Employees finding help for anxiety in myStrength app

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Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to uab.edu/uabunited for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

rep mystrength battery 550pxDownload the myStrength app hereAnxiety is quite possibly the leading emotion of 2020, and UAB employees are no exception. "There are a lot of clients struggling with anxiety related to the pandemic — for many, the uncertainty of what’s to come creates a feeling of overwhelmingness that can be difficult to handle," said Tami Long, Ph.D., director of the UAB Employee Assistance and Counseling Center (EACC).

Many individuals can improve their ability to cope with anxiety by learning and practicing skills to relieve tension, find calm, create positive thoughts and manage stress, Long says. The EACC has partnered with myStrength by Livongo Health, a company that has developed a large number of digital behavioral health solutions that help people do just that. UAB employees and members of their immediate households have free access to these tools through the myStrength app, available for Apple and Android and on any web browser. You do not have to be an existing EACC client to take advantage of this resource. Download the app here.

As of the end of September, more than 700 UAB employees and family members have downloaded the myStrength app, Long said.

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Quick, confidential help

"What's great about myStrength is that all of its e-learning videos are less than seven minutes each," Long said. "When you log in, participants have an opportunity to rate their emotional health, stress levels and make a note about how they are feeling." The app then takes users to recommended focus areas based on their initial assessment, "but a person is always free to choose what he or she would like to work on," Long said. Participants can set goals to form new habits, for instance, or use the app to create a sleep plan to track outcomes and more.

"The app is completely confidential and does not share personal information with our program or counselors," Long said.

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‘I highly recommend it’

Amy Bickell, director of creative services in the Office of University Relations, says myStrength has helped her family cope with the anxiety and stress of the pandemic. "Some days for me, it’s anxiety-related and some days it may be depression- or stress-related," Bickell said. Her favorite myStrength tools include a calming exercise that uses a visual animation of a shape expanding and contracting to help sync and slow breathing, and videos that help you “close your eyes and visualize yourself in a comfortable place to help you relax," she said. Her daughter also has used the myStrength app to help with sleep, Bickell says. “She had some anxiety issues at the beginning of COVID pandemic, about not knowing the future or being able to see friends, so her mind would race at night," Bickell said. "She would listen to the app and that would relax her and help her fall asleep."

The fact that myStrength is available 24 hours a day is a major benefit, Bickell says. "For me, it’s a tool that I’m glad to know I have whenever I need it," she said. "I highly recommend it."

Counseling appointments at EACC

myStrength is a helpful tool, but not a replacement for counseling, Long said. To access EACC services, employees or immediate household members can visit the HIPAA-secure intake forms at uab.edu/humanresources/home/eacc-new-client-paperwork and complete the appropriate application for individual, family, or couples counseling, life coaching or financial wellness.

Once employees or household members complete and submit the forms, Long said, "our program coordinator will call the individual back within 24 to 48 hours to schedule a phone intake/triage session."