Category Archives for Wellness Tips

scared woman

Fear And Stress: Coping with media coverage of tragedy

Dealing fear and stress triggers in the wake of 3 hurricanes and the Las Vegas Shooting.

Television coverage is designed to enagage the viewer and can trigger unwelcome emotions, stress and fear.

I understand those triggers and watching the coverage of three hurricanes and the shooting last night in Las Vegas brings back a cold, naked feeling, when the world seemed scary and my ability to deny it is gone.

My sense of denial, the thing all of us need to get up and leave the house everyday was damaged when I had a massive heart attack at age 35 while pregnant with twins. In a matter of minutes, my world view changed. The world was no longer safe. I knew for certain bad things happen and suddenly the world was too scary.

For months, each day I had to talk myself into going out the door, living life despite my fear. While I was pretty good at it, I felt alone in the struggle. Then came September 11, 2001, and the world became scary for the entire nation. I felt a guilty sense of relief. Everyone felt like I had for months – scared. It was suddenly okay to talk about how to cope with fear publicly. I was relieved to know others felt scared too, and my coping strategies seemed to help them.

Today it is a good thing to reflect on how life can change in a matter of minutes. While it is scary to be reminded of how it feels when your denial is torn away, it is also good to be thankful for resilience.

For those who are triggered by recent events, emotions may be conflicting:

  • euphoric to have survived
  • angry at the loss of what you expected life to be
  • guilty or unworthy for the gift of a second chance
  • fearful of what you can not control
  • sad, just sad

Remember, it is okay to feel whatever you feel. Saying, “I shouldn’t feel like this,” doesn’t allow you to process your feelings.  Feel it, name it, and by doing so, cope. Stress and anger are emotions that often defy logic.  Yes, it’s been more than a decade, but when triggered, the fear can feel just as fresh.  Your body’s reaction to stress is instinctual, and often doesn’t make sense.  A cold flush, racing heart, or upset stomach is just you body’s way of processing the stress.  Pay attention to physical and emotional signals, and be kind to yourself.

Sometimes simply reminding yourself, “It’s going to be okay,” will be enough.  If it isn’t remember:

It’s okay to need:

If you cut yourself deeply, there would be a scar.  Sometimes that scar will get irritated. This is a wound too – you just don’t see the blood.  It is okay to reach out. Talk to someone you trust. It’s okay to seek help from a professional, or to find someone who has experienced something similar.  Get what you need.

It’s okay to ‘What If’:

One of my most helpful coping strategies is to “what if” a situation that scares me.  To some it may see morbid – or as if I’m dwelling on the negative – but I need to think through all the things that could go wrong and figure out what I’d do.  Upon entering a new place, I quickly scan for AED equipment (used to restart a heart).  When traveling, I know where the nearest hospital with a heart center is located.  This makes me feel more secure.  I don’t want my daughters to be held back by my fear. Whenever they go off for a school event or new adventure I have to “what if” though the possible dangers in my head, think about what is likely to happen, talk to them about reasonable safety measures (take your phone, stay with the group – not to scare them, but to make sure they are safe) and talk myself into letting go.  As they approach being drivers, this is a more common internal conversation! Sometimes I need to talk about my fears with my husband, do a reality check, to get past my fear.  Being afraid isn’t bad, letting fear stop you, or the people you love, from living fully is a problem.  Talk it through, get help if you need it, and find a way to “what if” past your fear in a situation and move forward.

It’s okay to laugh:

Not to be all, “laughter is the best medicine”  – but the endorphins released when you laugh truly help restore your ability to cope with fear and stress.  Finding humor in a stressful situation is an excellent way to cope. Seeking out humor when you are feeling sad, fearful, stressed, or depressed is essential.  Watch a funny video or movie, talk to a witty friend, read something to make you laugh and take advantage of the endorphins.  One of my favorite videos makes me laugh every time. Enjoy:

 

Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself time.  Seek help when you need it.

Laugh and live life fully, even when it is scary.

Stress Management and Atrial Fibrillation

 

Eliz presented a stress management program for patients with Atrial Fibrillation at the Get In Rhythm. Stay In Rhythm Conference.

She shared strategies to protect yourself from stress during periods or high stress, crisis, or in the case of Afib, chronic uncertainty.  The program is based on her research on job stress.

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stress of chaos in construction site

Stress Management In Chaos And The Busy Season

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. 

Employee Wellness Program Challenges

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/

 

iguana by the pool

Stress Recovery: I’m Not An Iguana – My Husband Is A Border Collie

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?

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