December Program Report: Taking a Break from Stress

STC New England’s December program brought a welcome break from the stress of a busy month in a most difficult year.

Technical communicators experience stress even at the best of times. At busy times, even the sound of an arriving email can trigger a stress reaction. And once stressed, the body can take up to 20 minutes to recover. (If stressful events arrive faster than that you may not calm down all day.) December is a busy month in what has already been a year of unprecedented stress, so any relief is welcome.

This month’s program, introduced by President Mike Nelson, was a stress management session with Tom Speare. Tom is a certified Kundalini yoga and meditation teacher and has been teaching stress management, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation for over ten years. Mike shared his personal story of how stress landed him in the hospital and how Tom helped him recover.

Screen capture of stress-reduction effort Tom Speare and STC New England President Mike Nelson at the 16 December 2020 program
Stress-reduction coach Tom Speare (left) and Chapter President Mike Nelson (right)


Tom started with a self-assessment of how fast participants were breathing, a simple stress benchmark. Then he explained the difference between stress, which is a momentary response to an event, and anxiety, which is a loop of reliving or remembering an event. The stress, or “fight or flight,” response is automatic and out of our control, but anxiety is within our control.

He introduced participants to two very different but simple tools for relieving stress and anxiety. These techniques are used by Navy SEALs and first responders to stay calm, relaxed, and focused. Attendees found the exercises surprisingly effective. (One reported his breathing rate slowed by half.)

Mike commented, “I thought the session went really well, despite the low turnout due to the holidays and impending major snowstorm. Attendees left the session fully relaxed and armed with a powerful new tool in the fight against stress and anxiety.”

If you want to learn more or engage Tom, you can email him directly at

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