Sharing Stress Management at VISIONS2018

Last month I had the surreal opportunity to present at VISIONS2018 – the Foundation Fighting Blindness' biannual conference, which this year took place in San Diego. Naturally, the title I chose for my lecture was "Stress Management & Self-Care for People with Degenerative Diseases".


I want to comment briefly on my experience, but before I do: If you haven't seen the presentation and would like to, you can view it online here! Note that this is a recording of the full day, so you will want to forward to 1 hour 53 minutes to get to my lecture. 


When I was choosing what to call the presentation I was indecisive on who it was for. Everyone at the conference was there for the sake of visual impairments like RP – researchers, innovators, bloggers, and experts addressing eye disease. But I knew that my talk was not going to be designed specifically for those with vision loss.


Because even though I have a visual impairment, my core message stems from a belief that stress management and self-care are not only helpful – but crucial – for anyone whose health is already compromised due to a medical condition. Moreso, I feel strongly that those with degenerative diseases (worsening over time with no known cure) are at a higher risk for stress-borne complications... so I knew this had to be the emphasis. I avoided a title with anything related to eyes, vision, retinal diseases, etc. and I like to think for that reason my presentation was not only well attended, but was chosen as the only segment during its timeslot (at which there were numerous lectures) to be recorded and streamed online live.


We all can benefit from managing stress and taking better care of ourselves, basically.


I realized something sort of funny, though. Given that this was my first major speaking engagement, and I had to not only prepare it (essentially) word-for-word but fly across the country to deliver those words... I was super stressed. It made giving a presentation about stress insanely introspective and insightful.


My lecture focused on the framework I use in my own life to reduce stressors from various domains. And before I got on stage that day I went through each of them in my mind. Cognitively, I was stressed about the planning and memorization of my talk. Biologically, I'd just traveled from New York to Calidnora and was fired. Socially, I was stressed about how my peers would feel about this, and all the interactions I was having at VISIONS. Pro-socially, I was empathetic for my mom who was going through this experience with me there, and my dad whom was watching back home. Emotionally... this was just a next-level emotional experience for me and explaining why would take its own blog post.


I made it a point to talk about my stress as I talked about stress. I'm human – don't forget it. And I also made a point to express that I practice the tools I preached. I meditated right before going onto the stage. I went for a run that morning... outside, in nature. I spoke to myself kindly. I let out some really deep, audible, breaths. And I made sure to get enough sleep the night before.


When I was asked to be a speaker at the conference almost a year ago, it was like receiving an instant download of my purpose. It propelled me to work harder at doing what I do today: help people with illnesses & disabilities of any sort reduce the stress that comes with their condition. I met so many great people at VISIONS and am about to send them a guide on Top Tools for Stress Management that I was inspired to create while speaking there. I'm excited to share it with you, too.