Kathryn Everest was leaving a restaurant near TCU in September 1999 when a parade of ambulances rushed down University Drive.
“Something must have happened at TCU,” she thought.
Moments later, her cell phone rang. It was her boss. There at been a shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church and she was needed.
As coordinator of guidance and counseling for the Fort Worth Independent School District, Everest would spend the ensuing hours reconnecting parents and children. But for seven families, that night would end in horror.
“My master’s degree didn’t prepare me for giving death notifications with medical examiner,” she explained to a crowd of about 50 alumni at the Kelly Center.
Six weeks of mourning, soul-searching and questioning would pass for the Fort Worth community. Finally, the emotional weight of the experience came crashing down on Everest one night at home.
“I was in the bathtub shaving my legs, and I nicked myself,” said Everest. “For the first time, I smelled that metallic smell that blood sometimes has, and it hit me. That blood was a common experience for everyone. It was a trigger, and I cried for hours.”
She began to do research on what stressful events do to the body, and she came to an important conclusion: It doesn’t have to take a trauma for stress to be toxic.
“We live in a rageful world,” said Everest, who is teaching graduate courses on counseling at TCU. “People are angry on the road, people are angry at Dillard’s, yelling at salespeople. We live in a world of global connectedness, media saturation and instant information, and the result is that it’s stressed us. It’s made us impatient. We live at a supersonic pace. Here’s the ultimate truth: unmitigated stress is unhealthy and is ultimately deadly.”
Carpool. Stock market. Grades. Mortgage. Bills. Laundry. Stress is all around and it increases with time. Cumulative stress affects body, mind and spirit, and for some leads to fatigue, lateness, depression or drug use.
“I watched an hour of television last night and there were five ads for sleep aids,” she said. “We have a culture of anxiety and worry that bombards us.”
Everest realized she didn’t want to teach stress management. She wanted to teach people to find balance and live a joy-filled life.
“Wellness is the realization that everything you feel, think, do and believe impacts health,” said Everest, who turned her epiphany into a workshop called “Why are my car keys in the refrigerator?” which she has shared across the country. She’s also founded a consulting company called The Everest Edge.
“Finding balance requires the integration of the emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual. It is an everyday, ongoing, multifaceted process to find balance.”
Everest used the rest of the hour to lead the Kelly Center crowd through the symptoms of stress reactions and some suggestions on how to find and maintain balance.
Everest is a fan of walking. When she’s out shopping, she parks at the back of the parking lot and hoofs it into the store. She’s also a proponent of stretching and breathing exercises, which are free, she pointed out.
“I tried to join L.A. Fitness and it wasn’t my scene,” she said, “but you can do these simple things in mere minutes and it doesn’t cost you a penny.”
Among her other tips:
- Practice honesty. “If you would rather go home after a long week than go to dinner with your husband’s friends, tell him and why you feel that way. Save yourself the week of worry about what excuse you will make up. If they love you, they will understand your need for relaxation and comfort.”
- Meditate or pray.
- Read. Or attend a fine arts event. Or learn a new skill.
- Learn to say “No thanks” rather than take on more than you can handle.
- Deal with problems immediately.
- Be realistic.
- Eat healthy. “When we are stressed, we forget the most basic of needs. We revert back to old habits.”
Everest was recognized in 2006 as the Texas School Counselor Supervisor of the Year and in 2007 given the Texas Association of Counseling Education and Supervision Presidential Award for Outstanding Leadership.
Contact Everest at firstname.lastname@example.org.