What to do when stress comes via the 'F' word
July 26, 2013
Editor's note: The following article contains information on some of the causes of stress as well as how it might be managed. Neither the public affairs oce nor the author are certified or licensed medical professionals. However, persons cited do have training in those areas and can be contacted for more information on stress.
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - As employees of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense, it is natural to feel threatened, insecure, and stressed whenever the media uses the "F" word: furlough.
Everyone experiences stress in life. Some people handle it better than others, and some do not know how to handle it at all. The purpose of this article is to provide insight as to some of the options available to you as a federal employee, many of them immediately available on the installation.
One of the biggest concerns of the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Secretary of the Army is military and civilian employee suicides. In the first four months of 2013, 109 suicides were recorded in the U.S. Army alone. More Soldiers took their own lives than died in combat during 2012. According to the DoD, in 2012, 176 soldiers were killed in action -- all while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, yet 177 active-duty Soldiers committed suicide, a figure that had spiked since previous years.
In 2011, 165 Soldiers took their own lives compared to 156 in 2010.
The Army's suicide rate climbed by nine percent since it launched its suicide-prevention campaign in 2009.
WHAT IS STRESS?
"Stress is the body's total reaction (physical and emotional) to an adverse, internal or external, stimulus," according to Dr. James Bilello, the installation's Occupational Health Clinic Director.
"An adverse stimulus tends to disturb the body's desire to remain at a healthy status quo," Bilello added.
"The body reacts to the adverse stimulus but those compensating reactions may be inadequate or become inappropriate if a particular stress remains with an individual too long."
The clinic director outlined a number of stress factors.
"There are many reasons for stress in the workplace: the person sitting next to you nervously tapping his pencil all the time; the demanding yet seemingly unappreciative boss; an ever-increasing workload; a co-worker not performing his/her share; a new dishcult task with no training provided.
"Probably the best way of handling work stress is by decreasing stress in your personal life and by being as healthy as possible," Bilello said.
When stress at work interferes with your ability to perform in your job, manage your personal life, or adversely impacts your health, it's time to take action.
Start by paying attention to your physical and emotional health. When your own needs are taken care of, you're stronger and more resilient to stress. The better you feel, the better equipped you'll be to manage work stress without becoming overwhelmed.
DAMAGE FROM STRESS
Mary Cerria of the Atlantic Health System held a presentation June 5 entitled "Surviving and thriving During Stressful Times" in the installation's Lindner Conference Center. The lecture was free to employees as part of the U.S. Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center's (ARDEC) Wellness and Fitness Program.
Some of the long-term physiological symptoms of stress that Cerria described result in heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems, depression, obesity, memory impairment, and the worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema.
Taking care of yourself does not require a total lifestyle overhaul. Even small things can lift your mood, increase your energy, and make you feel like you're back in the driver's seat. Take things one step at a time, and as you make more positive lifestyle choices, you'll soon notice a reduction in your stress levels, both at home and at work.
Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever--even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing. Aerobic exercise--activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat--is an incredibly effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body.
For maximum stress relief, try to get at least 30 minutes of heart-pounding activity on most days. If it is easier to ,fit into your schedule, break up the activity into two or three shorter segments.
Make food choices that keep you going. Low blood sugar can make you feel anxious and irritable, while eating too much can make you lethargic. Healthy eating can help you get through stressful work days.
By eating small but frequent meals, you can help your body maintain an even level of blood sugar, keep your energy up, stay focused, and avoid mood swings.
Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid nicotine. Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off. Drinking to relieve job stress may also eventually lead to alcohol abuse and dependence.
Similarly, smoking when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant -- leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.
Get enough sleep. Not only can stress and worry can cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you're well-rested, it is much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress. Try to improve the quality of your sleep by keeping a sleep schedule and aiming for eight hours a night.
Cerria, no stranger to stress herself as a mother of one-year-old triplets, said that "one night of sleep deprivation is as impairing in simulated driving tests as a legally intoxicating blood alcohol level."
It is human nature to want to get assignments done quickly when assigned and sometimes we do not allow time for ourselves.
"'No is the smallest word in the dictionary but most often the most difficult to say," Cerria said. "It is ok to say 'no, I'll get back to you,' or 'I'll tackle this project tomorrow.'"
While Picatinny may be your assigned place of duty or employment, it can also be a place to relax. ere are opportunities to explore exercise, relaxation, groups, clubs, trips, and more.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rosalba Dumont- Carrion teaches a Zumba class at the Picatinny Forge (Gym).
"I love Zumba because it's not only a weight loss technique but it helps people feel better about themselves," said Dumont-Carrion. "It's about doing something for you and your body."
Dumont-Carrion, also frequents the installation's Army Community Services (ACS) Center where there are new fitness vibration machines that literally shakes you into shape.
"I use this machine as often as I can for 10 minutes a day. It builds a stronger core, reduces stress and gives me 10 minutes for me," Dumont-Carrion said.
The ACS Center also houses a resiliency room with two leather massage chairs.
Clarence Lacy, the Relocation Readiness Program Manager and Military Family Life Counselor, said that on any given month the resiliency room averages approximately 50 visitors for 30-minute relaxation/massage sessions. You can either walk-in or make an appointment if you wish to schedule decompression time.
The center also features video game consoles such as XBox and Nintendo Wii which offer sport and dance packages as well as Zumba.
The Arsenal's Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation also offers a variety of leisure activities such as golf, weight training, sports and recreational teams, swimming, and much more. Many of these opportunities are just a phone call away, but you need to take the first step and seek out an activity.
WHERE TO TURN FOR HELP
Christopher Moore, the installation's Substance Abuse Program Manager and Employee Assistance Coordinator says that he is here to help.
"An employee can come see us for an initial screening without anyone knowing. Everything is confidential. Their supervisors do not have to know," Moore said.
"We have contracts with various therapists and we oer them three free sessions. These are all done off post with licensed professionals," Moore said.
Moore said that not enough employees take advantage of this program and often times let things escalate to the point where something may happen that they regret.
"Use these tools to your benefi,t," Moore said. "Picatinny is a family. We're here to help."