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Employers, Managers, HR

Employers, Managers, HR

Mental Health and Wellbeing Tips

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As individuals we handle stress and life’s challenges in our own unique way. WellSpan Health and WellSpan EAP have created weekly Mental Health and Wellbeing Tips you can utilize as part of your organization’s employee newsletter, on your employee intranet, or even include as part of your email signature. Our hope is for these tips to help your team members navigate their own journey of self-care and resilience. 

Time to get outside 

Whether we are working remotely or onsite it generally requires us to be indoors for consecutive hours, so we must take a step outside when possible.  

According to Science Reports (via American Psychological Association), a study that included 20,000 adults found that people who spend at least two recreational hours in nature during the previous week reported significantly greater health and well-being. That pattern held true across subgroups including older adults and people with chronic health problems, and the effects were the same whether they got their dose of nature in a single two-hour session or spread out over the course of the week.  

There is no better time to do that than now as spring weather is just around the corner. We encourage you to bring outdoor activities back into your self-care journey. And as with all things, don’t wait until the weather is perfect – enjoy it in the here and now!  

Savoring the return of green leaves, birds chirping, and warm sun can not only get us away from our desks, but begin to give our mind, body, and spirit a sense of renewal.  

This can come in the form of a 10-minute walk outside during a lunch break, a morning jog to start the day, or any activity that takes place outdoors.  

Experiencing what nature has to offer is a simple and convenient way to recharge and give yourself a refreshed feeling. 

Finding relief in the face of stress, anxiety

Stress and anxiety are often triggered by internal thoughts and events around you. While colleagues experience similar events such as economic stressors and ongoing uncertainty, it may affect them differently than it affects you. It may also be challenging for those around us to get your “psychological pulse” as often we are the only ones who recognize our own internal feelings of stress and anxiety. We remind you if you don’t feel right to take note of some of the physical signs you are experiencing and don’t hesitate to seek help. Our psychology drives our physiology; therefore, we may experience warning signs around stress and anxiety that include chest or abdominal pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, headaches, body aches and trouble sleeping.

Dr. Jeff Lating shares the following self-care tips to consider when coping with stress and anxiety:

  • Stay focused and use mindfulness including yoga, meditation.
  • Work on perspective taking -- pausing to see and appreciate what someone else may be experiencing or feeling without judgment.
  • Think about, and then practice strategies for coping that have worked well in the past.
  • Exercise.
  • Use journaling to manage emotions and focus on goals.
  • Explore a new hobby.
  • Prioritize getting enough sleep.
  • Create and implement a self-care plan

Less can be more when following world conflict

Global conflicts can bring about strong emotions and reactions for many of us. It's very common for us to experience waves of emotions during uncertain times around issues or conflicts, even if they don’t directly affect us. 

Some of these symptoms may include uncertainty, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, emotional outbursts and agitation. 

While we are unique in our responses to conflict, we are similar in respect to finding it difficult to resist watching news of traumatic events. We need to understand the negative effects that this type of news exposure can have. 

If the recent world conflict is significantly affecting your mood, outlook and/or your ability to cope with other stressors in your life, you may want to take the following proactive steps to limit the negative effects:

  • Do not watch or listen to the news before bed. 
  • Read newspapers or magazines rather than watching television.
  • Make a conscious decision to turn the news off at a certain time or be conscious of limiting the time you spend absorbing news.
  • If you’re hearing the same story or the same information over and over, consider turning the news off for a while.
  • Engage in activities that help distract you from the conflict and focus on other areas of life


Taking an active role in how we act

Our behavior is key to how we connect and interact with the rest of the world. Stress and trauma can trigger problematic behavioral changes such as withdrawal from activities, problems in communication patterns, hypersensitivity to the environment, inability to rest and loss or increase in appetite. If any of those changes continue to intensify, they could have longer term effects on our overall mental and physical health. It is important to remember that we have choices such as playing an active role in taking care of ourselves. However, we may not recognize some behavioral changes on our own. If you know that you are experiencing stress, you may want to ask others how they think you are doing.

Here are some additional ideas to consider when coping with behavioral changes:

  • Balance time spent with others with time for yourself
  • Limit demands on time and energy 
  • Help others with tasks 
  • See a counselor 
  • Do activities that were previously enjoyable 
  • Find new activities that are enjoyable and (mildly challenging) 
  • Set goals, have a plan 
  • Do things that relax you and bring peaceful feeling

Freeing your thoughts from stress, trauma

Chronic stress and trauma trigger emotional and physical changes, but it can affect our thoughts as well. Sometimes thoughts and images of a traumatic event from work or life outside of work can appear without warning. These thoughts can cause anxiety and can potentially spiral into a negative self-talk reel that just repeats and intensifies.

This can lead us to become stuck in the quicksand, spinning our wheels in a pool of stress and worry. This may also interfere with our ability to get into a flow of thought and can trigger a variety of other mental reactions to stress including difficulty concentrating, poor memory, poor problem solving/abstract thinking and blaming others.

The good news is that we can all play an active role in coping with our intrusive, disruptive thoughts by considering the following ideas:

  • Write things down 
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Break large tasks into smaller ones
  • Make small, daily decisions
  • See a counselor
  • Remember you have choices
  • Plan the future
  • Review previous successful problem solving
  • Ask for help from friends and family
  • Notice when things are ok
  • Practice gratitude

Have a role in your own healing from stress and trauma

In sharing ways to cope with emotional, mental and physical changes triggered by chronic stress and trauma, it’s important to point out that those changes may last longer for others.

Some people experience these changes and notice that, as time goes on, they decrease and eventually disappear. However, for some people, these changes continue and may even intensify, affecting their ability to function in their usual way.

Noticing these persistent changes and reaching out for the appropriate support can be crucial in helping you get back to normal. However, we can also be an active participant when it comes to coping with physical reactions to stress such as tiredness, difficulty breathing, aches and pains, stomach concerns, rapid heart and sweating.

Here are a few things we can do for ourselves in coping with physical changes:

  • Drink water.
  • See your doctor and dentist.
  • Exercise.
  • Maintain regular sleep patterns.
  • Practice relaxation response exercises.
  • Engage in some physical luxuries (spas, massages, exercise trainers, baths).
  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals.
  • Take a walk.

Reflecting on your day can build resilience

It is important to leverage self-compassion against some of the adverse situations we face each day. While applying our energies to be most helpful and leaning on our colleagues for help are two keys to self-care, reflecting on your entire workday before you go home is also a form of self-compassion.

We encourage you to use the following “Ending Your Workday Checklist” as another helpful way to practice self-care and build resilience:

  • Pause for a moment to reflect on today
  • Be proud of the work you did today
  • Consider three things that went well Acknowledge one difficulty and let it go
  • Compassion check: Our colleagues: Are they ok? You: Are you ok?
  • Rest and recharge:
    • Now switch your attention home

Savor the Small Wins

Many of us continue to navigate through uncertain times, so we need to find ways to stay motivated and persevere. As we should deal with problems one step at a time to find solutions, it’s also important to receive successes in the same way. Savoring each of your small successes can keep you motivated and positive, especially when you are experiencing adversity.

For example, if you are juggling several projects at one time and facing some aggressive deadlines, celebrate the completion of tasks within that work as it’s a sign of progress. Celebrating small wins can give you a welcome break from stress and negativity, and it also builds resilience to encourage you to keep going.

The Power of Connection

Connecting with friends, family and co-workers when you’re going through tough times can help ease stress, boost your mood, and make sense of all the change and disruption. While maintaining those connections is so important right now, it may also be a good time to expand your social network.

If you are feeling lonely or isolated, there is a good chance that others are feelings that way too, so be the one to take the initiative and reach out.

Relationships are vital for good mental health and building resilience as we navigate through tough times. That’s why building new friendships is not only a way to improve your social network, but it also allows you to strengthen your support system at a time when you need it most. Listening to each other, showing compassion and smiling enhance the power of human connection, and prioritizing relationships and staying engaged with others during tough times leads to resilience.

Change the way you think about stress

Stress is a part of the human experience; how we think about stress can determine whether we have a healthy response to the challenges we face. Stress does not always need to be thought of as negative.

While a pounding heart is often viewed as a negative reaction to stress, it prepares us for action by allowing more oxygen to the brain. If you view that as your body helps you rise to the challenge, your physical stress response may likely change toward a healthier outcome.

Stress response also plays a key role in that it increases levels of Oxytocin, a neuro hormone produced in the brain which motivates you to support others and create resilience. When we view our body's responses to stress as helpful, it gives us courage to begin trusting ourselves to handle life's challenges and reminds us that we don't have to face them alone.

How can you have positive interactions? Let your 'Values' be your guide Acknowledge when you are frustrated, own it, and then breathe, pause and reflect on living these values to steer you toward positivity.

We encourage you to watch this TED talk for more on how you can make stress your friend.

Watch the Video: TED Talk – Gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg

Building Resiliency Over Time 

When you are generally healthier and faced with a challenge to your physical health, you can get past it more easily. And, that’s what resiliency is for your emotional health.  Here are five strategieswe like to help build resiliency over time.

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