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Balancing your life: Staff development course helps ease stress levels

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October 20, 2005

Source: University of Toronto:

Balancing your life: Staff development course helps ease stress levels

Oct 20/05
by Michah Rynor (about) (email)

Those people eating, gabbing and knitting aren’t just making pretty sweaters; they’re decreasing their stress levels as part of this year’s Achieving Work/Life Balance initiative sponsored by the office of the vice-president (human resources and equity) and the achieving work/life balance committee.

The month-long program which began October 17 is meant to help those who are feeling the pressure of what Rosie Parnass, director of organizational and staff development, calls "the treadmill that we’re all on."

Stress at home doesn’t end just because you’ve packed your briefcase for the day and you’re headed for the office she says, nor do the tensions of the office end as we head for home.

"The reality is we are whole people and we don’t drop our troubles as we come through our office doors and then pick them up again when we go home and vice-versa," she says.

The university is always looking for creative initiatives that will foster a healthy workplace as well as a healthy home life, Parnass says, and her team once again is offering a lively selection of lectures and events to improve the overall quality of the lives of faculty and staff. Their programs include talks on reducing daily stress, how to buy your dream home, financial planning, nutrition for children, the impact of separation and divorce on kids, the agony and ecstasy of raising teens, elder care for aging parents, child care that works, free admission to the Athletic Centre and Hart House -- even a knitting club where you can just kick back.

"The promise of modern technology to make our lives easier didn’t pan out," Parnass says. "Instead, we’ve got e-mails, faxes, BlackBerries and voice mail. All of this technology just increases our stress levels because these new communication tools demand instant responses, as opposed to the days when we had just our snail daily mail and phone calls to attend to. Then there are family stresses; we have to care for elderly parents who are living longer, we have different family situations now because of increased divorces and there is the erosion of the extended nuclear family which used to help us with our daily responsibilities."

As well, numerous studies show that stress, especially in western society, is often a major impediment to workplace productivity and institutional loyalty. Parnass says this kind of program is a signal that the university administration takes the problems of its employees seriously.

"These events will hopefully kick-start what I hope will be a way of living that will continue throughout the year," Parnass adds.

To find out what’s scheduled to help you decrease stress, visit the program’s website at



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