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A substantial percentage of employees in today’s post-covid work environment are under constant pressure to maintain performance and productivity at a rate that burdens their work-life balance. This pressure can bring about the overwhelming physical and mental sensation known as stress. When left unmanaged, stress wears down the body and leads to health complications that in turn negatively impact employee performance, productivity, and quality of life.

Stress has played an important role in the survival of humankind by generating a fight-or-flight response where “the body shifts its energy resources toward fighting off a life threat, or fleeing from an enemy.” Since fight-or-flight mode is not likely to be of help in today’s workplace setting, employees are forced to grapple with the adverse consequences of chronic stress – many times with little to no support.

A Vicious Cycle

A chronically stressed employee is apt to find him or herself in a vicious cycle of stress contributing to health complications that then induce additional stress. Employees caught in this vicious cycle are at an increased risk of developing serious psychological, cardiovascular, and digestive health complications that directly impact quality of life. According to harvard.edu, “stress can trigger and worsen gastrointestinal pain and other symptoms, and vice versa.”

Unmanaged stress can go undetected until it wears down the body and mind enough that its impact is definable, like for example as anxiety or depression – influencing absenteeism, energy, focus, mood, diet, and wellbeing. This undetected accumulation of stress is known as the allostatic load and refers to the “wear and tear” of the body caused by chronic stress.

The allostatic load is proven to:

  • Accelerate aging (by around 10 years)
  • Cause wear and tear on the brain and body
  • Compromise the immune system
  • Increase the rates of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes 

Each individual feels and responds to stress differently. Some employees struggle with chronic stress, others with acute or traumatic stress. Whatever the source of stress may be, employees should feel encouraged by their organization to learn about their stress and how to cope with it in a way that works best for them. According to stress.org, “80% of workers feel stress on the job” and, “nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.”

Employees who feel overwhelmed by stress need a safe place to speak out and / or seek professional help without feeling like a burden to the employer. Given that job stress is estimated to cost the U.S industry over $300 billion in annual costs related to absenteeism, low productivity, turnover, etc., employers are likely to appreciate when an employee seeks help for stress management.

For every US $1 put into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US $4 in improved health and productivity.”

Organizations are understandably eager to support their employee’s mental health. To help address the mental health disorders that prevent employees from performing and managing their stress effectively many employers offer mental health benefits such as professional counseling or employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Tips for stress management:

  • Ask for help
  • Identify your stress signals and stress relievers
  • Practice meditation and breathing exercises
  • Exercise daily and go for walks

Conclusion

APH provides highly experienced and engaging Nurse Health Advocate Coaches who work collaboratively with individuals and their health team to help them select and progress toward achieving a highly personal critical health goal consistent with their physician’s treatment plan. The program is flexible and sensitive to each participant’s style, risk level and is designed to change their lives through modification in such key areas as stress management, proper nutrition, increased activity, sleep and rest, life balance, tobacco cessation and measurable improvement in chronic health conditions.

Many times, our nurses can also find untapped resources, new strategies for success or cost savings for individuals and the Health Plan. Our health analytics and personalized approach allow nurses to monitor progress and revise goals as health and life circumstances change to optimize measurable outcomes, while addressing individual needs and improving Health Plan performance.

Learn how Poindexter health analytics are used to support various health initiatives and mental health outcomes and bend the trend for individuals and health plans.

 

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