Faculty Spotlight

SCHOOL OF HEALTH PROFESSIONS

Faculty Spotlight

The goal of stress management isn’t to eliminate the stress, says Richard Fopeano, Ph.D. The goal is to change how you perceive the stress, to deal with it in a productive and realistic manner.

Fopeano teaches Stress Management, a mandatory course for Health Promotion & Wellness Management majors. “Stress management is one part of the whole gamut of techniques that our students need to teach their potential clients in the wellness sector,” Fopeano says.

In addition to preparing students for their future careers, Fopeano also believes that the skills and mindset taught in his course helps to set the stage for students to live balanced, happier lives that impact their academic and personal growth. “Stress is change,” Fopeano says, “And change is a part of life. If students can understand that, and change their perception of stress, they can grow from it.”

Fopeano shares that our bodies’ physiological response to stress is the same, whether that stress originates from something positive (eustress) or negative (destress). It is our brains that assign the stressor as either positive or negative. Changing how our brains perceive that stress changes our mental response to it.

Fopeano encourages students to listen to their bodies, learn to identify physical responses to stress and to proactively practice stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness. “I expose students to a wide variety of techniques, knowing that different things will click with different people,” Fopeano says. “Some might feel that yoga is silly. Or maybe they’ve never felt comfortable trying yoga before. My job is to expose them to a wide variety of stress management techniques so that they build a strong foundation from which to draw from when they have their own careers in wellness.”

In addition to teaching Stress Management, Fopeano conducts research on the field and presents on the topic to professional organizations, including the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) and the New Jersey Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NJAHPERD.)

Fopeano explains that stress is almost like rain clouds interrupting an otherwise sunny day. You can see the clouds and let them define your day, ruining it and declaring it a rotten day. Or, you can mentally choose to see the clouds, recognize them, and change your perception of the day.

“My goal is to teach people that mentally we can get into a plane and get above the clouds. The clouds are still there, but they’re not ruining your day and dictating your life,” Fopeano says. ​