'Refresh from Stress' encourages 30 days of inspiring activities

By Maria Fernandez | Emory Report | Oct. 24, 2016

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The Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP), in partnership with Healthy Emory, is leading "Refresh from Stress: 30-Day Inspiration," a novel approach to help members of the Emory community reframe the way they manage stress.

When leaves start falling, people’s spirits often do, as well. Between the fewer hours of daylight and financial or emotional pressures associated with the holidays, fall can herald a time when our attention to self-care goes out the window. The Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP), in partnership with Healthy Emory, is leading "Refresh from Stress: 30-Day Inspiration," a novel approach to help members of the Emory community reframe the way they manage stress.

The inspiration for the 30-Day Inspiration came from listening to feedback from Emory staff, faculty and students.

“We often hear employees share their frustrations about hustle and bustle of the holiday season,” says Robin Huskey, manager of education and outreach for FSAP. “They get caught up in trying to meet expectations and don’t stop to focus on self-care or the joy and meaning of the season — what really matters. Our goal was to create a way for the Emory community to slow down and focus on being present and savoring life’s moments.”

Paula Gomes, executive director of FSAP, concurs. “We wanted to offer the Refresh from Stress: 30-Day Inspiration as an opportunity to increase awareness of the simple, daily tips and activities that can counteract life’s stressors," she explains.

Don’t worry about being perfect, just practice

The Refresh from Stress: 30-Day Inspiration is designed to help participants develop valuable stress management skills that can have a lasting impact. The program integrates proven concepts in self-care practice, including mindfulness, social connectivity, expressing gratitude and more.

Throughout the month of November, participants will follow a downloadable, daily activity calendar with activities to complete that will help them increase their emotional resilience, such as:

  • Sleeping at least seven hours
  • Practicing mindfulness in a variety of settings
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Unplugging from technology
  • Interacting positively with others

Many of the activities focus on being present and fully experiencing the moment, a critical step in a society where people are often pressured to move quickly from one thing to another. This slowing down of body and mind allows participants to tune in to cues from their body and focus their mind.

“By learning to calm your body and mind, you feel better and are more refreshed and ready to face life’s challenges,” says Huskey. “In addition, there is growing research that shows the benefits of incorporating meditation into your daily routine. These benefits include lower blood pressure, and increased immunity, resilience and ability to manage your emotions in healthy ways.”

While each day has a distinct activity for participants to try and accomplish, participants are encouraged to not get too focused on completing every single activity on the designated day. After all, this is an opportunity to become refreshed from stress, not to add to it. Depending on what is realistic for people’s schedules, participants may need to swap activities from one day to another, skip a day or double up on one day.

“The point is, this is a chance to focus on your self-care and not to increase your stress,” reassures Gomes. “If you don’t get to try the tip on the designated day, that’s fine. There’s always tomorrow. This is really an opportunity for you to try something new and remember that even small steps can make a tremendous difference in your self-care planning.”

The reward for feeling good

While the ultimate goal is to feel stronger and healthier, behavioral science shows that providing rewards, even small ones, can positively reinforce individuals as they adopt new habits and behaviors.

Participants who register by Friday, Oct. 28, will receive a “Refresh Bag” that contains a journal and other goodies to help people track activities and stay motivated (while supplies last). Participants will receive a weekly email during the 30-Day Inspiration with a list of the week’s activities and their descriptions.

Prize drawings will be held for those who reach specific milestones during the program:

  • On Wednesday, Nov. 16, participants will be asked to confirm which activities they completed Nov. 1 – 15. Those who complete at least 13 of the 15 recommended activities during the first two weeks will be eligible for a prize drawing for a $25 gift card to Whole Foods.
  • On Thursday, Dec. 1, participants will receive another request to confirm the activities completed from Nov. 16 – 30. Participants who complete at least 26 of the 30 activities between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30 will be eligible for a prize drawing to receive a one-hour massage at Spa Sydell.
  • Those who complete all 30 activities will be eligible for a grand prize drawing that will be announced in December. The grand prize winner will have a choice between a Kindle Fire HD 10 tablet or four tickets to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights exhibit and $100 toward dinner at Linton’s Restaurant (located at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens).

The 30-Day Inspiration is clearly meeting a need in the Emory community. Within the first week registration was open, more than 2,000 people had registered for the program — an impressive turnout for a newly launched initiative at a time with so many competing priorities. The desire for emotional health comes as no surprise to Michael Staufacker, director of health management and one of the operational leaders for Healthy Emory.

“People sometimes forget that the mind is part of the body; they cannot be separated,” says Staufacker. “Stress management, physical activity and nutrition are the three primary focus areas for Healthy Emory. Each of these areas is vitally important to our daily health and well-being.”