Anna Floyd has been teaching in the College for Contemporary Liberal Studies’ Applied Psychology department for three years. According to students, Floyd’s courses do more than just fulfill credits – they help them to improve their own mental health and well-being. Regis.edu visited with Floyd to learn more about how her work is changing students’ lives.

You grew up in rural Maryland and did graduate work in New York. What brought you to Regis University?

My hometown is very close to the University of Delaware, and I grew up watching students walk from class to class in the rain, snow, wind and sun. As a kid, I really admired that and wanted to be a part of the university community from an early age. I didn’t know much about the Jesuits when I applied to work here — but, like so many others, after learning more about Ignatian pedagogy and Jesuit values, I see myself in them. I have become passionate about doing what I can to accompany others on their path to discern the ways we ought to live.

What are your thoughts on that – the way we ought to live?

That’s a big question, but let me offer insight for one area. My background is in health psychology, so I try to help others better understand stress, coping and well-being. There is a lot of research that explains why we stress and what we can do about it. I want to help students and others understand that feeling stressed is a choice. We may not be able to choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we respond. I enjoy accompanying students through their journey to recognize the power they hold over their own stress response and seeing them learn how to surf the tumultuous experiences that life always brings. Students often finish classes saying they feel good, their interpersonal relationships have improved, and they have a new understanding and love for life. To me, that is incredible.

Does having a belief system or some level of spirituality contribute positively to mental health?

Yes. We have so much variation in our religious beliefs … even within the same religious tradition. But across all the different perspectives, it is clear that finding meaning and having a purpose in life that extends beyond yourself is probably the clearest link between spirituality and well-being. Recently, I interned as a hospital chaplain and saw this play out during the stress and grief that come with illness or death. People who cope well with what life brings are people who extend past themselves. They think of others. They look for the good that might come out of a really awful tragedy. They see themselves as one small interconnected part of a great fabric of life.

So, are you completely stress-free? What do you do to keep stress in check?

Oh, I definitely get stressed-out, worried and anxious, like everyone else. But I view handling stress as a moment-to-moment, every moment, kind of thing. Not something we “get around to” in our free time. I don’t wait for the weekend or a holiday to de-stress. It’s more like, what can I do right now, when I’m so preoccupied with worry that I missed my partner’s smile? That smile, in that moment, will never happen again. I want to be present for it. And the ability to do this is something we can learn, not something we are born doing. For me, meditation is the best way I have found to practice this paying attention.

What are your interests outside of the classroom?

Meditation, rock climbing and playing the cello. I have two styles of meditation that I have practiced for years: passage meditation and more recently Zazen, from the Zen tradition. I co-lead Regis’ own twice-a-week meditation group, along with other faculty from across campus. We sample different styles of meditation each semester, and anyone is welcome to join us.

What do you most enjoy about being at Regis?

I love the freedom to bring values, spirituality and controversy into classroom conversation. At Regis, we teach from and to the heart and mind. Many universities, for various reasons, are limited to teaching only to the mind. Because of the freedom we have here to include the heart, we can build a learning environment that nurtures growth in profound ways. I also appreciate the wonderful people we have in this community! I have met many individuals here who are dedicated to kindness and social justice. It’s wonderful to be a part of a community that values the reciprocity of helping relationships

Learn more about how a Regis University’s education provides opportunities to explore the question "How ought we to live?" through service learning, academic excellence and spiritual development.