PESA offers stress coping tips

November 3, 2010
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The members of the UCCS Professional Exempt Staff Association believe it possible to manage stress in the workplace.

Robyn Marschke, director, Institutional Research, and PESA vice president, recently asked PESA members to identify sources of stress at work.

The group agreed the need to perform numerous tasks with limited time and resources is a substantial source of stress. Having to constantly “do more with less” and to take on more tasks is a stressful situation that has become commonplace, many people said.

A few suggested that working in an environment where supervisor expectations change and are not always clear is also a great source of stress.

The Oct. 18 meeting became a brief workshop as Marschke instructed each table of PESA staff to share personal strategies with each other. Suggestions included taking time to deal with stress, keeping a sense of humor, finding outlets for frustration, and maintaining one’s health.

Cindy Corwin, director, Human Resources, said alternative work locations and scheduling are possible and can help reduce stress. She reminded staff that Human Resources is a resource for workplace solutions and offered to meet with individuals who are uncomfortable discussing policies or benefits with their supervisors.

Corwin provided suggestions including taking time away from a stressful situation. A break or a short walk has therapeutic value, she said, and can counter stress. She emphasized the importance of nurturing oneself with comforting, enjoyable activities to balance against the damaging effects of stress.

Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak encouraged staff to take advantage of vacation leave, saying she wanted no one to lose earned vacation time.

“I appreciate the hard work of everyone,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “And while I am deeply appreciative, I want to be sure everyone takes advantage of the benefits provided to them, including vacation leave.”

Other self-nurturing techniques include keeping a positive attitude, regularly socializing with friends, sharing family time, recognizing a need to vent, and having someone to listen to that venting. Weapons to combat stress can include exercise, pets, hobbies and even comfort foods.

“My favorite stress buster is what I call the Gramma test,” Marschke said. “I imagine telling my 99-year-old Gramma about what is stressing me out. Chances are good that she would not care. So why should I? The Gramma test provides a realistic perspective and reminds me not to make mountains out of mole hills.”

Tamara Moore, director, Auxiliary Services Marketing, said thinking about some word origins was personally helpful.

“Emotion,” Moore said, “is e-motion as in energy in motion and it reminds me that feelings and emotions are energy, and I can choose to channel that energy constructively. Disease is dis-ease, the opposite of ease, so I look for what gives me ease.”

“The purpose of PESA’s meeting was to acknowledge workplace stress and share strategies to deal with it,” Marschke said afterward. “Not only did we discuss what causes stress, how to relieve stress, and what PESA can do to improve our work lives, but we enacted several stress relievers during the meeting – most notably laughing, but most importantly, reconnecting with our coworkers as colleagues and friends. Our PESA board believes that building camaraderie strengthens our sense of pride in UCCS and improves the services we provide for students.”

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