Managing Stressful Situations

It takes courage to travel to a new country and culture, leaving family, colleagues and friends at home and starting a new life. Doing so shows your passion and dedication to your work. It can be very exciting for you, your partner, your children to be in this new place. However, while you are here things can happen that are unexpected and out of your control. You may become overwhelmed with stress, you or someone close to you may get sick or injured. A tragic event may happen during your time here, or in your home country while you’re away. When something unfortunate happens, being away from loved ones can make it hard to cope.

It is normal to feel worried, nervous, or very tired when you feel stress or after there has been a shocking or sad event. It is important to stay in contact with others. Call, text or email your family and friends at home. Be sure that your network at MIT includes a friend and/or colleague you trust to talk to when you are outside of the laboratory or office. Disruptions in your everyday routine – including changes in your sleeping and eating patterns, are normal after experiencing a sudden, unexpected, or tragic event. It is important to try keep a regular schedule as much as possible, but know that you are not alone if you find it difficult to carry on with your everyday routine after experiencing something traumatic. Before you travel outside the U.S. to see family or for other reasons, please discuss your plans with an advisor in the ISchO.

Common Reactions to Traumatic Events

We want you to feel supported in your time at MIT, and there are resources available to help you stay mentally and emotionally healthy. You have the choice to talk about how you are feeling confidentially (without telling anyone you live or work with). Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it is a healthy thing to do.

MyLife Services is available to MIT employees, postdoctoral associates and postdoctoral fellows, and their family members. This is a free, confidential MIT benefit. One call puts you in touch with a network of experts who can provide counseling, work-life consultations, and referrals. This benefit includes a wide range of services, including grief counseling, crisis intervention, short-term emotional and mental health services. For more information, read the overview and enter the MyLife Services website, or call 844-405-5433 (TTY 866-892-7162), 24 hours a day. Among other services, you may have up to four consultations with a counselor, per family member, per issue or concern, with no out-of-pocket cost. (If you to continue seeing a mental health professional for this concern, you may use your health insurance coverage and copayments may be required.)

MIT Human Resources provides additional mental health resources for employees and their family members.

Visitors (visiting professors, visiting scholars, visiting scientists, etc.) enrolled in the MIT Student Health Insurance Plan (MIT SHIP), which is available to certain MIT-affiliated individuals and their family members as well as students, can contact Mental Health Services at MIT Health at 617-253-2916, to ask for assistance in locating a participating counselor in the insurance network.

You may want to seek comfort and guidance from a chaplain of your religious faith in the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life.

You may want to tell your supervisor you need time to help your spouse or family, or to take time for yourself to deal with personal matters. If you are not sure how to talk about these or any other things with your supervisor, or someone else, the MIT Ombuds Office can help you decide what to say and how to say it.

MIT Community Wellness has many programs and resources, such as MIT Spouses and Partners Connect, which can help your partner or spouse feel connected to others in the MIT community. It is very important to your work to know that your family is having a good experience in the US. Community Wellness also offers classes and workshops for exercise, stress reduction and relaxation, resources for new parents, and others.

The MIT HR Center for Worklife and Wellbeing has programs and resources you may find helpful for yourself and your family.

If you have a concern, problem or question about something happening in your workplace, office or laboratory, you can contact the Human Resources Administrator in your Department, Laboratory or Center Headquarters. Or, you can contact your Human Resources Officer in MIT Central HR for assistance. If you want to discuss a problematic situation, but not with someone in your department, you can speak with someone, confidentially, in the Ombuds Office.

You can contact an advisor in the International Scholars Office. We will listen to you. And, if you want, we will help you to find the best person at MIT to understand and assist you.

Perhaps you do not feel overly worried or anxious, but you feel stress during your work day and need to calm yourself. You can call 3-CALM (3-2256) from any campus phone or 617-253-2256 from your cell phone or an outside phone and you will hear a guided relaxation for several minutes.

If you are worried about someone else at MIT or your spouse or partner who seems upset, depressed or is experiencing problems, listen to what they have say without trying to offer a solution. Even if they do not feel comfortable talking, simply expressing your concern can help to let them know you care. However, if they are open to your suggestions, you can encourage the person to contact MyLife Services, or any of the other resources listed above.

Discrimination and harassment are not tolerated at MIT. If you feel that you have experienced one or both of these, due to your national origin, gender, or any other reason, please reach out to the Bias Response Team in the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response Office and/or consult their Question and Answer page.

Last Updated: February 2024