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Happiness and the Holidays
December 18, 2007, Volume 54, No. 16

The holiday season can be one of the most joyful times of year, centered as it is around family, fun, food and generosity. However, a variety of factors can turn this time of celebration into an ordeal. Fatigue, stress at home, financial worries and the shorter daylight hours are all possible culprits. If you or someone you know is suffering from the “holiday blues,” please consider taking advantage of the following resources:

Penn’s Employee Assistance Plan (EAP)
There are so many demands on our time over the holidays that it’s not always easy to recognize when someone is struggling—even if that someone is yourself. Try to keep an eye out for warning signs of depression in coworkers, family, friends and in the mirror:

Feelings of pessimism, worthlessness and hopelessness.
Changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or sleeping too much.
Changes in appetite, possibly accompanied by weight loss or gain.
Frequent anxiety or agitation.
Evidence of social withdrawal or substance abuse.

Depression is a serious illness that can get better with treatment—and free, confidential help is available. Penn’s Employee Assistance Plan offers information and counseling on personal and professional life challenges including stress, anxiety, depression and more. EAP services are available 24/7 by phone at 1-888-321-4433 or online at www.pennbehavioralhealth.org. All benefits-eligible Penn staff or faculty members, as well as eligible family members, can use the EAP. For more information about how the EAP can help, please visit www.hr.upenn.edu/quality/wellness/eap.asp.

Take Care of Your Health
With splendid food all around us and swimsuit season nowhere in sight, it’s no wonder that people regard the holidays as a time for indulgence. But while there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, remember that taking good care of your physical health is an important first step to mental and emotional wellbeing. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains can help you feel better, look better and have more energy.

Regular exercise provides many of these same benefits, with the added bonus of letting you work off stress and tension. The Penn Walking Program, open for registration year-round at www.hr.upenn.edu/quality/wellness/walking.asp, provides walkers with a digital pedometer and online tracking tools. Penn’s Department of Recreation (www.upenn.edu/recreation) offers activities and fitness center memberships at excellent rates for faculty and staff and eligible family members. GlobalFit also offers substantially discounted memberships to a number of area fitness clubs—visit www.hr.upenn.edu/quality/wellness/globalfit.asp for details. Finally, beginning next semester, the Division of Human Resources will run “Focus on Fitness,” a series of educational workshops centered on setting and achieving fitness goals. Details will be available on the Human Resources website at www.hr.upenn.edu in January.

Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy with Commitments
Halloween is over, so don’t feel obligated to play superhero. You’ll have plenty of free time over the Special Winter Vacation (December 24, 26, 27, 28 and 31), but there’s really no need to attend every event or social gathering. While legitimate personal and professional obligations do exist, people really will understand if you can’t make it—and if they aren’t losing sleep over it, neither should you.

Keep Your Stress Level Down in the New Year
Sometimes making it through the holidays themselves is the easy part. The post-holiday blues are a common reaction to the emotional rollercoaster of the preceding months, not to mention the very real physical toll of stress and exhaustion. If you’re struggling to get back into the swing of things come the New Year, consider signing up for a course on stress management. Here are two excellent options to think about:

The University of Pennsylvania Health System offers a Program for Stress Management—the next session starts in January. Details and online registration are available at www.pennhealth.com/stress.

The Division of Human Resources is launching a series of stress management courses next semester, covering topics including job stress/burnout prevention, personal and family stress, relationship stress and more. Details including dates and registration information will be available in January on the Human Resources website at www.hr.upenn.edu.


—Division of Human Resources

Almanac - December 18, 2007, Volume 54, No. 16