Robins agencies help people deal with stress Published Nov. 16, 2007 By Holly Birchfield 78 ABW/PA Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Stress happens every day. But, mental health professionals at Robins said it's how people manage stress that makes the difference between controlling it or letting it control them. Lynn Irvine, a therapist in the Employee Assistance Program since 2001, said stress is manageable. "Prioritize your time," she said. "By this, I mean make two lists: a list of things you have to do and a list of things you want to do, and then interchange the lists. As you mark them off, do one thing you want to do and one thing you have to do, so you're having fun while you have to do things." People's expectations, procrastination, and finances can create stress, Ms. Irvine said. "I think that people need to understand that how their family behaves during the year is not going to change during the holidays," she said. "Hallmark gives us a real false impression that family and the holidays are going to be a real wonderful time with everyone gathered around the table and that's not necessarily true." Ms. Irvine said people should rely on their social network to help carry them through stressful times. DOD civilians can also turn to EAP for support. EAP counselors help people work through emotional and mental issues in a one-on-one, confidential setting year-round. The 78th Medical Group's Mental Health Clinic offers similar help to active-duty Airmen. Capt. Steven Schmidt, Mental Health Clinic officer in charge, said the clinic offers stress management classes through the Health and Wellness Center to help people avoid stress overload. Captain Schmidt said stress isn't all bad. "At moderate levels of stress, we know that people are more productive and they get more done than if somebody has no stress," he said. "But, if you go too high, we may still be motivated, but we're distracted. We don't concentrate as well and we're not as productive. So, there's a balanced point in the middle." Whether good or bad, Captain Schmidt said stress is not going away. "The first part is recognizing that we can't change it," he said. "The majority of the time, when we get people coming in asking for help to manage their stress, they think we're going to help them get rid of their stressors and generally, we have no control over their stressors. So, if they're having problems at work or they have to work extra hours (or) they just had a relationship end, there's nothing we can do for them about that." Captain Schmidt said people should change what they can and change their thinking about things they can't. Breathing and relaxation techniques along with rethinking their approach to a stressor are some of the things Airmen learn at the clinic. The Base Chapel also provides military and civilian Airmen spiritual tools to manage stress. Chaplain (Maj.) Glenn Page, senior protestant chaplain at Robins, said chaplains are always available. "The biggest item that we offer is presence, whether that be on Sundays or any other time of proper religious services," he said. "It can also be when we offer religious studies to help people feel encouraged and connected to other believers." Chaplain Page said chaplains also visit Airmen in their work areas. The chapel offers Airmen free, short-term counseling with confidentiality guaranteed beyond the grave. Chaplain Page said base chaplains' connection to spiritual leaders in the community further helps Airmen. Airmen are often referred to downtown spiritual resources for long-term counseling. As the holiday season nears, Chaplain Page said people need to be mindful of their stress management resources. "It's a key item to be mindful about as the holidays approach, but organizationally, stress is year-around," he said. "We're all human and stress comes to all of us in different forms. I would encourage folks to make it their goal to live a balanced life as much as possible." That includes nurturing one's spiritual well-being, Chaplain Page said. "There are a lot of ways we can try to take care of ourselves and take care of our family," he said. "Obviously with stress, one of the things you'll hear (repeatedly) is making time for exercise and family, but you also need to make time for your faith and learn to cultivate that side of our lives as well."