Managing Stress in Stressful Times

Managing Stress in Stressful Times

We’ve all been there. For some, it’s a parent or loved one who makes negative comments that you try to ignore or brush away, until the one day you just can’t take it anymore and you lash out. For others, it’s the stress of a series of setbacks at home. For people in high stress work environments, the daily stress of their profession can eventually overwhelm even the most resilient individual. In a recent study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Public Radio and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 44 percent of working adults reported that stress from their work environment had an impact on their overall health and well-being.

Short-term stress

Acute, or short-term, exposure to stress can trigger what is commonly referred to as the fight or flight response. This burst of adrenaline can lead to peak performance in athletes or spark increased energy and mental alertness at work;  or, it can trigger an emotional response that is out of proportion to the event. For those experiencing a traumatic event, some people can experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, mood swings and difficulty sleeping or functioning normally for weeks to years after the event. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For those with PTSD, even years later, events can re-trigger those initial emotional responses.

Long-term stress

Chronic, or long-term stress also can impact physical and emotional health, as the body’s responses to stress are drawn out over time. This long-term stress can negatively impact the immune system.  It may also contribute to the onset of cardiac disease and hypertension. People experiencing chronic stress are more likely to adopt coping mechanisms that have a negative impact on health, such as overeating, alcohol and substance abuse and smoking.

It’s okay to ask for help        

While we are likely to seek assistance if we have chronic back pain or ongoing stomach problems, we often avoid asking for help to manage stress– even when the stress starts to take a toll on our physical health or personal or work relationships. Too often, we approach stress as something we need to deal with on our own. Because emotional health is an integral part of Healthy Emory, it is important for members of our community to access the many resources that are available:

- The Faculty/Staff Assistance Program offers all members of the Emory community access to free, confidential counseling services and assistance in obtaining referrals to community providers. For information on services, locations and hours, please visit fsap.emory.edu or call 404-727-4328 (after hours, press 2 for on-call crisis assistance). This July, the FSAP team is offering its Mindfulness 101 webinar.

- The Staff Support Team in the department of Spiritual Health at Emory Healthcare also offers confidential and safe space for staff to help them manage stress and to provide emotional and spiritual support. To contact a member of the Staff Support Team, please call:

  • EUH: 404-712-7200, PIC# 13002
  • EUHM: 404-686-2408, PIC# 11201
  • EUOSH: 404-251-3060, PIC# 12034
  • EWWC: 404-728-6466, PIC# 13236
  • EJCH: 678-474-7195, PIC# 11136
  • ESJH (through Pastoral Care): 678-843-7316

- The Office of Spiritual and Religious Life provides a religious, spiritual, ethical and moral presence in the University community and offers support for people of all faith traditions. Visit the office’s website for a list of quiet spaces, worship and meditation sessions, and staff contact information. To contact a chaplain call 404-727-6225 on the Atlanta campus or email Lyn Pace on the Oxford campus.

- For Emory employees who are on one of our medical plans, Aetna offers telephonic health coaching. Login to the secure member website at www.aetna.com and go to "Health Programs" in the top navigation bar on the home page. Then, click "Enroll in a health program." Or call 1-866-213-0153 to enroll.

- Also for Emory employees who are on one of our medical plans, Aetna offers online "Journeys" programs. Log in to the secure member website, then go to "Health Programs" in the top navigation bar. Click "Health Dashboard" under Health & Wellness. In the Online Health Programs box, click on "Launch My Programs." Then click on "Embark on a Journey" and choose a program.

- Traumatic Stress: Recovering from disasters and other tragedies

- How to talk to children about difficult news and tragedies

References:

Understanding Chronic Stress, American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-chronic-stress.aspx

National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH): http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

Turning Up the Heat: Inflammation as a Mechanism Linking Chronic Stress, Depression, and Heart Disease; G.E. Miller and E. Blackwell; Cur Dir in Psych. Science (2006); 15(6): 269-272.