Health and Wellness, Injuries and Illness

Holiday Hazards: Stress

The World Health Organization has called stress “the health epidemic of the 21st century.” According to the annual StressPulse Survey conducted by employee assistance program (EAP) provider ComPsych Corporation, stress and personal relationship issues are the most common reasons for employee absence, accounting for nearly half (47%) of employee absences—handily beating out medical issues. Given that the holidays often force people into close contact with relationships they may find stressful, it makes sense to give workers some additional coping strategies this holiday season.

Here are some tips you can use—and share with your employees—that will help you and them identify and self-manage stress.

  • Know yourself. Be aware of your stress level and the things that stress you out. Learn your own signals and pay attention to them. For example, if you’re always late for work and feel stressed and anxious, change your pattern and find a way to leave more time.
  • Recognize how you deal with stress. Do you turn to unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, or eating poorly? Do you lose patience with coworkers or family members when you feel overwhelmed at work?
  • Set rules for devices. Consider rules like turning off the cell phone when you get home or establishing certain times for returning calls. Be sure to communicate these rules with others so you can manage expectations.
  • Keep a to-do list. It’s stressful to constantly think of things that you should be doing. Clear your head by putting those thoughts on paper or on an electronic list. Divide out “work” and “nonwork” tasks and indicate those with the highest priority.
  • Take responsibility. Acknowledging that you are responsible for your own stress levels can be an important step. No matter what the sources of stress (bad boss, too much work, too little time, etc.), the issue comes down to how you react to them.
  • Take a break. It may not seem like much, but a short (1- or 2-minute) break several times a day can help you stay energized and productive. Stand up, stretch, breathe deeply, and clear your head. Every few hours, pause for 10 minutes to recharge. Avoid the temptation to work through lunch.
  • Take care. You’ve heard it before, but it really does help—eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. No matter how hectic life gets at work or at home, you have to make time for yourself. If a vacation isn’t in the offing, carve out time for a hobby or a good book.
  • Change your head. If negative thinking is causing stress, work to break the pattern. If trying to do everything to perfection is the problem, try to modify your expectations, realizing that unrealistic goals are going to set you up for failure—and undue stress.
  • Learn to manage conflict. It’s easier said than done, but resolving conflict in a healthy, constructive way can help relieve work stress. Focus on the present, avoid the temptation to dive into old resentments, and listen to what the other person is really saying.
  • Ask for help. Accepting help from supportive friends and family members can help you better manage your stress. Take advantage of employer-based services like an EAP, counseling, work/life balance programs, or referrals to mental health professionals.

Don’t stress during the holidays or after!

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