Health Beat: Real Stress, Real People, Real Coping

by Trish Ratto

These are stressful times -- both in our personal and work lives. On campus, faculty and staff are affected by budget worries, increased workloads, fewer staff, reorganizations, limited pay increases and more.

As you work with others to address the sources of stress, finding additional ways to cope may also help. Below, campus colleagues share their coping strategies, and CARE Services senior counselor Laurie Yamamoto of University Health Services offers additional suggestions.

Prioritizing Workload

Professor Andrew Scharlach's primary source of stress is common to many of us--too many demands, not enough time. For faculty, the loss of support staff and a blurry job description compound those demands.

"I could fill my day just returning calls from media and colleagues around the world," explains Scharlach. "But those activities don't help get curriculum prepared or journal articles published."

He now makes choices to prioritize which phone calls he is able to return. "I'm not always able to respond to requests, especially for materials that I have to find, copy and mail." Where Scharlach is spending some valuable time is trying to "be a little more human" with the department secretary, one of two shared by the almost 30 faculty in the School of Social Welfare.

"Faculty and staff alike are faced with weighing competing priorities," says Yamamoto, "which can make it challenging to feel good about your work in the same way you used to."

Job Control

"No one likes to be micro-managed," says manager Barbara Hadenfeldt from the Institute of Urban and Regional Development. "I treat every staff member as the manager of their particular areas of responsibility. This has alleviated many of the common causes of job-related stress for all staff, including myself." Hadenfeldt finds everyone likes to feel in control of their work.

Yamamoto agrees. Employees are looking for greater meaning and involvement in decision-making that affects their work. "Managers who function as facilitators, rather than controllers, promote a positive work environment," says Yamamoto.

Flexible Work Schedule

Millie Gonzales, administrative assistant with Central Computing/IS&T, finds flextime helps her balance family and work life. "My four children require three stops every morning on my way to work. Having an arrival time between 8:30 and 9 a.m. reduces the stress of feeling you're late." In Gonzales' unit, staff have the opportunity to determine their arrival and departure hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

"Flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting, are very useful tools for juggling time demands," says Yamamoto. Still, finding flexibility with some jobs is a challenge. "Discuss with your supervisor where you can have input for managing your time," she advises, "including breaks or lunch hour."

Relaxation Skills

Denise Jenkins finds exercise at the day's end the best tonic to forget worries, relax and get a good night's sleep. Jenkins' stress comes not from day-to-day pressures but from wanting to do her best at strategic planning for staff who depend on her. "Exercise is lifesaving for me," explains Jenkins, administrative analyst with Molecular and Cell Biology. "If I don't workout, I overeat, sleep poorly, continue to worry and spin out of control."

Rondi Phillips relaxes with a12:30 p.m. Tai Chi class that she coordinates for the faculty and staff in the math department. "After working on my computer all morning, Tai Chi relaxes and strengthens the muscles in my lower back where I hold my stress and helps me re-energize for the afternoon," says Phillips.

Yamamoto teaches several relaxation techniques in her stress classes and encourages faculty and staff to utilize their most effective coping strategies and to seek help from the resources below.

For More Help...

* Stress-Reducing Strategies, Two- session class, Sept. 22 and 29, 10 a.m.-noon. Call Health*Matters, 643-4646.

* Relaxation Training for Stress, Oct. 25, 3:15-5 p.m., Call CARE Services 643-7754.

* CARE Services offers workshops for departments and appointments for individuals. Call 643-7754.

* CalFIT at the Recreational Sports Facility offers exercise classes, massage and more. Call 643-6810.

* The Employee Training and Development Catalog lists classes on flexible work arrangements, communication skills and other stress-related issues.

Trish Ratto is manager of Health*Matters, a program of University Health Services.

Next month's topic:

Do You Need the Flu Shot?


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