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myHR: November 26, 2019

Have a Healthy Relationship with the Holidays

Man in winter hat and coat in thoughtful pose

“Deck the Halls,” a popular holiday carol, says this is the season to be jolly. However, for some people, this time of the year produces stress and anxiety over creating a picture-perfect holiday feast, finding the right gifts for family and friends, and dealing with a host of family dynamics before dinner is even served.

You can have a healthy relationship with the holidays and create a magical time with treasured memories for loved ones. Learn how by attending the Healthy Coping Methods for Holiday Celebrations and Stress workshop on December 11, from 11 am-12 pm, in the Ben Franklin Room, Houston Hall.

According to a Caron Treatment Center survey, 70% of adults say the holidays are their favorite time of the year. Yet, 30% say that compared to other times of the year, the holiday season triggers behavioral health challenges such as feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation. The high expectations we often put on ourselves and others to create unforgettable moments, and the pressures to cope with the social demands of the season can sometimes lead to harmful behaviors such as eating more unhealthy foods and increasing alcohol use.

In the Healthy Coping Methods for Holiday Celebrations and Stress workshop, instructors from the Caron Treatment Center will:

  • Talk about ways to prepare for the breadth of emotions often associated with this season.
  • Provide effective means of coping with stress.
  • Offer practical self-care options to use in place of harmful coping methods such as increases in alcohol and drug use.

Having a low-stress and healthy holiday season also means dispelling the myth that everything has to be perfect. The Caron Treatment Center, known as a Center of Excellence for substance abuse treatment, offers these tips:

  • Be realistic about your time commitments and make time to decompress. Trying to do too much will only add to your stress. Scale back your to-do list and focus on what is truly important. Also, make it a priority to take a break occasionally and unwind. Take a walk, meditate, read a book, or engage in some other activity that helps to recharge your battery.
  • Set boundaries. Boundaries don’t have to be harsh. They can simply mean not overbooking yourself, being clear about what you are able to bring to an event, or setting a manageable guest list. Boundaries protect you emotionally and physically, so you can stay resilient and enjoy time with your family and friends while prioritizing your self-care.
  • Reach out to those around you. If you notice somebody struggling or trying to isolate themselves, it’s okay to reach out. Invite them for coffee or tea and see how they’re doing. There’s also benefit in inviting people to a family function and allowing them the space to say yes or no.
  • Stick to a healthy schedule. It can be tough to sustain well-being every day in the rush of the holidays. Plan out your week and identify times when you will do certain things such as exercise, sleep, attend support meetings like a 12-step meeting, and even meditate. Be sure to schedule time for what you truly enjoy. Identify the times you anticipate will be stressful and bookend those times with positive activities.
  • Be in the moment. Part of managing the pressures of the holidays is trying to stay in the present and enjoy the emotional experience of what is happening right now. Anxiety and depression can start to creep in when we constantly think about future happenings. 

Register today for the Healthy Coping Methods for Holiday Celebrations and Stress workshop. For more helpful tips on creating a stress-free holiday, visit the Caron Treatment center blog.

If you are struggling and need assistance, you can also contact Penn’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP provides eligible faculty and staff, and their families, access to free, confidential, 24/7 counseling and referral services for personal and professional life issues from any location. Call Health Advocate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-866-799-2329, email or visit the EAP website.

Steven Grant’s Formula for Career Movement

Steven Grant by astronomy display

When you walk toward Steven Grant’s office on the 4th floor of David Rittenhouse Laboratory you see lots of equations scrawled across chalkboards and whiteboards. Faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy often sit outside Grant’s office debating how to use specific computations. It seems only fitting that Grant would find himself working in this environment because from the moment he started at Penn, he’s had his own formula for career success. 

“I was always trying to find those skills that I could bring to the table and enhance my profile. Plus, I was pretty aggressive about networking and using my connections to get advice and get my name out there,” Grant says.

“I’ve also never been afraid of being honest with my supervisors about my intentions to move my career forward. Within the first two weeks of one of my positions, I talked with my supervisor about my vision for the job, my career goals, and what I wanted to do next,” he says.

Grant started working at Penn in 2015 as a temporary customer service representative in Wharton Printing. He worked six and a half months as a temp before getting full-time employment in the print shop in 2016.

Today, Grant is an administrative coordinator in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts of Sciences (SAS). In this position Grant supports 15 to 20 faculty members in two research interest groups within the department: Astronomy and Cosmology, and High Energy Physics. Among his duties are arranging travel for faculty and guests, processing travel reimbursements, planning and organizing workshops, and managing the appointment process for visiting scholars.

“When Steven started he immediately took control of his responsibilities,” says Millicent Minnick, Department Administrator, Physics and Astronomy, and Grant’s supervisor.

“He constantly shows interest in learning and growing in the department, as well as the University, while continuing to pave the way for his future goals,” she says.

Before Grant came to Penn he worked as a consultant for a non-profit organization in Boston. When his partner, Ryan Tsapatsaris, was accepted to a graduate program at Penn, the two moved to Philadelphia, and Grant decided to apply to the University. He figured temping might be an entry point to the University. 

“I wanted to work at Penn because a lot of my family works in higher education and my mom and step-dad spent their whole careers at Yale, so Penn seemed like a space that I would be familiar with,” says Grant, who earned an American Studies degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Grant says part of his success at Penn stems from his willingness to take on assignments beyond the scope of his core responsibilities. While working at Wharton Printing, Grant seized an opportunity to work closely with a vendor to help design and implement the print shop’s online ordering system. That experience allowed him to learn technologies he ended up using in other positions.

“I sought opportunities to take on more responsibilities no matter what position I was in because I saw that as the most effective strategy to get promoted internally or find another position,” Grant explains.

After Grant left Wharton Printing in 2017, he secured a position as an administrative assistant at the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) in SAS. He provided office administration for two LPS suites, but “once I got a handle on the basic stuff, I was very vocal about wanting to do more,” he says.

At the time LPS needed some help processing travel reimbursements for prospective students, so they recruited Grant since he was always interested in learning new skills.  

“Steven’s eagerness to learn and take on new challenges made it extremely rewarding to encourage his success,” says former supervisor Carol Chason, who is now Business Systems Analyst, Office of the Provost.

“The dedication and professionalism Steven displayed day after day on the job opened doors for him.” Chason says.

Grant worked in LPS for two years before moving to his current role. He says he’s comfortable staying put for a while but he continues to search for additional assignments to build his skillset. In fact, he’s currently experimenting with various technology tools to streamline processes to better support international postdocs and visitors when they arrive on campus.

“To move your career forward at Penn you have to have a strategy for selling yourself, but also be very open about where that could lead you,” Grant says.

“Being at Wharton now doesn’t mean you have to be at Wharton forever. Being in SAS now doesn’t mean you can’t work in the School of Dentistry. Be cognizant of the skills you have and think about those skills in a broad way so you don’t select yourself out of a position.”

Fostering Confidence and Respect

woman raising hand to speak at meeting

One of the best things about working at Penn is the range of backgrounds and points of view people bring to their jobs. This variety of perspectives--essential to innovation and a welcoming culture--sometimes leads to unresolved conflicts that block cooperation, productivity, and engagement. Assertiveness can help you move beyond these impasses.

You can learn to develop this  at the December 4 Assertiveness Skills workshop from 12:30-1:30 pm in the Perelman School of Medicine Biomedical Research Building, Room 1412 located at 421 Curie Boulevard.

When faced with disagreements, your choices play a big role in fostering confidence and respect in your team. Think about the last time you disagreed with a coworker or you simply wanted to express yourself. Was your approach aggressive, passive, assertive or a mix of these? Being aware of your typical style helps you make more successful choices that lead to solutions.

Carla Thomas, Senior Training and Development Consultant, Learning and Education, gives a clear definition of each style.

“Assertive people state their opinions, while still being respectful of others. Aggressive people attack or ignore others' opinions in favor of their own. Passive people don't state their opinions at all.”

Clearly, based on Thomas’ definition, the assertive approach works best in most situations. Assertiveness balances your confidence and self-respect with your respect for others. Thomas recommends these practices to help you stay assertive and avoid disregarding yourself or those around you.

  • Listen actively. Try to understand the other person’s point of view and don’t interrupt when they are explaining it to you.
  • Agree to disagree. Remember that having a different point of view doesn’t mean you are right and the other person is wrong.
  • Body language is key. Pay attention to your body language as well as your verbal communication.
  • Use “I”. Speaking in the first person as opposed to using aggressive language such as “you always” or “you never” allows you to make more intentional statements about your perspective.
  • Make the decision to positively assert yourself. Commit to being assertive rather than passive or aggressive and start practicing today.

This class presents key concepts and practices anyone can use to create better, more effective interpersonal relationships at work, at home, or in your community. At this free program, you’ll learn to recognize the assertiveness continuum, demonstrate assertive language and behaviors, and practice confidence in everyday situations.

Register for the Assertiveness Skills workshop online and prepare to create win-win solutions for you and your coworkers.

More professional development opportunity information is available at the Learn & Grow section of

Healthy Meals: Butternut Squash Soup

bowl of Butternut Squash Soup

This warm, savory butternut squash soup is a powerful combination of flavor and nutrients. Simmered with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and spices this fragrant soup delivers vitamins A and C, along with beneficial fiber.

Find the recipe here.

Click here to send us your healthy recipes and tips. 

Did You Know? LUCY Shuttle Is Free for PennCard Holders

Looking for more convenient travel options to keep you warm and dry? The LUCY (Loop through University City) shuttle service, operated by SEPTA, is free to PennCard holders. LUCY runs Monday through Friday, from 6:10 am to 7 pm, between Penn’s campus and 30th Street Station.