Stress can have long term impacts to your health and well-being. Here's how to keep stress in check.
Left unchecked, stress can wreak havoc on your health and damage your health including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer and other types of cancers, and more. When it comes to breast cancer, research has shown that women who were stressed were at least twice as likely to develop breast cancer than those who weren’t — a frightening statistic.
The physical impact of stress doesn’t have to be major for you to experience the effects. It can also cause minor health concerns that you might not associate with stress like muscle pain, headache, fatigue, stomach upset, or problems sleeping. The cost of work-related stress in the U.S. and pan-European areas for 2014 reached between $221.13 million and $187 billion. Those numbers are staggering and include lost productivity as well as healthcare and medical-related costs, according to 2018 research by the Birkbeck University of London.
A better solution is to address business stress and make your company creative and productive before it takes hold of you or your employees, but doing so requires understanding why work stress happens.
The American Stress Institute reports that the number one reason for work-related stress is workload — a whopping 46 percent, followed by people issues at 28 percent and work-life balance following close behind at 20 percent. Job insecurity contributed to the remaining 6 percent. To combat these statistics and improve your health and the health of your employees requires employing stress management solutions. Here are five ways to stop business stress in its tracks to get you started.
1. Evaluate and respond to work-related stressors
Whether you’re feeling stressed at work or your employees are, early intervention makes a difference. So, evaluate the situation. What are the stressors? Who is involved? How long has the stress occurred and how severe is it? Aim to catch the problem early on.
When we talk about health and stress, in general, we usually refer to health-related diseases and general ailments. But a lot of people focus on general disease and ailments and forget that stress leads to major problems like teeth grinding and other gum and mouth disorders. No doubt these problems provide revenue for small to big healthcare experts like plastic surgeons, dentists, and surgery specialists, etc. This does not mean you should not care about the everyday stress and anxieties, because these not only have a severe impact on your general wellness but on your social/public image, which in turn leads to further stress and social anxiety.
It’s easier to address and eliminate a problem at the start than it is to correct a situation once it grows and spreads. Sometimes, a simple solution goes far to eliminate stressors. Is the workload overwhelming? Consider delegating some of the load. Personal conflicts invading your business? Have one-on-one discussions or team-building exercises.
2. Take advantage of stress toys
Aside from taking a direct stance, stress toys offer an effective solution to manage mild levels of work stress and cost is minimal. Consider things like stress balls, puzzles, magnetic toys, doodle boards, putties, Chinese meditation balls, scalp massagers and more. Stress toys are designed to take your mind off of those things that are bothering you. Sometimes, that includes keeping your fingers busy. If you’re working in a call center, for example, and the call queue is lagging, this might be a great time to encourage stress toy use.
There is a variety of inexpensive stress toys available at the click of a button to suit everyone’s needs and every business’ budget. So, shop around and mix it up to add variety, interest, and, most importantly, lowering stress. The benefits of lowering stress translate to a boost in productivity, lower healthcare and conflict management costs, improve employee morale and reduces overall sick time and employee turnover to name a few. Although stress toys are a great way to improve the workplace environment, don’t stop there. Encouraging healthy self-care activities offer longevity to your business’ stress management plan.
3. Encourage self-care activities
Self-care need not be a complicated solution. It can include simple activities like taking a lunchtime stroll or hosting a walking meeting. Hosting a walking meeting boosts creativity and productivity. It also counts toward your business’ wellness goals, improves employee engagement, and helps reduce stress. So, there are many reasons to consider walking and talking your way through your next meeting or simply taking a lunchtime or breaktime stroll around the building — inside or out, or around the block. However, walking isn’t the only self-care solution available.
Encouraging self-care also includes encouraging your employees to engage in healthy activities that they enjoy during non-working hours. Many people find reading, writing, drawing, crafts, painting, watching sunsets, meditation exercises, yoga, listening to music and more to improve mental health, boost relaxation, and reduce stress.
Healthy eating and increasing fitness also contribute to stress reduction as well. After all, a healthy body and mind begin from the inside. Some businesses even offer wellness perks (both physical and mental) like gym partnership discounts on membership or classes, lunch, and learning discussions that focus on like fitness, health, stress, mindfulness, nutrition, weight management, and even hearing aids for deaf employees among other topics.
4. Consider voluntary onsite or off stress management classes
Lunch and learn discussions for fitness and nutrition aren’t the only classes that you can use to lower business stress and improve your health and that of your employees. Stress management discussions also offer value, particularly if your business activities involve a high degree of work-related stress. Professional occupational counselors can guide you on the topic, handouts, resources, the discussion or all of the above.
If you have the budget for it, you can also solicit the help of a motivational speaker who focuses on stress, stress management, employee morale, finances, lifestyle choices, marriage, family and more. Although some of these topics may not directly relate to workplace stress, they can certainly contribute to it. There are many great speakers out there — some well-known, some lesser-known, and some may even be just starting in your community.
Even the best motivational speaker falls short if an individual’s level of stress requires more intensive intervention. For cases like these, it’s best to support and understand your employee’s needs and recommend the impacted employee contact their provider for a mental health professional referral.
5. See a professional
When all else fails or if the situation requires more intensive measures, always seek out a professional. Mental health counselors, therapists, and doctors can help you or your employees. The CDC reports that roughly 71% of U.S. adults report experiencing at least one of the common symptoms of stress. Also, many people with mental health conditions, including those affected by stress, have other medical conditions as well as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or something else.
The cost of healthcare for individuals who need both mental and physical healthcare can jump two to three times that of those who don’t require more in-depth, dual care plans. Early treatment, in many cases, can improve the lives, health, and wellbeing of individuals and reduce overall costs later including lost time, healthcare, productivity and more. So, seeking out the help of a professional when stress is overwhelming is more important than ever for the individual impacted as well as for your business.
Not all stress is negative. Some stress is beneficial and serves to motivate you. According to the online publication, Healthline, there’s a difference between ‘good’ stress and ‘bad’ stress.
Good stress offers several benefits including improved cognitive function, focus, motivation, improved immunity and resilience to name a few. The key, though, is to recognize the difference. Good stress is low-level stress. It’s mild and short-lived.
Bad stress, on the other hand, can overwhelm those impacted by it. If left unchecked, it can grow into a more chronic condition that has the potential to impact your overall mental health as well as your physical health.
Although you can’t eliminate all stress, you can reduce the negative impact with careful planning. A healthier employee is generally a happier and more productive employee. So, to stop business stress from damaging your health and the health of your employees, opt for prevention and early intervention. Investing in your and your employees’ health and wellness carries its weight in value for your business.