Employees from Citizen Potawatomi Nation enterprises heard from an Indigenous motivational speaker and comedian about managing stress in their lives.

Oklahoma native Mitch Factor (Seminole/Menominee) spoke to CPN employees about the importance of self-care, maintaining a positive outlook and clear communication.

“I think helping people is where my heart is — and in dealing with stress,” he said.
Factor said stress causes people to experience a variety of emotions, from frustration to sadness to anger. It helps to identify these feelings and find healthy ways to cope with them. Often, people keep emotions inside, carrying the weight of those negative feelings and compounding the stress, he said.

Stress is harmful to the body, according to a report from the Mayo Clinic. Long-term stress can lead to depression, anxiety, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, obesity and high blood pressure.

A 2020 report by the American Psychological Association said 78 percent of adults have experienced more stress due to the pandemic in addition to pre-pandemic stresses about finances, work, school, housing, food and healthcare.

Even with many pandemic restrictions relaxed, people may still be dealing with events that occurred during the pandemic and may not have fully processed those feelings, Factor said.

“Every time I get done with the session, there’s always two or three people that come up and talk to me, and some of them say they feel like I’ve been talking to them directly,” he said. “I believe that nobody’s stuck in their ways and everyone can change for the better if they want to.”

Factor said he relates to the busy schedules people have today, filled with their children’s school activities, their jobs and time for themselves. Trying to meet too many commitments often leads to additional stress.

The father of three said it is easy to fall into routines without taking time to reflect and prioritize wellness. To reduce stress, Factor suggests spending time outside of their normal roles, such as mother, husband or employee.

“Play with your kids, go fishing, do some crafting,” he said. “The goal is to create a healthy balance of all our roles.”

Factor suggests regular and clear communication with a spouse, children and others.
“Be clear about your expectations, your boundaries,” he said. “Spend your time (communicating and) preventing problems instead of trying to fix them.”

Dividing up household chores, encouraging family members to talk with each other in a respectful way and giving everyone time for a break can increase family harmony, he said.

Adopting a more physical lifestyle also alleviates stress, Factor said. He suggests having a regular wellness break by setting aside time during the day or week for relaxing activities.

“Don’t make excuses about being active,” he said. “Try new activities like yoga, walking, stretching. And experience your senses to the fullest. If there’s a smell, sound or taste or sight that helps you relax, then use it.”

He urges employers to remember that many employees may need time to care for themselves while they serve others.

“A part of the pandemic, the protocols, the (precautionary) steps we have to take, we continue to do those, but don’t let them be the focus of why we come to work,” he said. “It’s very important that we are well before we are able to help other people. We have to be helping ourselves.”

Raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Factor first pursued an entertainment career in stand-up comedy and the film and television industries. He has appeared at Bricktown’s Comedy Warehouse and Joker’s Comedy Club in Oklahoma City. His movie and television credits include The Last of the Mohicans and Broken Chain. He has also enjoyed a more than 30-year career in early childhood education, specifically in the Head Start program.

Learn more about stress as a result of the coronavirus pandemic from the American Psychological Association at cpn.news/apa2020.