The University Record, March 29, 1999

Stressed out? Check out HRD course offerings

By Theresa M. Maddix

STRESS . . .Just the word causes stomachs to knot up and heads to start aching. Yet, stress is a shared challenge for all University employees, from research analysts to outpatient clerks to administrative assistants.

On March 18, a group of University staff members came together to search for new ways to approach the challenge in Human Resources Development (HRD)'s Stress Management Workshop.

HRD associate Jane Pettit began the morning workshop by acting out a "stressful" but eerily identifiable workday morning--from the first alarm "brrinng" . . . to the search for parking . . . to finally arriving at work. Together the group identified stressors and the workshop proceeded to address methods of coping.

Pettit, with more than 10 years experience at HRD, did not offer blanket solutions but instead talked about how individuals could detect what stresses them on a personal level. This included determining manageable amounts of stress. "Stress is like a violin string," Pettit shared from an anonymous source, "You need enough tension to play, but not so much it snaps."

The actual how-to of fine tuning life's stress proved to be a complex process, however. Instead of walking away with an easy formula for a stress-free existence, those attending were asked to look for one thing to take away from the workshop that would help them deal with stress.

Reflecting afterwards, Research Analyst Larry Lautenbach said he walked away with the idea that "it is OK to say no, it all depends on how you say it; and it is also OK to take some time to think about a response to a stressful situation."

In a similar vein, Phyllis St. Louis, outpatient clerk at the Brighton Health Center, said she now intends to "walk away and take a quick breather" when feeling stressed.

Many participants just appreciated the opportunity to talk with others on campus experiencing similar stressful situations. Still others left hoping for a part II. Fortunately, there are many HRD workshop opportunities to deal with managing particular stressful situations: Assertiveness Skills, Advanced Customer Service Skills, Leading through Change and Transition, Gender Communication, Daytimer: 4 Dimensional Time Management. These courses are listed weekly in the Record calendar and on the Web at www.umich.edu/~hraa/hrd. They are open to University employees for a nominal charge.

One anonymous attendee aptly summed up the Stress Management workshop's message saying, "I appreciate the fact that you are not alone in dealing with stress in life . . . there is good and bad stress and how you react to stress is very important in making it manageable."