Easy Tips to Mitigate Stress at Work

By Bryant Welbourne

May has served as Mental Health Awareness Month across the nation since 1949. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issues in the U.S. with an estimated 40 million Americans enduring negative feelings, although only one-third of those seek treatment because some feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit their struggles.

Earlier this month, faculty and staff in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences had the opportunity to learn emotional freedom techniques, which are forms of psychological acupressure that have been used in Chinese medicine for more than 5,000 years.

In an effort to promote Mental Health Awareness Month across campus, CCHS instructors have several easy tips to help mitigate stress and improve the overall mental health of fellow faculty and staff.

Invest in hobbies

Spending time with a favorite hobby helps maintain well-being.

Robert McKinney, assistant professor of social work in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health, recommends placing an emphasis on non-work-related activities.

“I frequently encourage people to honor the things they do for fun,” said McKinney. “Invest in your hobbies and the things you are passionate about away from the office. And remember that it’s sometimes OK to postpone ‘important’ things while you’re taking time for yourself, because your mind and body need time to relax and recharge.”

Don’t commit to more than you can handle

Aside from normal work duties, many are often asked to take on extra work. And while it’s hard to turn down some opportunities, it’s best not to take on more than you can handle.

“UA is full of wonderful opportunities and people you want to work with,” said Dr. John Burkhardt, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine. “But you’re only one person and there’s only so much you can do. It’s not a bad thing to say no to certain projects because if you took on everything you wanted, you can easily burn yourself out at work and other areas of your life would suffer.”

Talk to coworkers about non-work related topics

Communication is key to the success of any organization, but conversations at work shouldn’t always revolve around projects, assignments or tasks.

“Small talk with your colleagues can serve as a nice break to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed with work,” said Burkhardt.

Talk to health professionals, if needed

Keep in mind that feeling stress and anxiety are not signs of weakness. If you feel like you need to speak with someone, talk to a counselor through UA’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

“We have a really good EAP at the University that serves as a great starting point,” said McKinney. “Someone can also speak with their primary care physician. They are considered the frontline of detection and treatment for mental health issues.”

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.