ross report cover photo (2)

Q&A: Michigan Ross Faculty and Staff Share Their Thoughts on Stress Management and Awareness

Every day, staff and faculty at Michigan Ross do great work while also balancing their personal lives and responsibilities. As April is Stress Awareness Month, we asked some of our faculty and staff to share advice on how to manage stress at home and at work and support the mental health of those around them.


profile pic1 justine shelton

Justine Shelton, program manager, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

What are some things you do to manage stress at work and at home?
In order to manage stress at work, I build out time in my schedule for focus time. During this time, I am able to not only get priority tasks completed but also reorganize upcoming projects, deadlines, and responsibilities. I also find different ways to get up and walk around, such as planning a meeting over coffee instead of meeting at my desk.

What are some things we can do to support the mental health and stress of the people around us?
It is important that we all remain aware of the mental health disparities that exist among each and every one of us, based on culture, background, identity, etc., and we have to be open-minded and make meaningful connections with one another. We must acknowledge that we are not alone and that we can support one another in maintaining good mental health and wellness through shared affirmation and healthy coping mechanisms. In addition, we can share our stories, engage in conversations, seek out resources for ourselves and others, and, if we are in a position to provide better access opportunities for other individuals, we should do so willingly.

What actions can we as individuals take to overcome the mental health stigma that exists in society today?
It can be difficult for individuals to erase the stigmas that exist around mental health being a bad thing or something that only certain individuals endure. In acknowledging that mental health is a normal process that everyone has to learn to manage and cope with, we can begin to unlearn and re-evaluate the mental health stigmas that exist in society today. We can support one another and combat the negative perception of mental health through an equity-centered lens that helps create a sense of belonging and psychological safety for individuals to share their stories and not be afraid to seek help.


img 1399 s sriram 3

S. Sriram, associate dean for graduate programs, Dwight F. Benton Professor of Marketing

What are some things you do to manage stress at work and at home?
I used to practice meditation very regularly for a long time. Although I have not been consistent lately, I still try to do it when I can. I exercise regularly. That helps. Also, over the years, I have learned a few lessons, which I try to incorporate whenever I face moments of anxiety:

  1. We tend to place too much emphasis on the sanctity of the outcomes that we want to happen; remember, the alternative might not be that bad after all.
  2. If we want something really badly, it is time to step back.
  3. Most problems are fixable; they may just take time and/or effort. 
  4. Only worry about things we can control.  
  5. Focus on effort rather than on outcomes.

What are some things we can do to support the mental health and stress of the people around us?
Empathy — recognizing that we are all facing our own issues can help when dealing with others. Recognizing that we may be working towards the same goal, but have different approaches can help resolve conflicts. Small gestures like saying hello and engaging in brief chit-chats with colleagues can go a long way. 

What actions can we as individuals take to overcome the mental health stigma that exists in society today?
It is all about education. The more we talk about it openly, it will become easier for everyone to accept mental health as an issue, both for themselves and for others.


skm headshot 2020 sarah mckinnon

Sarah Kurtz McKinnon, senior associate director of engaged learning and innovation, Center for Positive Organizations

What are some things you do to manage stress at work and at home?
I work at the Center for Positive Organizations, so I am immersed in the science of thriving every day. One of the most powerful tools I have learned at CPO is gratitude. Scholars have proven that gratitude practices have psychological and social benefits. According to Emmons (2007), gratitude practices lead to things like increased optimism, increased forgiveness, and fewer feelings of loneliness and isolation — powerful antidotes to stress. I use gratitude daily to combat stress in my personal life. For example, I oftentimes find myself up at night with a crying baby. To soothe her, I often walk around my house and verbally give thanks for different things: Thank you, dishwasher, for washing our dishes! Thank you, rain boots, for keeping us dry! Thank you, furnace, for keeping us cozy! This practice calms both of us down and gives me enduring resources to keep up my strength when future stressors come my way — as Fredrickson describes in her Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions (2004).

What are some things we can do to support the mental health and stress of the people around us?
We can create routines that support the mental health of ourselves and others. For example, modeling gratitude and incorporating gratitude practices into our regular work meetings is a powerful way to counter stress. Oftentimes our meetings can be all task-related: We focus on problems and how to solve them. However, it only takes a few moments to add a short reflection on what is going well or what we appreciate about each other to the start of a team meeting agenda. We do this at the Center for Positive Organizations, and we see its effectiveness in our team. When we start meetings with a positive emotion like gratitude, we will do better work and gain the strength to continue to do so into the future.

What actions can we as individuals take to overcome the mental health stigma that exists in society today?
A concept we discuss a lot in positive organizational scholarship is psychological safety in teams. In 1999, Harvard Professor Amy Edmonson coined the term, which she describes as “felt permission for candor.” In other words, it is an environment where group members feel safe to take risks and be their authentic selves without fear of negative consequences. As leaders and as individuals, we have an opportunity to explore this concept and make sure all of the organizations we lead or participate in are as psychologically safe as possible so people can show up as their authentic selves, contribute as their best selves, and ask for help when they need it — whether that is professionally or personally.


venky

Venky Nagar, KPMG Professor of Accounting

How do you define stress and anxiety?
By all accounts, animals like wildebeest do not appear to stress about future lion attacks. They go on alert when danger arrives and relax when that danger departs. But humans, primates, elephants, etc., are different. We can imagine all sorts of dangers that haven’t arrived but suddenly could and fall into a constant and exhausting state of alertness for dangers, both real and imagined.

What are some things you do to manage stress at work and at home?
Exercise is key. Teaching students and spending time with friends and family are also amazing antidotes because one stops thinking about oneself and concentrates on the well-being of others.

What actions can we as individuals take to overcome the mental health stigma that exists in society today?
People have to understand that evolution has no higher purpose other than propelling itself. The brain is just an organ like anything else. The problem is that if you believe someone is hostile toward you, your brain is programmed to instantly take actions to protect you, not scientifically ponder the workings of the other person’s brain. This is why we favor our in-group people and detest other out-group people. All human misery can be traced to this one feature of our psyche.

Similar Posts