The symphony of stress: How to improve harmony in your life

May 30, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

Advancements in technology have made life increasingly more interactive, involved and, yes, busy. Smartphones, pagers, emails — on top of work commitments, home commitments and commutes — can lead to large amounts of stress on a daily basis.

In order to promote wellness and to help everyone at Michigan Medicine better carry out world-class patient care, education and research, it is important for individuals to focus on the type of stress that is present in their life.

“Stress itself is not an inherently bad thing,” said C. Emma Walshe, mental health counselor for the U-M Employee Assistance Program. “Good stress is the element of life that engages our bodies and minds to propel forward, such as attaining a goal, successfully meeting a challenge, or navigating the unexpected in a way that leaves us feeling proud, productive and engaged positively.

“However, stress becomes negative when a multitude of demands exceed our energy and when we perceive to have little control over those demands.”

It is at those times that individuals should take a step back and identify the areas of their lives that need adjusting.

“When we have negative stress, think of it like notes in a symphony of unpracticed musicians,” Walshe said. “The soundtrack to our lives can become chaotic, booming and painful. If this is happening to you, it’s important to know that you are not alone.”

Empowering and educating the staff and faculty at Michigan Medicine to fine-tune their life to alleviate negative stress is one of the primary goals of the Employee Assistance Program.

A key component of the EAP’s current work is a mission to embed the concept of wellness throughout the organization through “Foundations of Self Care” workshops, conferences and unit interventions.

On top of those resources, there are some small steps you can take to help you perform better at your job, keep up your energy level throughout the day and maintain healthy personal relationships:

  • Increase your sleep by 15 to 20 minutes a night
  • Practice breathing deeply as you walk the hallways or move between patient areas
  • Make sure you drink water and eat regularly throughout the day
  • Call for an appointment to come and speak to a counselor at EAP. It is a safe, confidential space to simply be able to express yourself freely and start to identify the areas of life and stress that you can have impact on.

“These changes can begin immediately,” Walshe said. “Take a moment to breathe deeply. Wiggle your toes. Realize you don’t have to fix it all right now, that areas in your life can be tweaked and that there are resources available at Michigan Medicine to help you do just that.

“That’s how you can create greater harmony in your life.”

For more information, call the Employee Assistance Program at 734-763-5409 or email  Additional resources are also available through the MHealthy Thrive! Stress Management Program as well as your U-M health plan.