WALRUS -- Working and Living Resiliently Under Stress

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Have you stumbled upon this site while looking for information about the WALRUS stress reduction program and online in-service course? You're in luck! Keep reading for more information, or email unr.walrus@gmail.com to enroll.

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This is a press release I recently wrote for a stress reduction program I'm running through UNR with education employees in Nevada. Hopefully we'll be able to help some people out in these rough times. Plus, we'll be collecting data that can help others down the road. Here's the release:

Budget stress threatens educator health, new program offers help

Reno, Nevada – March 1, 2010 -- As the current budget crashes down on Nevada education workers, many wonder how this will impact their lives. The weight of this worry can damage not just job performance, but also personal relationships and health. “We now know that stress can cause all sorts of problems. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity – all of these are impacted by stress,” explains psychologist Dr. Steven Hayes of the University of Nevada. “That’s why we are offering a non-profit stress reduction program for education workers. They need help now more than ever.” Hayes and his team of graduate students are known nationally for their efforts to reduce stress in education settings. “There is a lot of pressure put on teachers already. I can’t imagine what it must be like now with the budget problems,” says Tami Jeffcoat, a former language-arts teacher who works with Hayes.

The program Hayes offers is an internet-guided self-help program called Working And Living Resiliently Under Stress (WALRUS for short). “Our goal is to teach emotional intelligence skills that will make a difference, not just in the lives of teachers and staff, but students as well,” explains Hayes. Two years ago Hayes and Jeffcoat tested a similar program with over 200 Washoe County educators, and found some promising results for stress reduction. The study suggests it is even possible that this kind of program can help prevent future problems from developing. “That’s part of what we are exploring with our research. We shouldn’t just wait until problems develop – we need to learn how to help people step off paths that will lead to them.”

Over 100 educators from across the state have enrolled in WALRUS already, and the program is just getting started. “Our self-help approach really helped people in Washoe, and now we’re reaching out to education workers all over Nevada,” explains Hayes. That’s partly why he set WALRUS up as a correspondence course. “People can complete the work from their own homes, which is great for them since they’re busy already.” Hayes notes an added benefit of the distance education format is that it keeps costs down. “It’s only $10 to enroll, and we’ll mail the materials to your house. That should help people who are already feeling financial strain. We’re not out to make money here.”

WALRUS is an example of why Hayes’ research group has been the subject of stories in national media outlets such as Time Magazine and has extensive grant support. “One of our goals is to reach people where they are with methods that can make a difference.” Last year Hayes and his wife, UNR psychologist Jacque Pistorello, received a 5 year $3 million dollar grant to teach coping skills to first time college freshmen in a normal classroom. WALRUS is in part an online in-service course for teachers (participants can earn 1.5 credits for certificate renewal). The hope of both projects is to reach people in their natural environments, including those people who wouldn’t normally ask for help.

Recently, WALRUS expanded to include all education employees. This was in part due to the influence of Douglas Long, a newcomer to Hayes’s team. Long’s mother is a special education administrator, and his brother works as support staff. “My grandmother served lunch in a public school,” adds Long. “When times got tough, her family relied on the school for support. It must be really scary for people to think of losing that with budget cuts. I hope WALRUS will help people like my family.” If you are interested in WALRUS for yourself or someone you know, contact Douglas Long for enrollment information by emailing unr.walrus@gmail.com, or leave a confidential message at 775-682-9665.