PULLMAN – When academic and career advisor Lisa Laughter presents “Journey to Wellness: Managing Daily Stress as an Advisor,” listeners seem eager to mine the practical and pithy “managing daily stress” part.
 
But for Laughter (pronounced Law-ter), the “journey to wellness” is the real gem.
 
Punctuating her talk with details of peaks and valleys over the past 12 months, she makes the case that striving for a happy, positive, well-balanced personal life cascades into one’s professional life. And that diffuses stress.
 
A comfortable rut
 
A double alumna from WSU (master’s in education and bachelor’s in communication), Laughter has worked for the university since 1997 and for its Center for Advising and Career Development in the University College since 2006. She advises students and is an academic advising training coordinator.
 
A founding member of the WSU Academic Advising Association (ACADA), she recently completed a term as its first president.
 
But a year ago, she says, she was stuck in “a comfortable rut.” Like many people who choose professions where they help others, says Laughter, she had become “somewhat selfless.” She would conduct appointments efficiently and participate in meetings wholeheartedly, scarcely noticing that her lunch times had become erratic and her menus careless.
 

Laughter will present her journey
and counsel at WSU on April 7
 
Laughter’s lecture at the recent National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Region 8 conference earned her colleagues’ vote for “Best Presentation.”
 
Hosted by WSU ACADA, she will present the lecture noon-1 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in Smith CUE 319.
 
“Wellness begins with determination,” she says, “and every journey with just one step. I invite my colleagues at WSU to join me!”
Outside of work, her routine was to spend most evenings resting on the couch, snacking and watching television – as she says, “not living life.”
 
“One day,” says Laughter, “a friend listened to me complaining and challenged me with, ‘So, what is it that you want to do? What’s changing?’ I was sort of stunned. But I thought about those questions a lot.”
 
Losing weight, gaining life
 
The answer that came to her was “I’m done being fat,” she says. “I wanted the food craziness in my head to stop.”
 
Her friend suggested a 12-step program; she began attending meetings and finding recovery. She joined another 12-step program – this one for food addiction – enjoying the structure of its plan as well as its members.
 
She went to a personal effectiveness program that other friends and colleagues had found inspiring – Choice Center Worldwide University.
 
“I credit my gift of desperation, my being at a rock bottom, for giving me something I didn’t have much of before: hope,” Laughter says.
 
She read experts’ guides to cognitive behavior modification and positive thinking. She set in motion “a process” that worked, and is still working, for her.
 
Activity and connections
 
Since last year, the 33-year-old has: lost 100 pounds; embraced her role as partner to Amanda and mother and role model to three-year-old Ellie; given back more to her community by participating in and fundraising for organizations; and changed her relationship to money.
 
She hardly glances at the TV these days and has time to attend three to five meetings each week. She meditates every morning, writes in her journal and gets plenty of activity. She is the Region 8 representative to national NACADA’s LGBTA (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance) concerns committee.
“I feel really alive now,” Laughter says. “I have a life that I love and that I’m in charge of.
 
“It took determination and a willingness to change. But I’ve learned that I can choose to be happy … actually, that I can choose to do and be just about anything I want, even if it’s ‘just for today.’”
 
Positive results at work
 
Transforming her personal life has impacted every part of her world and helped her achieve a new work-life balance. She feels she is more effective at her job. By focusing on herself, she is stronger and better prepared to help students, other advisors and WSU as an institution.
 
“When I proposed the topic ‘Journey to Wellness: Managing Daily Stress as an Advisor,’ for the NACADA regional conference, I didn’t have an easy answer about handling daily stress as an advisor,” Laughter says. “But I had gained knowledge about the importance of personal wellbeing and decided I could share with them the tools that I’ve found helpful.”
 
In lecture handouts, Laughter lists daily practices, guides to good human relations, affirmations, 50 things “you can control,” and questions intended to spur readers to think about their last “year in review” and the next “year in preview.” She details the “Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and meticulously cites numerous other authors, books and programs that inspired her on her journey to wellness.
 
At NACADA’s national conference in the fall, she will graduate from its elite, two-year Emerging Leaders Program and become chair of the member career services committee. She also will deliver her “Journey to Wellness” lecture.
 
“If everyone picked up just one tidbit from my presentation, that would be great,” she says.