Take Action Now to Reduce End-of-the-Year Stress

Ready or not, November is already well underway. When you think about the remainder of 2021, how do you feel? If thoughts of work deadlines, family get-togethers, or planning for the holidays and new year ahead have you feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are practices and resources we can utilize to help us center ourselves and approach this time of year with a healthier mindset.

Consider Your Sphere of Influence

We all know allowing worry to grow uninhibited can lead to a number of negative consequences, be it with our health, work performance, or relationships. So, why do we allow our minds to spend so much time in a state of worry? In a previous blog post, Jennie Yelvington, Director of MSU Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs, discussed how worry can seem very active — spending time in that mindset can feel like you are working on something productive — but in reality, you are burning through energy that could be better spent.

When you notice yourself worrying about what might happen, stop and ask yourself, “What can I do about it now?” One way to visualize this is the Sphere of Influence.

Graphic representing one's sphere of influence. Three circles are centered on top of each other. The smallest circle in the middle represents "control," the next biggest circle represents "possible influence but no control," and the largest circle represents "no control."

Within the Sphere, there are three areas:

  • No Control. If there is absolutely nothing you can do to change or influence a situation, you can only assess whether you can learn from it, then let it go and refocus on something else. This would apply to things like the weather, supply chain issues this season, or flight cancelations. To reduce feelings of worry and improve your well-being, spend minimal time and energy regarding any matters that fall within this area of the Sphere.
  • Possible Influence but No Control. If there is a step you can take that may influence an outcome, person, or situation, determine what action you can take to maximize that influence, follow through, and then let it go. Resist the temptation to convince yourself that worrying about it means it is within your control.
  • Control. If the issue you are wrestling with is completely within your control, then you have control over your decisions, attitude, and behavior. What action can you take that you’ve been putting off? What self-care practice can you initiate to support your well-being? When you practice shifting your focus and attention to what is within your control rather than allowing what is out of your control to consume your time and thoughts, feelings of helplessness and overwhelm decrease significantly.

Make Yourself a Priority

When asked why we don’t make our well-being a higher priority, the most common answer is: not enough time. Although we can’t add more hours to the day (No Control area of the Sphere of Influence), we can take actionable steps to better manage our time and carve out space to improve our overall wellness (Control area of the Sphere).

Here are a few ideas to help you focus your energy on areas you can control when it comes to your well-being this time of year.

  • Schedule downtime. Block downtime off on your Outlook calendar like you would for a meeting or other work engagement.
  • Be selective. Most of us have an extraordinary number of demands on our time lately. This time of year often brings on even more. Before you commit to anything additional, give yourself a little time to consider: do I really need to do this right now?
  • Get back to the basics. Consider your current relationship with sleep, physical activity, and eating. What are one or two simple steps you could take to improve your physical health? Even something as small as not having your cellphone next to your bed at night or scheduling short blocks of time on your calendar to stretch at your desk can have a tremendous impact. Ensuring your basic, physical needs are met helps ensure a solid foundation for all aspects of your well-being.

Utilize Your Resources

One major goal within MSU’s new strategic plan is to support the “well-being of staff, faculty and postdoctoral research associates at MSU, focusing on creating a best-in-class workplace culture and environment in which excellence and opportunity thrive.” From one-on-one counseling to self-paced learning opportunities, many resources are available to you as an MSU employee to improve your well-being and take care of yourself this year and beyond. Recommendations to get you started are listed below, along with contact information for specialists at MSU who can provide extra support.

Health4U Programs | Register online for free courses including Chair Yoga, Increasing Your Psychological Flexibility, and Understanding Shame and Building Shame Resilience. Health4U also provides a wealth of online resources regarding emotional wellness, food and nutrition, and health coaching.

The Power of Habit Virtual Course | Next offered via Zoom on February 16, and April 13, 2022. Registration is available in EBS.

elevateU | Free, self-paced resources including short videos, online courses and books around a wide variety of topics. Highlighted topics include:

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) | Free, confidential counseling for all faculty, staff, retirees, graduate student employees, and their families.

WorkLife Office | Find affinity groups, webinars, and personalized support to help you facilitate success in your many roles and guide you in creating synergy between those responsibilities.

Cultivating and Maintaining Good Habits

Written by Andrea Williams, HR Organization and Professional Development

You’ve likely heard more and more talk about the next phase of our personal and professional lives — be it resuming our pre-COVID routines or creating new ones going forward. Although none of us know exactly what the future looks like, now is an excellent time to consider the changes we may have made over the past year that we’d like to carry forward — perhaps prioritizing our health, creating new family traditions, or learning new skills.

As we navigate the next phase of our lives, University of Southern California research psychologist, Wendy Wood, points out, “We’re going to be faced with two sets of habits: pre-pandemic and during the pandemic. And we’ll have to choose which to repeat.”

Don’t leave your habits to chance. Take this opportunity to make deliberate choices about which habits you want to maintain going forward and any new habits you want to form. Here are some tips to help you cultivate and continue the habits that best serve you and others.

Take it one at a time

Focus on one habit or goal at a time to reap the most reward. When you have the foundations for the first goal in place, you can then move to the next one. When you have integrated the second goal into your schedule, you can then work on the third goal and so on. Set yourself up for success and remember that slow progress is better than no progress.

Understand your habit’s function

Our habits typically meet an underlying need, such as the need for comfort, to feel safe, or to feel cared for. Understanding the significance behind our habits can help us better evaluate whether these habits still serve a real need. We can then opt to further cultivate a habit or design a new, healthier one.

Compare likely outcomes

When you’re faced with a moment of choice, ask yourself, “If I perform this habit, how will I feel? Where will it put me?” Pause, envision yourself and the outcomes, and notice how you feel. Then ask yourself, “If I instead choose to perform this other habit, how will I feel? What will it get me?” Pause, envision, and notice. Set an intention for what you’ll do and then follow through.  

Be consistent and kind

Strive for consistency in your habits rather than perfection. Many habits take time to integrate to the point that you no longer need to think about them. Until then, when you deviate from your plan, kindly redirect yourself toward the results you want without punishment or judgment. There is debate over whether there is an actual causation or rather a correlation between repetition and the formation and enforcement of habits, but research shows positivity combined with consistency is key. Reinforce the positive and focus on your progress and victories, no matter how small.

Share the experience

Cultivating and maintaining habits happens faster and easier when they’re shared. Friends, family, and colleagues can provide support in the form of accountability, reinforcement, and celebration. If you don’t have a circle you can count on, reach out to a therapist or an organization that fosters community in a particular area. MSU faculty, staff, and their families have access to resources including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Health4U, and the MSU WorkLife Office that can help.

Don’t get discouraged if your first (or fourth) attempt doesn’t stick. Nobody is perfect in forming and sticking with good habits. Focus not on perfection, but rather on the process of trying things, redesigning your approach as necessary, and trying again.

Sources

Chua, Celestine. 21 Days to Cultivate Life Transforming Habits Retrieved April 2, 2021 from https://personalexcellence.co/blog/21-day-trial/

Fitzgerald, Sunny (2021, April 5). Pandemic habits: How to hang on to the good ones and get rid of the bad. Retrieved April 5, 2021 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/habits-covid-good-bad-how/2021/04/03/5a229796-93c0-11eb-a74e-1f4cf89fd948_story.html Forbes Coaches Council (2020, July 1). 16 Unique Ways to Cultivate Good Habits and Cut the Bad Ones. Retrieved April 2, 2021 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/07/01/16-unique-ways-to-cultivate-good-habits-and-cut-the-bad-ones/?sh=3860e7155606