With pandemic conditions challenging even the most resilient of individuals over the past year, Stony Brook University has focused more than ever on helping protect the safety and well-being of everyone on campus. Here are three resources/opportunities employees may want to consider as we all continue to face our own unique challenges and find our own best ways to cope and manage through these uncertain times: Healthier U, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and a special Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course offering this spring, starting in March.
Elevating Your Mind, Body and Spirit
In existence for the past decade or so, Healthier U has expanded its services to pandemic proportions with programs ranging from virtual meditation sessions, to a Resilience at The Brook room where fatigued healthcare workers can recharge, to Wellness Wednesdays, various well-being challenges and more.
“From the start, the whole idea of the program was to bring the same kind of quality services we provide for students’ well-being to our employees,” says Healthier U Director Cathrine Duffy. “This past year, we turned things up a notch, particularly when it came to supporting employees emotionally during the most difficult conditions most of us have ever experienced, whether at work, at home or both.”
Healthier U focuses on the total well-being of employees — mind, body and spirit — and is available for employees all across the University, on the academic and medical campuses and the hospitals.
“We take an integrated approach and we have so many great collaborations, as well as a wealth of wellness expertise right here on campus,” says Duffy. “Overall, we’re looking to foster a sense of belonging and connection, where employees know and can feel that the University really cares about them,”
EAP Spells Compassionate Support
“The COVID pandemic has clearly exacerbated whatever mental health conditions existed before for people,” says Colleen Stanley, lead coordinator for the Employee Assistance Program, “along with presenting whole new challenges for individuals, particularly for healthcare workers who have been working on the front lines for more than a year now with limited breaks or opportunities to rest and revive.”
The lead coordinator’s role is to connect employees to resources that can help them cope with everything from grieving, to anxiety, to trouble they may be having with childcare issues or paying their bills.
“They may reach out and call me about one thing, but once they get talking, we often uncover other underlying issues,” says Stanley. “I can help them find solutions they may not have even known existed, and it feels really good to be able to help any way I can through these challenging times.”
Stanley also considers really being there for people a key part of her role: “While I am not providing therapy, I use my therapeutic skills every day. I make sure to always be present, listen, validate their experience, then talk about what resources can help,” she says.
Ease Your Mind, Help Your Body
Stony Brook University EAP is collaborating with The Center for Mindful Living to offer the internationally renowned, eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course to employees, faculty and students.
Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to help decrease anxiety, depression and blood pressure; increase your cognitive function; improve your immune system; and help you deal with pain. Research also shows that practicing mindfulness has helped physicians and other healthcare providers better cope with stress and led to decreased rates of burnout.
“Training in mindfulness helps cultivate our own innate ability to pay attention and meet challenging experiences in more skillful ways,” says Gabrielle Chiaramonte, PhD, a clinical psychologist and SBU alumnus who’s leading the course. She says it can help “enhance resilience and improve our ability to cope with whatever we’ve been faced with, which is a lot with constant COVID-related fears and realities.”