so helpful for figuring out the ways to de-stress that best work for each person.

Now, if you come across me with my legs propped against the wall not talking, just keep walking. It’s just yoga nidra.

 

Part Two: Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie!

It was the afternoon. Students milled around, hauling large sheets of paper and eagerly grabbing the paint. Fingers were saturated in orange, blue, red, yellow, and purple as they worked to create masterpieces. Sometimes it got on the desks, but the teacher was used to this.

Spoiler: this isn’t a kindergarten class. This is nursing stress management, and I may or not have been the main culprit behind the paint on the desk (I cleaned it up!).

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Students gather supplies for painting and coloring.

Assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles had brought in lots of paper, both to color and to fingerpaint. Everyone was excited. Today was art and music therapy day, possibly the most anticipated class of the term.

After reviewing our stress levels in groups, we proceeded to discuss how music aids relaxation. Miles explained that not all music is equal in this area—songs with various chord changes are better suited than many modern songs, which are simply repetitive. She impersonated a rap song, but my life would be in jeopardy if I dared repeat it here.

With that, we each got our supplies and began our artistic adventures. In the background, Miles was blaring one of her favorite albums—the original Mary Poppins soundtrack.

I began a relentless campaign to replace every white spot on my paper with some color. In the end, my creation resembled many of my friends returning home from the Festival of Colors.

Others, however, were superbly done. Miles was surprised at the quality of the artwork, and I was surprised at how each student seemed to be focused wholly on the project and not any impending nursing deadlines.

I could go on, but pictures here do more justice than words.

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On Prayer, Gumption, and Gratitude

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major.

Shortly after I entered class, Assistant teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles was beginning to tell a story from one of the times she took nursing students to study in Finland. We all were busting a gut (or LOLing, in the terminology of my fellow millennials), but the story ended up laying the foundation for the rest of the class.

Basically, she and her students were struggling to get around during Finland’s equivalent of 4th of July. Both the public areas and the tram they managed to get on were crowded with rowdy, inebriated Finns who were making life, shall we say, interesting for the students. To make matters worse, the tram stopped far from their desired destination and the conductor, who didn’t speak English, wanted them to get off.

Through a combination of prayer and gumption, Miles somehow managed to convey to the driver that they needed to go to their hospice. Under no requirement to do so, he left his assigned route and graciously drove them through the city to their hospice, ignoring angry people waiting to board at other stations. It was nothing short of miraculous.

The off-the-cuff tale was followed by the usual review of our week and our stress levels. The topic of our discussion was to be gratitude. I wondered if this would be like one of many Sunday School lessons I had heard on the topic. However, Sunday School lessons usually don’t start with a Ted Talk.

In it, a little girl and an old man give their perspectives on life. The little girl matter-of-factly acknowledges how much adventure lies outside her home, while the older gentleman says that each of us should live each day as if it were our first and our last. This was an interesting thought, since frequently, life tends to get in the way of us stopping to smell the roses or enjoying a fresh Cougar Tail.

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Students discuss their stress levels.

Miles poignantly asked the students if they had lost their imagination since entering nursing school. There were chuckles, but everyone was wondering the same thing: had they?

Miles discussed how oftentimes it is hard to be grateful in stressful situations. These situations test us and push us to the limit, which makes finding things to be grateful for even more important. Calmness can come, she assured us.

Then she weaved in her earlier story—the reason that she had been calm on that tram in Finland, she said, was because “I knew that I would be guided to what I had to do.” That trust in God had allowed her to protect the students and get home safely.

With that, we were assigned to make lists of things for which we were grateful. The lists were not to be just the typical answers like life and the Gospel, but more specific ideas. Some that came to me included not having to use Roman numerals and the fact that I have shoelaces (and shoes, on top of that). As we discussed our simple responses, we realized just how much good we have in our lives.

The best part, Miles said, was that if we made it a habit to do this kind of exercise, we would be not only be more relaxed, but we would have more to talk about with Heavenly Father at the end of the day.

This class may not have had as much interactive activities like the last few times, but it did manage to open my mind more on the topic of gratitude. I could not help but think of President Hinckley, who said, “Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.” How true indeed.

On I Love Lucy, Sleep, and Well-being

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major.

“Do you have to do the assignment?”

Assistant teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles’ question hit us like a ton of bricks covered in bowling balls flung by a catapult. Not do an assignment on time? What was this heresy?

This was Nursing Stress Management, round two.

I was definitely in need of some de-stressing after a week of essays and tests. Based on the looks on the faces of the other students, I was not the only one.

We started by pairing off and talking about what we had done that week to relieve our anxiety, and then we practiced taking our pulse. That’s when we dove into the world of relaxation techniques.

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Students discuss their week and how they handled the stress of being a nursing student.

Miles showed a clip from “I Love Lucy” (I realize that some in the audience may not be familiar with this classic program, in which case I recommend Googling it, along with Dwight Eisenhower and the first color televisions). In it, Lucy struggles to keep up with a conveyer belt continuously carrying chocolate for her to wrap.

The students laughed, no doubt finding comparison between Lucy’s frantic maneuvering and their own balancing act (the most recent nursing conference was called “Struggle to Juggle”). That was exactly the point Miles was getting at, and she transitioned into a discussion on how to prioritize tasks at hand.

We used a mental exercise to imagine sifting through our various tasks and choosing which were most important. Following that, we used jumbo crayons (a very nice touch) to recreate a normal day schedule. As we did so, people commented on how difficult it was to schedule even basic tasks like sleeping a minimum of eight hours.

“Why won’t eight [hours] happen?” she inquired. We all wondered why, mentioning the various assignments that we had to accomplish.

That’s about the point that Miles dropped the bombshell question mentioned at the start of this story. Cognitive dissonance abounded as we struggled to wrap our heads around the idea of putting our emotional and physical well-being above homework.

“It’s more about you than the assignment,” she said. In her mind as a professor, she said, a student emailing her to say that they would turn in an assignment late instead of rushing it was worthy of praise.

What she said made sense. If we let our bodies and minds deteriorate below a load of impending social, physical, and academic demands, it defeats the point of living. We are meant to progress, and in order to do that we must learn how to prioritize and accomplish tasks in a way that leaves us sane at the end.

To conclude the class, Miles told us to get comfortable and close our eyes as she played incredibly relaxing sounds and music. Life could not get much better than this, I thought, slouched over in my chair. Then I remembered that finger painting week is coming up. Best work assignment ever.

On Relaxation, Nursing School, and Fire Alarms

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major.

My foray into the world of nursing relaxation started simply enough. Eight nursing students and I were gathered on the fourth floor of the SWKT with assistant teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles talking about stress in the life of an average nursing student.

Artist Jennifer Yane once said, “I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.” From what I have seen of BYU nursing students, that seems to be a common sentiment, with students practically dripping anxiety during pass-offs. The list of stressors mentioned included tests, fear of failure, clinicals, and family concerns.

Miles began explaining how this course would offer some respite from some of these common concerns. This course, she explained, would offer various ways for students to relax.

That’s when the building fire alarm went off.

As it wailed (a sound extremely conducive to elevated blood pressure levels), we filed out of the building, where Miles immediately resumed teaching the course on a bench. The cause of nursing relaxation will press on!

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Dr. Miles teaches students about how to relax while the SWKT fire alarm goes off behind her.

In fact, the whole experience served to illustrate various points that Miles made. Life may be eventful, she said, but “you have a lot of control of how stressful it is going to be.”

This was a dominant theme during this class, which in and of itself had a laid-back and welcoming feel. We talked about how critical it is to meet life with a positive outlook and find a balance. This mental game is a necessary first step to not only facing challenges better but also helping your mind adapt to demanding situations.

Often, Miles mentioned, it is important that for nursing students not to be a perfectionist in their work. She also said that sometimes students have a hard time saying “no” when too many demands on their time are being made.

Students received a packet that contained different stress reduction tools, ranging from breathing exercises to time-management tips. Each also had to fill out different forms to evaluate their level of tension and take their pulse (I was kindly given a refresher in this skill). With luck, resting heartbeats will be lower by the end of the seven weeks.

Each week, students are expected to make goals to improve their stress levels. One of this week’s is to limit time on cellular devices and Facebook (various phones on students’ desks disappeared suddenly into backpacks).

One girl in the class has taken it two times before this semester. After seeing the list of planned activities, including finger painting and aromatherapy, I do not blame her. I’m definitely going to make sure that my schedule is clear for hand massage day.