Today’s world is full of stress as people rush to keep up with hectic schedules and juggle family life with career expectations.
The response to stress is primarily determined by a person’s perception of an event, transition or problem, says Ann Farris, personal trainer and health coach at The Dalles Fitness and Court Club.
Her quest is to help people find balance in their lives and build resiliency to manage stress.
Once clients have taken her stress assessment, Farris helps them develop strategies for self-care and promoting positive aspects of their lifestyle that build resiliency.
With 70-80 percent of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, preventable by making better life choices, Farris said people have a lot to lose by not balancing the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of health.
“It’s empowering to me that we do have the capacity to help ourselves, but it’s not easy,” she said. “I think a lot of people know they are out of whack — things don’t feel really good. They may feel they need to make huge changes that are out of reach. I like to help people make changes that are smaller, more achievable and can lead to a big difference in well-being.”
Farris fought her own battle with stress during the tail end of a 20-year career as an environmental engineer at the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Although she had always loved her job — one that she had prepared for by earning a bachelor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado and a Master’s of Environmental Quality from the University of Alaska — the work slowly began to acquire a political edge.
Farris represented the state on controversial environmental cleanup projects that involved many angry public meetings, and challenging technical issues.
“I wasn’t sleeping as much and had a lot of other stress factors,” she said of the last five years of work.
In 2012, Farris was diagnosed with melanoma cancer and decided it was time to change her life out of the belief that stress had played a role in her illness by suppressing her immune system.
“That was a real wakeup call for me,” she said.
Once the primary tumor had been removed from her leg, and another from her lymphatic system. Farris began to seriously focus on her health. The second tumor had been in an advanced stage and, although her doctors wanted Farris to undergo chemotherapy, she decided to take an alternative approach.
“I decided to change careers to address the stress and used Chinese medicine to support my own healing capacity,” she said. “It worked so I continued along the path.”
Farris decided a career change was in order and moved from Alaska to Portland, Oregon, where she studied to become a health coach.
“It’s been a big transition,” she said. “Not the most graceful by any means but it really feels powerful and enlightening.”
In October Farris moved to Underwood and brought her skill set to The Dalles fitness scene. She is getting set to teach a four-week series on stress management that begins at 6:30 p.m. March 3 and focuses on helping people find more joy and ease in their lives.
Learning how to be resilient and rise above stress protects the body from harm, said Farris.
Her class explains the physiology of stress and mindfulness techniques people can use for real life.
“If you are angry at the boss, or pressured about a deadline, you can use restorative yoga and breathing exercises to lower stress, but it might go deeper than that,” said Farris. “We want to help people get back in touch with their core values — the essence of their existence and why they chose their line of work, etc. — and see where life has gotten out of alignment with those values.”
People feel less stress when they have passion for what they do in life and a good support system, said Farris.
“We need to cultivate community; build that important structure around us,” she said
She helps people develop individual plans to make necessary behavioral changes.
She learned to manage her sleeplessness by shutting off her phone and computer at night, and eliminating other distractions that make it difficult to rest.
Farris is also practiced at corporate wellness, helping companies build teamwork and make the workplace more positive, which will increase productivity.
“I customize the program for groups by doing an initial assessment to see what each employee wants and needs, and then design something fun and effective for their situation,” said Farris.
The classes may feel a little bit like going to school – but the homework is intended to help people grade their own lives.
“I want to create a safe space for people to talk about conflicts they are having,” she said. “People can come in wherever they happen to be, the classes provide value to anybody.”
For more information on classes or coaching, Farris can be reached at 907-687-0278 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Farris’ schedule is posted on her website at keepmovingellness.com.