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Support offered for employment-related stress

February 17, 2011

The prospect of uncertainty around the state budget process has many UW–Madison students, faculty, staff, families and friends facing higher-than-normal levels of stress and anxiety.

“In the midst of difficult times, we want to remind our faculty, staff and students that we appreciate the work you do as part of the campus community,” says Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr. “Thank you for service and hard work each and every day.”

Faculty, staff and students can turn to several resources:

The Employee Assistance Office (EAO) is located in Room 266, Lowell Center, 610 Langdon St. and can be accessed from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. EAO services are available to all faculty, staff, LTE/project employees and their immediate family members or significant others. A topic-specific list of resources is available online. The EAO can be reached at 608-263-2987 or toll-free at 877-260-0281.

For students (including those with graduate assistantships and others whose friends and families may be affected by changing circumstances), University Health Services (UHS) offers a full complement of health and wellness services, including extensive options for counseling and support. Students can come in without an appointment from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, for an initial consultation.

UHS also offers numerous tips and resources for students feeling stressed out, run down or anxious. They range from simple stress-reduction techniques to free downloadable mp3 relaxation exercises, massage therapy or meetings with professional counselors.

Here are some tips, based on national recommendations, to help deal with heightened stress:

  • Keep track of your basic needs. Ask yourself to HALT: Are you Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?
  • Focus on yourself. Make a conscious decision to take care of yourself. Get adequate doses of nutrients, physical activity and sleep.
  • Emotions are healthy — to a point. “These are emotional times,” says EAO Director Steve Pearson. “Healthy anger is usually a signal that something seems unfair or unjust. But that’s the challenge: How can I express this in a way that I feel heard, but not do something destructive? It’s okay to be upset, as long as you don’t let the emotions lead you to do something destructive — to your health, your reputation, to someone else.”
  • Pause, but don’t panic. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and bad decision-making. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Remain calm and stay focused.
  • Talk about it. Open communication and problem-solving are just as important as eating well and getting enough exercise and sleep.
  • Recognize how you deal with stress. Some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities such as smoking, drinking, gambling or emotional eating.  Be alert to these behaviors. If they cause trouble, consider seeking help from a psychologist or community mental health clinic before the problem gets worse.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Turning to friends, colleagues or professionals for help in coping is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Remember: You’re not alone. With thousands of others facing the same type of stress, take time to support those around you and show that you value what they bring to the table.

Additional stress resources are available on the UHS website.