Managing Workplace Stress

By John Lacey

Stress in the workplace happens every day to just about everyone. It might result from a project with a tight deadline. It could come from a colleague with an irritating manner. It might travel with you from a sleepless night. Whatever the cause, stress has a big impact in the workplace.

So what is one to do? To answer that question, interviews were conducted with employees in high-stress jobs at each UT campus and institute to find out how they cope with and manage stress and to share their stories as a resource for helping others.

The Emergency Responder

Donnie RossDonnie Ross
Police Lieutenant, UT Knoxville

“While working an event, one of the patrons experienced a heart attack. Changing from a security mindset to a life-saving one, a group of us responded to the unconscious patron.

“Our CPR training took over, and we did everything step-by-step. I remember the stressors I felt—like rapid heart rate, fast breathing and an adrenaline kick.

“We managed to get the patron to a stretcher and applied the defibrillator, which delivered a shock like I’d never seen before. We continued CPR until we got him to an ambulance, but he later died at the hospital.

“I remember the family member thanking us for our effort, even though she was in the middle of this experience. I had this helpless feeling for her and wished I could do more. The situation was difficult for us. We got together and talked about it afterwards, which I think helped some of us deal with the stress of responding to the emergency.”

The Public and Media Liaison

Doug EdlundDoug Edlund
Assistant Director for Operations, Office of Marketing and Communications, UT Institute of Agriculture

“I was in an interim director role, and the institute was gearing up for a big research initiative. We had an open house for the public and media scheduled to visit the research site. Then, suddenly and tragically, our department director and my supervisor passed away.

“I had a staff in shock and an event to handle where I really didn’t know if the public’s reception would be hostile or welcoming. Then, a few days later, we received a massive open records request, which is when someone requests to see public documents, including emails. And I’d never overseen one before.

“I was thrust into situations where I didn’t have a lot of experience, and we were dealing with some misinformation and needed to stay ahead of the noise. I didn’t want to let anyone down.

“I would go home at night mentally exhausted and in some physical pain, like back aches. But when I would go home, I would try to draw that line and say, okay, now I’m home, and I’m not going to worry about it. I tried to leave the stress at the office and just focus on my family when I was home.”

The Political Strategist

Carey WhitworthCarey Whitworth
Associate Director for Advocacy, Office of Government Relations and Advocacy, UT System Administration

“During this past legislative session, our office worked through countless issues largely driven by a student event, Sex Week. After almost three months of working on the issue, it reached a boiling point.

“We knew we needed to call our grassroots network to action to let legislators know how UT’s advocacy base felt, but we weren’t entirely sure it would be enough to turn the tables in our favor.

“In the end, we had an overwhelmingly positive and effective response—and no legislation that impacted UT passed. However, the anticipation of the outcome—and unpredictability of it all—was enormously stressful.

“I make it a point to break down situations into elements that can be tackled piece-by-piece. Overall, it makes almost every project, speech, meeting or whatever the situation may be, more manageable. It’s a trick my father taught me.”


John LaceyJohn Lacey  Contact
UT System Administration

John is a UT graduate and currently works in the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing as a project manager. When he is not enjoying time with his wife and two children, you can find him riding his bike or dreaming up big ideas.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Addressing Obesity and Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices

By Erica Jenkins

While one out of every three Tennesseans is obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s important to realize that the core problem isn’t obesity—it’s the combination of multiple unhealthy lifestyle choices.

To help Tennesseans understand how to overcome health-related challenges, UT Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences division has put together a research-based program, “Pathweighs to Health.” The six-week program provides information and a support network to help jumpstart lifestyle change.

Below are four tips to help you get started. They were developed by Donna Calhoun, a Family and Consumer Sciences agent who administered the program in Polk County in February 2014.

TIP 1: IT’S HARD FOR A REASON

With fast-food restaurants beating out local grocery stores in convenience and sometimes price, it can be hard to make the choice to eat at home or plan a week’s worth of affordable meals. Also, food manufacturers spend lots of money ensuring their products help you reach the “bliss point,” which is when the right combination of sugar, salt and fat in a food chemically produce the greatest amount of pleasure. Starting a healthy lifestyle is about realizing that it can be hard to make healthy choices, and there are natural reasons why it’s easy to make unhealthy ones.

TIP 2: START BY BREAKING IT DOWN

Before you throw out everything with a carb in it, take a step back for a few weeks and look at your eating and exercise habits. Making small, sustainable changes can be more beneficial than radical ones, like cutting out all carbs. Use apps like MyFitnessPal or a food diary to track the types of food and exercise you have on a weekly basis. Then, commit to modifying your habits in small ways—maybe popcorn instead of chips for a snack, or parking on the far end of the lot. Remember, it’s your life, and being healthy should become something you take pride in because you’re investing in a better future.

TIP 3: CREATE A SUPPORT NETWORK

Changing your lifestyle is hard, especially when your family may be used to eating out. Partnering with your spouse, a friend or group of co-workers to encourage each other to make healthy choices will increase your chances of success.

TIP 4: YOUR ACTIONS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Your lifestyle choices have a direct impact on your loved ones, especially your spouse and children. While children whose parents are obese are more likely to struggle with weight from an early age, children who learn healthy food choices and are exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables are more likely to carry those habits into adulthood. Choosing a healthy lifestyle at any age will increase your longevity and positively influence those around you.

Contact your local UT Extension office to find out when Pathweighs to Health will be offered near you and learn more about healthy lifestyle choices by visiting extension.tennessee.edu.


Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Why I Only Have One Coke Per Week

By Sue Denning

Why I Only Have One Coke a Week:
Because I feel a lot better when I drink water or unsweet tea.

My Motivation:
I became more aware of studies about sugar and sweeteners and realized I just didn’t feel very good after drinking soda.

My Wellness Goal:
I try to watch what I eat, walk, chose lean proteins that give me energy, keep an eye on sodium and balance indulgences with healthier options.


Sue Denning  Contact
UT Foundation
Alumni Assistant

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Why I Go Metal Dectecting

By Chris Armstrong

Why I Go Metal Detecting:
Because it’s a way to connect with the past, and it lets me get out in the woods, feel the sun and breath the fresh air. It’s a mental break, and I can just relax and have fun.

My Motivation:
I’ve been into history all my life and enjoy reading something, finding the spot where the story took place and then holding a piece of that history in my hand.

My Wellness Goal:
To have balance and spend time relaxing and rejuvenating.


Chris Armstrong Contact
UT Space Institute
Safety Coordinator

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Coached by the Best

By Erica Jenkins

If you’re looking for a way to fit exercise into your day without going to the gym, try these coach-approved exercises.

Step-Up + Backward Lunge

By Leslie Gillies, Assistant Head Coach of the UT Martin Women’s Soccer Team

  1. Step with right foot onto box, pressing the right heel down while pushing off with the left leg and bringing it next to your right foot.
    Leslie standing upright with right foot planted on step
  2. Pause then step your left leg down in a slow, controlled manner 6-12 inches from the box. Let your right foot follow once the left has safely made contact with the ground.
    Leslie stands upright on step
  3. Step the foot back, landing on the ball of the foot. As this occurs, bend both knees and drop your hips straight down.
    Leslie standing upright with right foot planted on step
  4. When your front thigh is parallel with the floor, extend your knees and hips to stand back up to the start position. The leg you step up with is the same leg you step back with on the backward lunge.
    Leslie lunges in squat position with left foot forward and her right knee bend downward

Variations:

Novice: Novice individuals should use a box that is significantly lower (i.e. ankle or shin height)

Active: Individuals who are very active in strength training may select a box that is no higher than knee height and add dumbbells held at one’s side.

No box: If no box is available, using the bottom step of a stair would also work.

High Plank w/ Variations

By Chris Gillies, UT Martin Strength and Conditioning Coach

Performing the high plank and its different variations can offer excellent options for those who are looking to improve their fitness level. A high plank is simply the “up” position of a push-up and can be performed on time (i.e. 30 seconds) or by number of repetitions (i.e. 10 touches per side).

Proper Positioning

Chris Gillies with both hands on floor balancing on toes

    • Hand Position – Hands are placed under one’s shoulders while being shoulder width apart. Fingers point forward and elbows are fully extended.
    • Foot Position – Feet should be no wider than hip width with weight pressed forward on the tip toes.
    • Flat Back – One’s head should be in front of their hands, forcing the chest to be located between the hands. Force the abdominals and lower back to tighten by squeezing the buttocks together while drawing in the belly button to the spine.

Variations:

      1. Add an alternating toe tap
        Chris Gillies plants both hands on floor stretching right leg
      2. Alternate moving the knees to the chest
        Chris Gillies in crouching position with one knee forward
      3. Incorporate an alternating shoulder tap (touch the right shoulder with the left hand, return to the high plank, followed by touching the left shoulder with the right hand, repeat)
        Chris Gillies positioning one hand on his chest, one hand on floor

Common mistakes include the hips rising up due to the weight shifting back and the head no longer in front of the hands, and the hips sinking to the ground because of not drawing in the belly button and tightening the buttocks. As one begins to tire, these mistakes can become more evident.

Benefits of the Exercise: Many times individuals feel they must go the gym and use weights and machines to get a proper workout. This could not be further from the truth. One’s own body weight can provide great challenges.

What the Exercise Targets: Holding this position challenges the chest, shoulders, abdominals, and back.


Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

6 Apps to Kickstart Your Healthy Lifestyle

By Erica Jenkins, PR Associate, Office of Communications and Marketing, UT System Administration

Maximize your smartphone’s capacity by using the six apps below to help jumpstart your healthy lifestyle or take it to the next level.

 

MyFitnessPalMy Fitness Pal app icon
This free app will help you track calories and set intake goals to reach your goal weight with its extensive database of recipes and restaurant items. Invite friends to join the app, and they can connect and encourage you to stay motivated.

 

SWorkItSWorkit app icon
If you’re on the go and still want a great workout, this free app is for you. Set your time and desired intensity or focus area, and this app will instantly create a strength or cardio workout that you can do anywhere.

 

Yoga StudioYoga Studio app icon
Increase your flexibility, strength and focus with this yoga app. For $2.99, you can have a customized yoga class wherever you go. From 15-minute flexibility sessions to quick stretches and hour-long strength training, this app has it all.

 

iTriageiTriage app icon
Not feeling well? Don’t panic or ignore your symptoms. Use this free app, designed by physicians, to check your symptoms and take recommended actions. You also can use the app to create a safe place to store insurance, records and allergies and to manage medications or conditions.

 

MindBody CONNECTMind Body Connect app icon
Save yourself hours of Google searches, and use this app to find classes and wellness activities in your area. From massage to yoga and spin classes, this free app will direct you to the resources you need to find a community of people that enjoy similar activities.

 

LumosityLuminosity app icon
There are plenty of apps to keep your body strong and limber, but Lumosity is the free app that works your mind. Next time you reach to play a game on your phone, try the games on this app instead that are designed to increase your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.


Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Fill Your Cup with Facts: Coffee Talk

By John Lacey

When you look at the facts, it’s pretty clear that Americans love coffee.

[Infographic] About 83% of American adults drink coffee, about 63% drink  at least 1 cup per day

According to a 2013 National Coffee Association market research study, about 83 percent of American adults drink coffee, and 63 percent drink at least one cup of coffee per day.

There’s no question that coffee is a big business, but what do the facts say about how all this consumption affects our body?

Here’s the brewdown from Chelsi Wolz, a nutrition research associate and registered dietician working in the Healthy Eating and Activity Laboratory at UT Knoxville.

[infographic] B2, B3, B5 vitaminsQ: What are the benefits of coffee?

A: Coffee is a low-calorie drink with three essential B vitamins and high amounts of antioxidant components.

 

Recent Research Findings

  • Caffeinated coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of depression among women and men.
  • Men who consume 6 or more cups of coffee a day may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Coffee is associated with a lower risk of depression and stroke among women and men.
  • Caffeine consumption may have a positive effect on long-term memory.

Q: What are the drawbacks to coffee?

A: Most people add milk, half-and-half or sugar to their coffee or drink specialty drinks, thus increasing the calories. One cup of black coffee is roughly 10 calories, a tall skinny latte from Starbucks is 100 calories and a tall white chocolate mocha latte from Starbucks is 350 calories.

[Infographic] One cup of black coffee is about 10 calories. Sweetened drinks containing milk and sugar can increase caloric intake by ten times

It’s easy to overconsume calories when they’re hidden.

Coffee can lead to caffeine addiction, and trying to cut back can cause headaches and other side effects. And coffee is acidic, so someone with heartburn or acid reflux might experience stomachaches or increased symptoms.


John LaceyJohn Lacey  Contact
UT System Administration

John is a UT graduate and currently works in the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing as a project manager. When he is not enjoying time with his wife and two children, you can find him riding his bike or dreaming up big ideas.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Why I Play Paddleball

By Scott Gordy

Why I Play Paddleball:
Because I have a blast doing it! We’ve got a group of 10 to 12 people who play at lunch two or three times a week. If the weather’s nice, we play outside, and if not, we use the campus rec center.

My Motivation:
Physical activity helps me clear my mind, refocus and boost my metabolism. Going out there puts a fresh perspective on things and sometimes even helps me solve problems—a change of scenery can be good for that.

My Wellness Goal:
I try to keep my weight in check and focus on cardiovascular health.


Scott Gordy  Contact
UT Institute for Public Service
IT Manager

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

What to Say (and Do) When You Don’t Have the Right Words

By Erica Jenkins

Advice on handling grief and loss in the workplace from UT Knoxville faculty members Laura Wheat and Laura Miller

Someone Experiencing Loss

Set Communication Expectations
Let your supervisor and co-workers know your preferences about discussing your loss.

Ask for What You Need
Someone who hasn’t experienced your type of loss may not understand the adjustments your loss requires. Talk honestly about your needs.

Give Yourself Space
Grief doesn’t happen in linear stages. It occurs in roller coaster cycles that vary in intensity over time. If you need to step away for a minute to process feelings of grief, give yourself that latitude.

Don’t Avoid Your Grief
When we process grief, we can overindulge in coping mechanisms including food and substances to avoid the intensity of those feelings. While painful, it’s in your best interest long-term to experience and process your grief.

Supervisors

Acknowledge the Loss
Let employees know that you understand they are experiencing a life-changing loss. This can be a powerful way to open the door for additional conversations.

Take Initiative
Ask how you and the office can support them and talk about what accommodations, if needed, are possible within UT policy.

Check In
Grief is a process, and it’s important to check in with employees occasionally to understand where they are and if their needs have changed.

Follow the Leader
Your employees may view work as a safe place to escape from grief. Have a conversation where you ask about their preferences.

Keep Your Door Open
Depending on the type of loss, the grief may take a long time to work through. Make it clear that your door is open for conversations if employees need to discuss situations with you.

Offer Flexibility Within UT Policies
Loss may require employees to work out new routines. If you can, be flexible if employees need to leave early or come in late.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Don’t wait until employees have accumulated fireable offenses to address performance issues. Monitor behaviors, and if patterns emerge, open conversations so that there are opportunities to discuss issues.

Address Performance Empathetically
Don’t start performance conversations with grieving employees with evaluation statements such as, “I’ve noticed that performance is noticeably suffering.” Start with open-ended questions and give employees opportunities to address issues first.

Co-Workers

Recognize That Loss Comes in All Forms
It’s not unusual for people to associate loss with a death. However, loss can come in many forms, such as divorce, loss of a pet and a child going to college. Each form of loss can result in grief.

Acknowledge the Loss
It’s important to be supportive by recognizing when something significant happens.

Open the Door for Conversations
If you’re comfortable with your co-workers, let them know that you’re a safe place to talk.

Offer Distractions
There will come a time when it may be nice for people in grief to get away from the office. Don’t be afraid to invite them to lunch or give them something else to focus on.

Pay Attention
If you notice changes in your co-workers’ behavior, don’t be shy about asking if there’s anything you can do to help.

This is Part 4 of 4 from our first series of stories about grief and loss. Read parts 1, 2, and 3.


Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Don’t Misunderstand: Interpreting Grief Behaviors

By Erica Jenkins

Most employees can function at work when grieving, but there will likely be behavior changes supervisors and co-workers may notice. Paying attention to these behaviors and understanding that they are related to the grief experience is the first step to being supportive during the grief process.

For supervisors responsible for employee performance, monitoring employee behavior during grief is especially important, as it allows the supervisor a way to be accommodating but also provides an empathetic avenue to address performance issues related to grief if the behavior persists.

It must be noted, that in order to correctly evaluate employee behavior, a supervisor must know the employee’s work habits and characteristics prior to the loss.

Dr. Laura Wheat, a clinical assistant professor in UT Knoxville’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences explained the following common grief behaviors employees may exhibit and the reasons behind them.

1. Extreme, Yet In-Character Behavior

When grieving, we turn to our natural coping mechanisms because they make us feel better. Naturally shy and withdrawn co-workers may isolate themselves more. More outgoing co-workers may spend a lot of time joking around at the water cooler or finding reasons to have a meeting because that interaction is comforting and provides a distraction.

2. Reduced Productivity or Preoccupation

Employees in grief may appear preoccupied or have reduced productivity because they are processing the loss and trying to make sense out of it, especially with a death loss.

3. Arriving Late or Leaving Early

Depending on the type of loss, an employee may arrive late or need to leave early. A loss can create a change in the family routine that may take time for the employee to adjust.

4. Calling in Sick

You may observe a co-worker in grief getting sick and taking more sick days. While some may think the employee is faking illness to get out of work because they’re sad, grief takes a lot of energy and actually lowers the immune system’s ability to fight off infection

This is Part 3 of 4 from our first series of stories about grief and loss. Read parts 1, 2, and 4.


Erica Jenkins HeadshotErica Jenkins  Contact
UT System Administration

Erica joined the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing in 2011 and currently serves as public relations associate, specializing in measurement and analytics and managing communication planning for government relations and advocacy initiatives. When she’s not involved in community and campus organizations, Erica enjoys deep sea fishing with her family and working on music. 

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.