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Dr. Natalie Watson-Singleton, Ph.D.; Daily Habits to Jump-Start Your New Year and Eliminate Stress

January 2018

natalie Watson-SingletonAccording to the American Psychological Association’s 2017 report “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation,” Americans are stressed about money, work and the future of the nation. When you add the stressors of the holiday season into the mix, Natalie Watson-Singleton, Ph.D., says the health and well-being of many Americans can be affected.

Dr. Watson-Singleton is a psychology professor at Spelman College. She recently received a one-year subaward through a Small Business Innovation Research grant with IRIS Educational Media from the National Institutions of Health. The project entitled “Culturally Responsive Stress Reduction: A Mobile Mindfulness Application to Support Health Promotion for African Americans” is designed to create a mHealth mobile app to encourage accessibility of the health solution as well as frequency of use by aligning app content with the personal and social values of the user.

Dr. Watson-Singleton is often referred to as a clinical-community psychologist because of her commitment to affecting change at both the individual-level and the community-level. Her passion is reflected in her teaching, scholarship and clinical-community work.

Dr. Watson-Singleton’s current research focuses of mindfulness and how its benefits can be used to reduce stress. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. The process has been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved sleep quality and reduced stress.

 “Mindfulness is important because it allows us to fully participate in the present moment; the conversation we’re having, the book we’re reading, or the song we’re listening to,” said Dr. Watson-Singleton. “Fully participating in the present moment enhances our sense of connectedness to the people and world around us. Also, paying attention to the present moment reduces our tendency to overexert our mental energy fixating on the past or worrying about the future.”

Dr. Watson-Singleton has developed three simple tips that can be incorporated into your daily routine to jump-start your New Year and eliminate stress.

•    Take time to breathe – Simply shifting your attention to your breathing can be a way to center yourself when you are feeling stressed or tense. Research suggests that when we feel stressed, we can forget to breath, increasing our stress levels. When we pay attention to our breath, we allow it to anchor us to the present moment, ultimately fostering a sense of calm and relaxation. You can simply notice the natural flow of your breathing or practice the 4-4-8 breathing technique. For this technique, inhale for four counts, filling your lungs up completely. Then, hold your breath for four counts and slowly exhale for eight counts. Repeat this 3-5 times.

•    Re-connect with your values – During the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in the pressure to attend multiple holiday parties, buy numerous gifts, and spend time with many different family members and friends. Yet, external pressures rather than personal values may drive these expectations. To minimize holiday stress, take the time to identify what is most important to you and rank these values in order of importance. Then make choices that align with those values, prioritizing the values of greater significance. For example, sharing quality time with close friends and family may mean cutting back on hours spent holiday shopping and engaging in self-care may mean foregoing a holiday party or two.

•    Be kind to yourself – The holidays are wrought with pressure to do everything and see everyone. When we are unable to keep up, we may judge ourselves as a “bad friend” or “bad family member.” This can lead to negative self-talk, which can adversely impact our mood. Overtime these negative thoughts and judgments can tear down our self-esteem. One way to combat this tendency to be kind to ourselves and let go of these judgments when they arise in our mind. We can replace these judgments with phrases like, “In this moment I have done enough and I am enough.”

Dr. Watson-Singleton received her Ph.D. in clinical/community psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She completed her clinical psychology pre-doctoral internship at Emory University in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Watson-Singleton teaches several courses including Abnormal Psychology, Theories and Techniques of Counseling, Theory of Psychometric Instruments, and Black Women, Trauma, and Intervention.

Dr. Watson-Singleton can provide perspective on the following topics: mindfulness, health disparities, work-life balance, stress, depression, and mental health.