How do you manage stress in chaos, through change, or during the busy season?
The key could be a cost-benefit analysis.
Often the key to reducing stress is to mitigate stressors by changing the way we feel about them. In many ways, it is a cost-benefit analysis. Is the end result worth the chaos?
For the next eight weeks, I’ll be running my very own stress management in chaos experiment.
The chaos is the result of a construction project happening 20 feet from my office door. My office is located in our home, upstairs next to the master bedroom. Yesterday, an incredible team demolished the master bathroom in preparation for our remodeling project.
In the scheme of all things, eight weeks of noise and people working 20 feet from my office door isn’t a crisis. It is inconvenient. However, I can already tell the distraction factor is going to be large.
However, the inconvenience and interruptions are far outweighed by the excitement about the renovation.
The cost of the distraction from marketing and the work to land and prepare for speaking engagements is worth having a functional and beautiful new bathroom.
This cost-benefit analysis is helpful during change and periods of high stress. For example, in the retail “busy season” long hours and demanding customers are offset by the majority of profit for the year. For people facing surgery, the promise of improved function and quality of life offsets the uncertainty and pain.
It can be hard, in the moment, to remember the end goal. Keeping the focus on the benefits lowers the stress of the experience. Reminders of the importance of the end goal and celebrating the progress towards the goal are great ways to reduce stress.
- In the case of surgery, writing a letter to yourself with the reasons to have the procedure can be a great reminder on the difficult days.
- During the busy season, marking off the days and celebrating small victories (such as hitting daily/weekly sales goals) keeps the focus on productivity rather than the daily struggle.
- Viewing our construction as an adventure rather than an ordeal is important. Sure, there are cabinet bases in my office and plumbing fixtures in the hallway, but they are beautiful. It will be fun to see everything come together over the next weeks.
How do you work in chaos? What do you do to keep the focus on the benefits of the end goal?
Thanks to the great people at Paul Davis for their friendly, clean, and professional work.
How many emails does it take to get one donation?
The pace of change in online marketing, advocacy, and fundraising is taxing. Non-profits and associations are finding it harder and harder to have their messages heard.
According to a new study from M+R Benchmarks it takes 2000 emails to land one donation. For every 1000 emails, non-profits receive $36.
Does that mean you should stop sending emails?
Probably not. Email is still an essential part of reaching members and donors, but lists must be nurtured and email efforts must be combined with other digital marketing efforts. Here are some key insights from the report:
- 26% of online revenue came through email solicitation even while open rates fell.
- Larger email lists are important, as is the number of emails sent.
- Traffic to website grew in 2016. A user-friendly website is essential.
- Social media audiences grew, including a 101% growth in Instagram.
- Investing in digital ad spending is up and may be the key to conversion
Read the full report and use M+R Benchmarks cool tool to benchmark your digital marketing efforts here: http://mrbenchmarks.com/
What Is Missing In Your Employee Wellness Program?
Recently Eliz keynoted the Biz Times Wellness Summit and facilitated roundtable discussions about “What’s Missing In Your Wellness Program” with HR professionals, CEOs, and wellness providers. These discussions resulted in insights on challenges facing employers and best practices beneficial to anyone managing an employee wellness program.
Employer Challenge: Overcome Stigma To Supply Mental Health Resources
One of the themes of the Summit was mental health and addiction. This theme carried through to the roundtable discussion as we addressed how to overcome stigma to supply mental health resources. Two insights in this area include:
- Managers need a way to start supportive conversations about mental health and addiction. Managers are often provided with training and even scripts to have supervisory conversations about attendance, performance, and discipline. Most, however, receive no training in starting a conversation about mental health. The stigma of mental health is often a barrier to discovering when employees would benefit from assistance. Develop scripts and training to start supportive conversations about mental health and addiction is essential.
- Employee Assistance Programs must be highly visible. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) often seem like a well-kept secret. Employees need regular reminders of the benefits available to them. Whether it is a visit to a lawyer or the opportunity to talk with a mental health professional, these services need to be communicated regularly. Having a physical presence of the EAP is important. Providing education programs on mental health, addiction, and other EAP services is essential to visibility as well.
Employer Challenge: Low participation or engagement in wellness programs
Many of the companies attending the summit struggle with engaging more than 30 to 40 percent of their employees in their wellness programs. Three insights from the roundtables include:
- Wellness programs must be led from the top down. Eliz shared in the keynote stories of wellness programs defeated by inconsistent communication from leadership. For example, a “leave work at work” theme encouraging employees not to answer emails between 7 pm and 7 am is easily defeated by a boss emailing at 11 pm. Also, leaders have to share personal experiences to place importance on wellness efforts.
- Wellness programs must be flexible enough to serve different locations, job categories, fitness levels, and environments.
Managing a wellness program to serve employees in multiple states or vastly different job workspace is challenging. For example, the needs of warehouse employees are different than the needs of business office employees. Using an evaluation tool, such as Eliz’s stress study, to discover needs across the organization is essential to providing programs to serve different populations.
- Wellness programs must be assessed regularly. Surveys are often the best tool to examine the success of wellness programs. Best practices involved allowing employees to sample wellness offering and then choose programs to fit their needs and goals. Incentives to encourage participation were also suggested as a best practice. One organization rewarded participation in programs throughout the year with a playing card. At the end of the year, the employee with the best poker hand won a prize.
Employer Challenge: Negative work environment is overshadowing wellness efforts.
As Eliz’s keynote demonstrated, often the largest source of stress is the work environment. Offering yoga at lunch or access to cooking classes can’t address this problem. Best practices from the group for addressing negative work environments include:
- Employers must shift communication, interaction, and even location to address negative environments.
- Using an improvisation game such as “Yes and…” can be useful to shift negative attitudes at the beginning of a meeting. If everyone speaks and is encouraged to be collaborative before any work discussion begins, people are more likely to contribute to the conversation, and the outcome is more likely to be positive.
- Changing the way interaction happen can also have a positive effect. Having a meeting while standing can speed up communication, avoid one person monopolizing the discussion, and keep the group on topic. Having a conversation while walking side-by-side can add emotional cover during more uncomfortable situations as eye contact is diminished.
- Shifting locations changes interactions as well. Holding meetings outside of the regular workspace can reset communication patterns.
- Employers must recognize employees with rewards of real value.
Employee recognition efforts only work if the employ values the reward. A trinket might hold value for one employee and be an annoyance to another. Some suggestions of “real value” included extra vacation days, early release Fridays, and late start days. One organization uses a program which encourages employees to nominate team members who are then rewarded with things which benefit the entire team. For example, an outstanding employee can earn a catered lunch for the whole team.
Employer Challenge: Change in the workplace is overshadowing wellness efforts.
Undergoing change often creates stress in a work environment. Addressing the change head-on is often essential before progress on wellness initiatives can be made. Insights from the roundtables include:
- Employers must clearly communicate the end goal of the change consistently and often. Without the end goal, the frustration of change, especially technology changes, can overwhelm employees. One announcement will not be enough, regular reminders of the reason for the change will keep the focus on the big picture rather than the daily frustration. During times of change employees often fragment their focus onto small details and lose sight of the goal. Conversations about “why we do what we do” on personal and organizational levels reset the focus as well.
- Employers must allow employees to grieve what is lost. Loss of comfort in familiar routines, technology, or people often results in anger. Adjusting to something new naturally requires letting go of what is known. Acknowledging and allowing time to process this loss speeds adoption and lowers stress.
- Employers must celebrate incremental progress towards goals. Any large change consists of smaller steps. By celebrating short-term milestones, the change seems more achievable and success more possible. These celebrations also offer a reprieve from constant stress.
Employer Challenge: Starting or reenergizing a wellness program:
Many of the attendees came from smaller organizations searching for ways to integrate a wellness program. Best practices included:
- Employers must assess the unique needs of their organization. Wellness programs should be tailored to address the causes of job stress in the organization. Using a tool such as Eliz’s job stress study or internal surveys allow employers to create opportunities for impact.
- Small employers should take advantage of grant opportunities. The State of Wisconsin offers grants for companies with 50 or fewer employees to start wellness programs. Contact your local American Heart Association for assistance in finding your state’s opportunites.
- Download AHA’s resources:
The Biz Times Wellness Summit Roundtables were a wealth of wisdom and lively conversation. For more information on Eliz Greene’s Employee Wellness programs and Job Stress Research visit www.ElizGreene.com/Wellness/
Stress Recovery: What Type Of Relaxer Are You?
Recently my husband and I spent a glorious ten days on vacation in Mexico in celebration of his 50th birthday. We traveled with five other adults to a resort which caters to scuba divers. I don’t dive, but Clay is enthusiastic about the sport, as were our fellow travelers. This led to some interesting insight on stress and relaxation.
When not diving, most of our group spent time lounging by the pool, with the iguanas (yes, actual iguanas). Being fair skinned, I spent some enjoyable time by the pool, in the shade, reading. I did not, however, have the staying power of the rest of the group. I needed something else. My husband, Clay, enjoyed being an iguana for a while, then also needed to DO something. We took out the little sailboat, went for walks — coming and going from the pool. One of our fellow travelers remarked,
“You are always on the go. When are you going to relax?”
Here’s the thing — we were relaxing.
Clay joked at dinner one evening,
“I’m like a border collie. If I don’t have something to do, I start chewing on things.”
Funny and true, it is a good description of how he relaxes. He needs something diverting him from thinking about the things which cause stress. Staying still provides too much time to think.
Too often we think of relaxation in only one facet – as stillness. Meditation works for many, but if you are a border collie at heart, it may cause more stress to try to be still.
- Engaging hobbies are excellent for reducing stress. My dad, for example, loved woodworking and spent hours in his garage workshop building, sanding, and finishing. The “busy hands/free mind” essence of these actions can reduce stress for many people.
- Other people need highly engaging activities to detach from stress. Racing on an all women’s sailing crew last summer, I saw this in action. During the race we are completely focused on our individual jobs and the task at hand. Working as a team, chatting on the way back in from the race, all of it reduces stress.
Your way of relaxing might not look the same as it does for your fellow travelers, but that is ok. Embrace your own style and make time for activities to support stress reduction.
Are you and iguana, a border collie, or something else?
Heart attack survivor and motivational wellness speaker Eliz Greene is featured in the cover story of the February 2017 Queen of the Castle Magazine.
In the article, written by Jenn Chapman, Eliz shares the story of surviving a heart attack while seven-months pregnant with twins and he mission to inspire women to pay attention to their heart health and manage stress.
“What’s really interesting and alarming is that 7 out of 10 people report they are highly stressed at work. Stress is a fascinating chemical reaction in our body , which makes our blood pressure, and heart rate goes up. Blood actually gets stickier which is good for survival. We need that burst of energy to deal with crisis but eventually when that crisis pass we are supposed to be able to recover, but because we live at this high stress all the time we don’t have time to recover and the cortisol level builds and builds,” Eliz says.
And that’s where most women find themselves. Luckily, Eliz message to her audience is one of hope. There are proactive steps that all women can take.
“I am often asked to present on work-life balance and yet if I’m honest with myself I am constantly figuring that out. I don’t think I’m alone. The idea that work and life are supposed to balance each other out doesn’t work because they don’t happen separately,” she shares.
“It’s not that we can’t manage our homes it’s just all blended together. We can do things to clarify priorities and protect time to recover from stress, but it take a cultural change to make a real difference. I think that is possible,” Eliz says.
So when that work email pops up on your phone when you’re at home watching TV with the kids, whether you respond to it or not, your mind will begin processing the message. Ultimately taking away the divider from home and work life and thus the stress rises.
One of the most common effects of stress is added weight around the mid section. The most efficient way to process cortisol out of the body is to sleep but studies show that very few women get enough sleep. And so the cycle of busy and stress continues.
“We eat away at the margins of the day to get stuff done. But yet sleep is the most efficient way to get rid of our stress. We have to be working not just for our family but also for our quality of life that makes it worth it. If we work so much we don’t see our families, we missed it,” says Eliz.
Read the entire article