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Lightning Talks Neha Gothe

HSRI Lightning Talks—Neha Gothe

Neha Gothe, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, recently took part in the HSRI Lightning Talks for COVID-19, hosted by Paulanne Jushkevich, Associate Vice Chancellor for Advancement, Health Sciences & Research Initiatives.

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PAULANNE JUSHKEVICH: We're going to get started with the talks because we are at 12:00 noon. I am Paulanne Jushkevich, the associate vice chancellor for Health Sciences and Research Initiatives across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We are not going to introduce our speakers with anything more than their name because we don't want to encroach upon their five minutes. All the speakers will be timed for five minutes. We have a very robust agenda, as you've seen. We will identify the speaker by name as they come in.

NEHA GOTHE: All right. Good morning, everyone. This is Neha. I am a faculty in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health here at the U of I. So I'm going to speak here today very briefly about using mind-body therapies during these uncertain times and just some science and evidence in what we have been able to do and accomplish here in the department in designing some programs that will hopefully help our community during these uncertain times.

So very briefly, I wanted to share what the science seems to say about what these mind-body therapies really are. A lot of things could be grouped under this definition, but it's essentially a pretty large and quite diverse group of techniques and procedures that are practiced in the US as well as all around the world. Some of the more common techniques and therapies that you may have heard of or you may have practiced by yourselves or you may have heard and seen some others, friends, family, who may be engaged in these forms-- yoga, Tai chi, other forms of martial arts, some traditional dance forms, as well as meditation and mindfulness, which we hear about a lot, and I have been seeing a lot about that being talked in the media and in the press.

By and large, these mind-body therapies have a pretty good safety record, as long as they are being done and instructed by trained professionals. So it's definitely important to make sure you seek out individuals who are qualified and who really know the substance behind the practice.

This talk becomes quite timely because May is historically known as the mental health month. And we know that with so many schools that are closed, parents are working from home oftentimes without child care. They are looking at a future that is quite uncertain, and it's sometimes hard not to start spiraling. We know that there are some responsibilities that may seem endless at this time and the situation may seem dire, but there are some things that we could do, and we could go to some of these mind-body practices to help us during this unusual social and physical distancing times.

We know from science and from some data that there has been increased stress. There is anxiety. There is fear. But what can we do, and how can mind-body practices come to our rescue?

Some of the evidence more heavily relying on practices such as yoga, meditation, and Tai chi has been associated with a variety of positive benefits. We see that in terms of relieving stress, improving health and habits, improving and regulating emotional well-being, helping with sleep and insomnia.

Yoga, specifically, has really good backing in the scientific evidence for improving anxiety and depressive symptoms that are associated specifically with difficult life situations. And all of us currently are in one of those kind of situations. Similarly, evidence for meditation and Tai chi is also quite promising. We know there are not only these mental health benefits associated with these practices, but it could also help with physiological benefits, such as regulation of blood pressure, anxiety, and anxiety-related symptoms.

These are just some examples of what we could do on a day-to-day basis. Just taking a few deep breaths. Being mindful about what we eat, what we consume. Relaxation, as well as meditation, which could take a variety of forms, such as engaging in an activity that you enjoy that you would like to practice, as well as possibly even engaging in really mindful meditative practices that involve focused breath and breathing practices.

What we are doing in our lab is designing a group exercise program for adults. So I invite all of our attendees today, if you are interested, to join us for this initiative that we have started in our Exercise Psychology Lab here at the University of Illinois. There's a very short form. We ask you for some very basic details, including your current age and fitness levels. And we are conducting online, Zoom-based exercise classes that are live that are catered to your age and tailored to your fitness.

So do take this opportunity to join us, learn more about mindful practices, which include Zoom sessions on yoga, mindfulness, as well as dance and aerobic fitness. And with that, I would like to close. Thank you.

PAULANNE JUSHKEVICH: That's brilliant, Neha. Thank you so much.

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