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University of Minnesota

Take a slice out of stress

January 6, 2009

Man yelling at laptop.

Work stress getting you down? Two University nursing faculty offer advice.

Advice on maintaining a healthy work environment in uncertain times

From an article by Mary Jo Kreitzer and Joanne Disch

In these economically unsettling times, many of us may notice a decline in our health and well-being as stress erodes the quality or productivity of our work lives. The pressure may also provoke some of us to act in uncustomary ways.

To maintain a healthy work environment and the balance between work and your personal life, consider these strategies:

Acknowledge the reality. As difficult as it might be, face the facts and learn as much as you can about impending changes. If you're a leader, brief your staff as often and as thoroughly as possible.

Be aware of how you deal with stress. Do you become reactive, fearful, angry, discouraged, or threatened? An interaction with a colleague, an e-mail, or a meeting can trigger a response that you may later regret. Pause, and take time to respond thoughtfully.

Don't act like a victim. Most change is beyond any one person's control. It's easy (and unproductive) to point fingers. Instead, focus on things within your sphere of control and influence, even if it's only how you respond to what's happening. Consider what you can do, rather than dwell on what you can't change. Keep informed, and stay away from water cooler conversations that dampen spirits and fuel rumors.

Learn new skills, including how to manage and reduce stress. Take stock of your skills and abilities, and identify other ways in which they may be useful to the organization. Take advantage of any resources your organization offers, such as new skill trainings and stress reduction programs.

Build time in for yourself and your family or friends. Most workplaces will be in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous) mode in response to the uncertain times. Setting aside time for family or friends, or doing something special for yourself, is an important personal survival strategy. It could be as simple as an hour for a walk or coffee with a friend.

Mary Jo Kreitzer is founder and director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. Joanne Disch is the director of the Katherine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership.

Activities and resources for taking charge of your health

The Center for Spirituality & Healing and the Life Science Foundation; together maintain the Web site Taking Charge of Your Health. The site is a gateway to a wealth of resources often overlooked as stress reducers in today's autobahn society.

Many activities found on the site can be performed right at your desk with the aid of an unlikely stress-reliever (and perhaps more often the deliverer of that very stress)—your personal computer. For example, under the Mind-Body Therapies, one can find simple, guided audio recordings such as the Body Scan, Shift Your Emotions, a Meditation Exercise, and other relaxation exercises.

A range of articles written by expert contributors illuminates the benefits of creative arts therapies, imagery, breathing exercises, mindful movement and many more.

Additionally, the Center for Spirituality & Healing offers many online learning modules at no cost.

Options available on the physical U of M Twin Cities campus:

Meditation Tuesdays
Refresh and recharge yourself with an informal hour of meditation and light stretching. No prior experience or special clothes necessary. Staff and Faculty are welcome. Meditation Tuesdays will be held weekly beginning Jan. 27 in the newly renovated Meditation Room (3rd Floor of the Mayo Memorial Building) from 12:15 to 1:15 pm. 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is about taking control of our lives, being aware of influences that affect our well-being and health, and finding peace-of-mind and balance in an oftentimes chaotic world. MBSR will teach you to consciously and methodically deal with stress, pain, illness, and the demanding challenges of everyday life. There is a charge for the class. For schedule and pricing information, see MBSR.

Related Links

Top stories in 2009

Center for Spirituality & Healing

Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership