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Saint Vincent College Faculty Blog

Finding Balance to Decrease Stress

Posted by Michael Urick on Tue, Dec 4, 2018 @ 15:12 PM

As we approach the end of the semester, final exams week and concluding class projects, a lot of students (and likely professors) are feeling a high level of stress, which can be defined as difficulty in coping with some aspect of one’s environment. Such timeliness is one of the reasons that I decided to write about stress and balance in this month’s blog.

I myself am feeling quite a bit of stress. In addition to being buried under a pile of 60 or so final papers that I need to grade quickly before I receive 75 final exams in a week, I also overextended myself with a few research deadlines. I’ve committed to having a draft of my solely authored book due to my publisher as well as having comments to my co-editor of the three-book leadership series I am helping to compile by the end of the year. 

As an organizational behaviorist, I should know better because researchers in my field have studied the impact that stressful work has on various aspects of life (i.e. if you’re interested in learning more about this, check out research on the topic of work-life balance). As noted in the Rule of St. Benedict, work is important. And, as noted in a 2015 blog entitled “Work According to the Rule of St. Benedict” (https://www.virginiatrappists.org/2015/02/work-according-to-the-rule-of-st-benedict/), though work is necessary and a form of prayer, we also must be careful not to overwork.

Girl slumped over desk Stress can be caused by many things, including overworking. Yet, not all stress is negative. Some stress can lead to meeting tight deadlines, solving a difficult problem and overall self-improvement.

However, people tend to focus on those types of stress that are negative because they get in the way of accomplishing positive outcomes. These are the types of stress that need to be managed. Otherwise, continuing to experience negative stress can be detrimental to one’s health and relationships with others.

 There are several ways in which stress can be effectively managed.

  • Change your behavior. People might focus on resolving the stressful problem itself. A very minor stressor I used to have at a prior university that I taught at was that the copy machine in my office would often be broken before my class. I used to always wait until right before class to make copies of handouts and, when the copies weren’t ready for class, I was less effective as an instructor and this stressed me out. Soon, though, I realized that stress was related to my own behavior of waiting to make copies right before class. Now I give myself plenty of time to make copies, often doing so days in advance so that, if our copy machine is broken, I have the ability to wait until it is fixed or find a working copier with plenty of time left before class.
  • Seek balance. Some people also find other methods of coping if changing their behavior doesn’t work. Negative methods could include behaviors like over-eating because of stress. However, more positive coping mechanisms that encourage seeking balance could include relaxing with friends and family (maybe even seeking their advice or empathy related to your stress) or participating in a hobby. Some others change the way that they think about their stress and try to find a more positive way to reflect on their situation.
  • Identify your stressor. In either of the above strategies, those experiencing stress need to be able to identify it. I don’t know about you but sometimes I start experiencing stress and am not always able to adequately express why. However, if I can’t identify the source of stress, I won’t be able to relieve it. Self-reflection, therefore, is important to reveal what specifically is causing stress and even why the stressor has a negative impact.

Regardless of your approach, I hope that you find a positive way to manage your stress.

Has being overworked stressed you out? What have been some causes of stress that you’ve experienced? Was it positive or negative? How did you manage the stress? Email me at michael.urick@stvincent.edu, message me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/urickmj/) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-urick-05b775a3/) or leave me a comment here.

Since I won’t be doing another blog until next month, I want to wish each of you happy holidays, Merry Christmas and a joyful start to the New Year!

Dr. Mike Urick



Topics: Michael Urick, blog, Faculty Blog, Dr. Mike Urick, stress

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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