Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
November 20, 2009 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
Surviving holiday stress
"There are no thanks for a kindness which has been delayed."
They're coming. It's time to get ready.

I mean, of course, the holidays. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, the whirlwind of activities and events are not only cause for celebration but also a cause for stress. Especially this year as we enter our second holiday season in the recession.

That means that in addition to the normal heightened level of activity that comes from family visits, shopping and travel, many people are financially strapped in a way they've never been before. Both clients and employees are feeling the pinch of this long economic downturn. For clients, many are facing months -- even years -- of unemployment. For employees, furloughs have reduced paychecks, increased workload and stress, and many have spouses or partners who are facing cutbacks or job losses as well.

Also adding to the stress is the H1N1 pandemic -- while we haven't seen the 30-40 percent absenteeism so far, people have been out sick more than normal.

Given all this, we have to make sure we continue to take care of ourselves and our co-workers. Sometimes the small action we take can make a huge difference.

The first and most important thing is if you are sick, whether from the flu or something else, please take care of yourself and stay home. It doesn't do you or anyone around you any good to work through your illness and can only make things worse.

Also, be aware of the signs of stress: anxiousness, irritability, depression, apathy, fatigue, problems concentrating or sleeping, muscle tensions, headaches, stomach problems, or a sudden increase in alcohol use or overeating.

When you feel stressed or overwhelmed -- and we all do at times -- remember that the basics really can help: that's get enough sleep, make sure to eat right, and get some exercise. Too often we stay up too late or get up too early when things get busy, especially when we have extra holiday chores at home. How many of us have been up all hours preparing food for a big family feast or decorating cookies for our kids to take to school? That's okay once in a while but too many late nights with the gingerbread man can leave us feeling tired, unfocused and stressed out.

While at work, take your breaks and lunches during the day to enjoy nutritious food or take a walk around the block. Fresh air can do wonders for our state of mind. Sounds simple, but it works.

And when things are more serious, please take advantage of our employee assistance program. They are standing by to help.

Watch for these signs in yourself and in your co-workers. As we head into this winter and this holiday season it will be important that we take care of ourselves and of each other.


DHS on the web