Posts Tagged stress

The Stress/Health Connection

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Workplace Stress Infographic

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National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day 2019: Things the Police Wish You Knew

January 9th is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.[1]  This is an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves of the men and women who risk their lives, their safety, and even their mental health to keep us safe. A big part of appreciation is understanding.  There are more than 900,000 police officers in the United States[2].  Police Officers represent many different backgrounds.  There is a wide variety of racial and ethnic background, education level, even socio-economic status level.  They have different interests as well (from the star athlete to the Star Trek nerd (of which I am one, by the way)).  I’m sure you all know at least one person who works in law enforcement at some level as they are a many and varied bunch.  There are some commonalities, however, and most people have little insight into the daily work and lives of these brave souls. Hollywood has done a great deal to perpetuate myths and misunderstanding about police officers as most people get their information from television dramas and movies.  I thought this would be a great time to provide some insight, straight from the horse’s mouth, about the law enforcement community.  Here are a few things that the police wish you knew.

Before I get started, here is the disclaimer:  I’m speaking from my experience and I’m sure there is at least one police officer out there who will disagree with me (it’s a many and varied bunch in terms of opinions, too).

 “Constant Vigilance!”[3]

Police Officers are constantly aware of their surroundings.  They learn to pay close attention to people’s movements because the most unlikely people can become a threat at any moment.  Young kids, elderly people, small women, you name it. Because of this, they follow policies procedures and training designed to ensure their safety and yours.  It doesn’t matter how attractive you are, how rich you are, how funny you are, or how cooperative you seem to be; they will follow those procedures — officers who don’t are the first ones to get injured. Don’t take it personally; it doesn’t mean that you are suspected of being a “bad guy,” it is just better not to try and guess.

I’m from the government, and I’m here to help

If you ask someone why they joined law enforcement as their profession, the overwhelming answer is that they want to make a difference in their community and they want to help people in a real and tangible way.  People who join without the “calling” will generally not last more than a year because the job really does take its toll on one’s life.  Think about the working conditions for a moment.  We already talked about the constant threat of danger, and that is undoubtedly stressful, but there are also less obvious sources of stress.  Police officers work holidays, weekends, late nights, and all night.  Of course, there are vacations and days off, but those days aren’t always the typical days that families get together.  When I worked the graveyard shift, I stayed on the overnight schedule on my days off.  My family would be asleep while I was barbequing hamburgers for my lunch at 3 am.  While everyone was up and having fun, I was asleep.  Think about how your life would be different if your sleep/wake schedule were the opposite of your family and friends.

Police Officers also experience all the worst things that happen and are usually among the first people to arrive in a chaotic and tragic situation.  They are the target of anger and frustration on the part of victims, suspects, witnesses, and the general public.  They take blame for the terrible things that happen to people (which they do not deserve, by the way). They have each other for support, but otherwise, they are basically on their own to solve any problem that comes up.  Their hands are tied by law in many frustrating situations, and the news media almost always second-guess them, and sometimes their own leadership as well, even though they had to make very rapid decisions without all the information.

With all this stress going on, you might wonder why anyone would be willing to do the job. Maybe they’re in it for the money.  In Colorado, Police Officers make pretty good money, but they are not going to get rich.  In other areas of the country, the pay for Police Officers is quite low, and sometimes not enough to live on.

Not a robot, don’t have a crystal ball

A police officer’s day can go from fluffy golden retriever puppies to a Steven King thriller in the blink of an eye.  Believe it or not, those tragic things that happen have an emotional effect on the officer.  They won’t show you that, they won’t tell you that, they may not tell anyone that, but it is true none the less.  During work, they cannot display sadness or fear.  They must keep their anger under control and be invariably professional. As a result, you see a lot of “gallows humor” that may seem calloused and mean.  That humor, though, is the way that they are able to get through their work without becoming emotionally compromised. The “inappropriate humor” is used by ER doctors and nurses, firefighters, and paramedics as well.  Protecting oneself from emotional turmoil so that one can do very difficult things is of the utmost importance.

By the way, law enforcement officers are not all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful deities.  They cannot predict who is a danger to them (as mentioned above); they never know when the proverbial poo will hit the fan; they cannot prepare for the insane things they see and deal with; and, most importantly, they don’t know who stole your TV or when the power will come back on.  There are investigative techniques that can be used successfully to find criminals, and the more evidence the more likely the police will catch someone, but if you don’t know the serial number on your TV, they will never find it.

You are the one with the information

You know, I’ve talked a lot about police, but they aren’t the only law enforcement professionals out there.  What about telecommunicators (you may know them as dispatchers or 9-1-1 operators)?  Well, they have a tough and stressful job as well!  Just like Police Officers, dispatchers do not have a crystal ball.  Of utmost importance to a law enforcement telecommunicator is information, and they will ask you lots of questions if you call.  The questions may seem odd or unnecessary, but they have to get that information, or the police get mad at them (yup, they get it from both sides). Something you should consider in case you ever have to call 9-1-1 (and you can call them, they never close) is that you need to be able to provide information.  The absolute most important piece of information is your location.  Don’t be fooled by the miraculous things you see TV law enforcement doing.  Very few (and maybe not any) dispatch centers can quickly and easily locate you by your cell phone alone.  Uber does a much better job than 9-1-1 in that regard, but notice that Uber also has an app that you install on your phone which asks you for permission to use your location information.  9-1-1 doesn’t do that.  So, here is a tip: If you call 9-1-1, and you can only get one piece of information out, it must be your location!  You should know your location at all times.  I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised by the number of people who call 9-1-1 and have no idea where they are.  They followed their Google Map and paid no attention to the street they turned on or the address they were going to.  Hey, I’m not going to tell you not to use the map; I always use mine.  Please, though, don’t let your cell phone do all of your thinking for you; know your location, know your phone number, know the phone numbers of the people you might need to contact.  Only you can provide that information.

If you don’t remember anything else from this article, just remember that Police Officers are people.  They have mothers and fathers, siblings and children, and they put their pants on one leg at a time, just the way you do.  They just happen to be in a very dangerous and traumatic job.

To your wellbeing,

Christina L. Wilson, Ph.D.

Christina L. Wilson, Ph.D. was a police officer for eight years in the Denver Metropolitan Area.  She earned her doctoral degree in industrial and organizational psychology and is an expert in employee training and development and workplace safety and health.  She serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver, in both the Psychology Department and the Business School.  Dr. Wilson also facilitates corporate training and works as a consultant for the Federal government as well as MINES and Associates.

[1] https://www.checkiday.com/ef29a1007fe81e06567ce6c45afd39a5/national-law-enforcement-appreciation-day

[2] National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: http://www.nleomf.org/facts/enforcement/

[3] J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (attributed to Alastor Mad-Eye Moody)

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Total Wellbeing: October 2018

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Environmental Wellbeing and Investing

Welcome to the October edition of TotalWellbeing, your guide to the 8 dimensions of wellbeing. This month’s focus is going to be on environmental wellbeing which involves looking at how your surroundings impact your health. This can be your home, workplace, or city that you live in or the types of environments such as city, desert, mountains and so on. Environmental traits that can affect your health include air quality, noise levels, access to resources, and more. We will also be looking at investing basics and providing resources around tax tips and financial advice. If you missed us last month you can catch up on our newsletters page. As a reminder, this newsletter is aimed at providing helpful information about various aspects of your wellbeing and then connecting it all back to important and relevant parts of our everyday life. As we make it through the year we will continue to emphasize the concept of community and look at how our actions affect our community, country, and in some cases the rest of the world.

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

Environmental Wellbeing and Motivation

Environmental wellbeing and motivation can be very closely tied to one another. Think about your workspace. No matter what type of environment you work in, whether it be an office, a warehouse, or even outdoors, you work the best, are most productive, and have the most energy when everything is organized or to your preference. Likewise, clutter, loud noises, interruptions, and other things that contribute to a bad work environment can bog you down and make work less enjoyable and productive. Therefore it is important to do what you can to make sure that your work environment is set up for success. What this means is going to be different depending on where you work and how you prefer to work. While one person may like an impeccably clean workstation, another might actually prefer to have some clutter and things like decorations. To determine what environment works best for you ask yourself what feeds you energy and try and fill your environment with those aspects while removing what you think distracts or you or drains your energy and motivation. This translates to your free time as well. What kind of environments give you energy. Are you a person who thrives in the outdoors? Do you prefer an urban setting? Maybe quiet solitude at home is where you prefer. Try to identify the environments that you thrive in and make them your go-to for when you need to recharge your batteries.

If you would like to talk to a counselor or wellness coach about these topics, please call us at 1-800-873-7138 to get connected right away. Also, PersonalAdvantage has some great investment tips and webinars this month to improve your knowledge around a wide variety of financial topics and elder care. For more be sure to check out our “Investment Taxes” infographic.

Question of the Month

What are your key sources of motivation that inspire you day to day?

Quote of the Month

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’.”

– Aubrey Hepburn

MINES Updates/Community World View

People and communities thrive when the environments they live and work in are clean, safe, and sustainable. The saying “Think Global, Act Local” is a great way to connect the concept of environmental wellbeing with the larger scale of things. To keep our environments clean and safe it takes everyone working together. From simply cleaning up after ourselves, not littering, and recycling where possible, all the way to volunteering for cleanup crews or even organizing one yourself, everyone can take part in making sure us humans are responsible for the environment in a way that will keep our world safe and habitable for generations to come. Find out ways you can help by visiting the following sites depending on where you live, and we promise your environmental wellbeing will all the better for it!

Denver areas initiatives

River cleanup initiatives

Ocean cleanup initiatives

If you or a member of your household needs assistance or guidance on any of these wellbeing topics, please call MINES & Associates, your EAP, today for free, confidential, 24/7 assistance at 800.873.7138.

This Month’s Focus

Check out this month’s webinar on Investments 101

MINESblog Review:

MINES Archive 2017: Mental Health Awareness Resources 

Check out this Month’s Infographic

Important Links

Visit our BLOG

MINES and Associates

2018 Training Catalog

Balanced Living Magazine

LinkedIn

MINEs Archives

Contact Us

Email MINES

mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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Total Wellbeing: June 2018

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Stress Management is key to your Occupational Wellbeing

 

Welcome to the June edition of TotalWellbeing, your guide to the 8 dimensions of wellbeing. This month we are going to take a look at occupational wellbeing with a focus on reducing stress in the workplace and things you can do to help yourself and your fellow employees maximize workplace satisfaction. If you missed us last month you can catch up on our newsletters page. As we make it through the year we will continue to emphasize the concept of community and look at how our actions affect our community, country, and in some cases the rest of the world.

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

How Your Employer can support your Occupational Wellbeing

Occupational wellbeing is maximized by finding ways to increase your personal satisfaction and enrichment from your work. Your co-workers, supervisor, and employer are all key players that can help you increase your occupational wellbeing. The next time you talk to your supervisor whether it is during your 1:1 or during a review period, take a moment to discuss your stressors, your thoughts for improving your workplace, and what support you would like when it comes to your wellbeing. It may be as simple as finding a training for you to attend or redesigning your cubicle or it could be a more complex solution around how to reduce your scheduled meetings or giving you support from someone else to finish a task. No matter what would help improve your work-life and reduce stress, it is important to let those you work with know about how they can support you, and in turn, how you can support them. You never know when your idea might be the same thing that others have been thinking of will help improve the whole department’s wellbeing.

If you would like to talk to a counselor about these topics, please call us at 1-800-873-7138 to get connected right away. Also, PersonalAdvantage has some great tools and webinars this month to improve your knowledge around dealing with stress and maximizing your life by reducing worry. For more be sure to check out our “Stress/Health Connection” infographic.

Question of the Month

What is one thing you might be able to change that would help you do your job better and be happier doing it?

Quote of the Month

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”

– Hans Seyle

MINES Updates/Community World View

If you don’t have a wellness committee, now is a great time to start. A wellness committee is a perfect place for these ideas to come to fruition and help give you the satisfaction and enriching your work life needs. There are a lot of ways a wellness committee can work, and if you ever need some ideas, MINES would be happy to help. Additionally we invite you to outreach Health Links to have them assist you with developing your program or give you advice on how to help improve your occupational wellbeing. Also consider gathering ideas about how your own employees reduce stress and share those ideas amongst everyone. Or check out any one of the great webinars, blogs, or infographics on our site to share with your co-workers and friends. Stress is universal and it is always good to discover new ways to deal with it.

If you or a member of your household needs assistance or guidance on any of these wellbeing topics, please call MINES & Associates, your EAP, today for free, confidential, 24/7 assistance at 800.873.7138.

This Month’s Focus

Check out this month’s webinar on Minimizing Worry to Maximize Your Life

This Month on MINESblog:

Foster Families and Mental Health

John Oliver: Rehab, Last Week Tonight Psychology of Performance

Check out this Month’s Infographic

Important Links

Visit our BLOG

MINES and Associates

2018 Training Catalog

Balanced Living Magazine

LinkedIn

MINEs Archives

Contact Us

Email MINES

mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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Stress Awareness: How to be proactive with your stress management

The Importance of Stress Awareness

For those of you that did not know, April is stress awareness month. While stress awareness month is an important opportunity to highlight and talk about data, resources, and services around stress, anxiety, and related issues, stress is not something any of us can afford to think about only once a year. For many of us, stress is something that affects us day to day, maybe even hour by hour. Stress can be caused by so many things and sometimes nothing at all. Likewise, symptoms of stress can manifest themselves in a variety of ways including both physically and non-physically. Because of these oftentimes ambiguous causes/symptoms of stress, it is critical to our wellbeing that we are able to recognize and manage stress levels effectively on a day to day basis and to be proactive with stress management.

Proactive Stress Management

So, what is proactive stress management? Being proactive with stress management means taking time to learn the various sources of stress in your life. Some sources like stressful occupations, financial issues, or a significant loss are obvious. Others may not be so obvious, and it is also possible to feel stress for no reason at all, which is why the next part is crucial, recognizing the symptoms of stress and how they affect you. Once you learn to recognize how stress manifests itself in your mind and body, you can begin to figure out what the most effective ways for you to manage your stress are. Here’s where the proactive part comes in. Once you know how to manage your stress don’t wait for stress to get overwhelming to practice stress management. Instead, build these anti-stress practices into your daily life so that you are consistently practicing good habits and mindfulness to provide a constant outlet to relieve the effects of stress. It is this proactive approach that keeps stress to a minimum and helps mitigate much of the impact that stress and its various side effects have on your wellbeing. First, let’s delve a bit more into the various sources of stress that you may encounter.

Factors and Sources

There are a lot of stressors that may be very unique and personal to you though chances are, many, if not all, stressors in life can be categorized into some common buckets; environmental, social, physiological, and psychological. Let’s talk a little about these. Recognizing these categories can help you think about stress systemically to help analyze primary causes of stress in your own life.

  • Environmental stressors come from all around you and can include things like noise, traffic, pollution, bad weather, and negative or excessive media consumption. These stressors come from the world around us and there is very little we can do to change them. Some environments like our homes, and in some case our work environment, we have a little more control over. For the most part, though our best bet is to adapt to our environment rather than try and change that which we cannot.
  • Social stressors come from other people as well as pressure from roles we hold in our lives. These include job pressures and deadlines, arguments or fights, relationship issues, parenting, loss of loved ones, and demands for your time and attention. These are a very personal set of stressors and can involve those we love making them very important to navigate in a thoughtful and measured way.
  • Physiological stressors come from your own body. These can include things like adolescence, illness, aging, injuries, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, menopause in women, and inadequate sleep. Again, these stressors can be minimized by changing those we can and accepting what we cannot. Examples of this may be accepting that you are getting older but at the same time striving to eat good nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep every night. More on this later.
  • Psychological stressors are very tricky because they come from your own mind. These come down to how your brain processes internal and external stimulus. When our minds interpret something as a threat, such as changes to our environment, job issues, or family troubles, it turns on the “flight or fight” response which not only causes stressful thoughts but releases adrenaline and other stress hormones into our systems. This response has many side effects in the body and can present itself in a few different ways such as anxiety, sleeplessness, and anxiety.

How Stress Can Present Itself

Symptoms of stress can manifest in many different ways, and a single stressor can cause multiple symptoms. The areas where stress-based symptoms can pop up include physically, emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally. Let’s take a closer look at these areas by examining some common issues that can pop up in each area.

  • Physical symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, teeth grinding, perspiration, and digestive issues.
  • Emotional symptoms can include anxiety, guilt, fear, depression, anger and irritability, and depression.
  • Cognitive symptoms can include confusion, a decrease in attention span, memory issues, trouble making decisions, and obsessive thinking.
  • Behavioral symptoms can include changes in activities, withdrawal, decrease in appetite, insomnia, nightmares, and suppressed sex drive.

A tricky aspect to keep in mind is that almost all of these symptoms can be caused by other issues as well such as various health conditions, environmental factors, and normal biological cycles, so it’s important to be on top of things and see a doctor if are experiencing any severe or chronic issues.

Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions about stress that can lead to downplaying the effects of stress or even that you are stressed at all. Misconceptions like “people always know when they are stressed,” or “stress only affects those with high-pressure lives” can lead to not seeking help. Other misconceptions can include thoughts that emotions cannot be controlled and that the only thing that may help is medication. These are also not true and are dangerous thoughts. Medication can help in the right circumstances for certain individuals, but others may benefit greatly from some simple self-care, elimination of bad habits, or some counseling. Make sure to approach your stress, and the treatment of it, in an honest and unassuming manner.

Ways to Combat Stress

As we said earlier, the best ways to combat stress are proactive ones. The key here is to stay aware of yourself and how you are reacting to stressors in your life. Here are several areas to be aware of and techniques to help keep your stress from reaching unhealthy levels.

Be Aware of Important Factors

To help discern how you are reacting to stress pay attention to your feelings and emotions on a constant basis. A good way to do this is to stop and perform periodic self-checks by asking yourself questions. Look at your level of anxiety. Do you worry about money, or what may go wrong with certain things in your life? We all worry about these things but are they causing you more anxiety than normal? What about your anger levels? Are you getting more irritated at work or becoming impatient with people easier than usual? How is your self-confidence? Do you wonder if you are doing a good job? Do you worry a lot about what others think? How are your relationships going? Do you spend more time alone than you want to? Is it hard to get close to people? Are you too tired to devote time to your relationships? If you find that you are answering “yes” to any of these questions it may be a sign of moderate to high stress levels.

Change Bad Habits

There are stressors in our lives that we can’t change. However, there are many things that we can do to make sure that we are not contributing unnecessarily to our own stress levels. Take time to evaluate your habits both good and bad, and think about how they may impact your wellbeing for better or worse. These habits are going to be particular to each individual and their lifestyle but for the purpose of this blog let’s look at 5 critical areas where replacing bad habits with good ones can make a huge impact.

  • Exercise: Despite what some people may think, habits like smoking and drinking can increase stress on the mind and body even if it provides a temporary illusion of relief in the moment. Instead, support your body through movement and exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever in many ways. Exercise helps regulate your hormones and neurotransmitters that may be contributing to stress if they are unbalanced and helps increase blood flow to the brain. Exercise helps mitigate stress causing diseases and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. It helps maintain a positive body image boosting self-confidence and helps boost energy levels helping you be more productive. Also, just the physical exertion of exercise is a great outlet for stress and negative feelings. Making exercise a habit can be tough at first but if you stick with it and workout regularly for at least 90 days your mind will begin to normalize the activity and you will eventually begin to crave working out, especially if you focus on picking exercise activities that you enjoy.
  • Nutrition: This one is a big deal too. Try and replace any bad nutrition habits like eating junk food and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol with good consumption habits. Make sure to always strive to eat a variety of whole, nutritious foods and stay away from processed and surgery food. It is also important to limit caffeine intake as it can potentially induce a stress response in the body and act as a catalyst for anxiety in some people. We talked about nicotine and alcohol but remember there are many drugs, both legal and illegal, that can have a negative influence on your wellbeing and it is up to you to keep potentially hazardous substances like these in check. Or better yet stay away from them altogether unless they are medically necessary. Before making any changes be sure to talk to your doctor as they are your best source of information around your health and medical needs.
  • Relaxation and sleep: It is very easy to underestimate the importance of making time for yourself to relax. It’s critical to take it easy sometimes and occupy your mind with something you enjoy doing. This may be walking outdoors, building crafts, drawing, writing and journaling, watching a movie, playing a game, or spending time with friends or family. These types of activities allow you to get your mind off whatever may be causing you stress and provides opportunities for positive stimulus. Sleep is another prime component. Getting adequate sleep (7 to 8 hours per night) is critical to maintaining energy levels, supporting mind and body functions, regulating your bodies chemicals, and repairing your body from exercise and activity. For more information about sleep check out our recent blog for Sleep Awareness Day.
  • Time Management: Are you happy with the ways you use your time? Time management can be a huge source of frustration if you always feel like there’s never enough time in the day. Building a schedule and sticking to it can go a long way in helping you spend your time wisely. Try keeping a day calendar on paper or on your computer or mobile device. Don’t just schedule in the things you have to do, schedule things you want to do as well such as time with friends or family, hobbies, or simply free time where you have no obligations. Running late can be another huge stressor, make sure you are waking up on time in the morning, avoid distractions, and give yourself enough time to get where you need to go so you don’t have to rush.
  • Self-Talk: It’s all too easy to be hard on yourself and become negative when things are going wrong or stressful. Interrupt this habit by practicing positive self-talk. When you feel your thoughts slipping in a negative direction make a mindful effort to think constructively, not only just about yourself but others as well. Tell yourself things like “I can do this!” and “everything will be okay.” Doing this consistently will help minimize your tendency to interpret events or yourself in a negative light.

Square breathing and other ways to reduce stress

While the ultimate goal is to focus on long-term habits and thought patterns that will help you throughout your entire life, there are many things that you can do in the moment to help bring you back to center and regain composure in a stressful situation. One such exercise is a simple mindful breathing technique called “Square Breathing.” Square breathing is a simple mindful breathing technique that you can do almost anywhere and anytime. By practicing square breathing, you can slow your heart rate, focus your mind, and ease anxiety helping you to become more calm, present, and able to focus on the current moment. One of the great things about square breathing is that it is quick and easy, meaning you can do a quick session in between phone calls or other daily tasks, while you drive (or are stuck in traffic), or practice it for longer as part of a larger meditation or relaxation session. It goes something like this:

Inhale… Begin by slowing inhaling while counting slowly and steadily to 4.

Hold… Once you’ve finished inhaling, hold your breath for another steady count to 4. Seeing a pattern yet?

Exhale… Next, exhale slowly again counting to 4 as you do so.

Hold… Once you’ve exhaled you want to “hold out” your breath for another 4-count.

Repeat… Simple right? Feel free to repeat the cycle, or square, as many times as you’d like. We suggest doing the full cycle at least 4 times.

For more (25) ideas you can click here to view and download a PDF guide of 25 ways to reduce stress.

Summary

Stress Awareness Month may be over, but I hope the information presented here shows the importance of always being mindful and aware of how stressors in your life may be affecting you. I also hope that this information has equipped you with some helpful tools to use to help keep your stress levels in check and maintain a positive outlook even when life gets a little intense.

And remember if MINES is your Employee Assistance Program we are always here to help. If you need a little boost call us 24 hours a day at 1-800-873-7138 to talk to someone or hop online at www.minesandassociates.com and login to your PersonalAdvantage for helpful information on stress, resilience, fitness, nutrition, and tons of other topics and wellbeing resources.

To your wellbeing,

Nic Mckane

The MINES Team

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Sleep – The Luxury You Can’t Live Without

Happy National Sleep Awareness Week, we certainly hope you slept great last night. Setting up good sleeping habits and getting a solid 7-10 hours of sleep per night is critical to lasting wellbeing but it can be tough to do. To help we called in an expert. This week’s blog has been graciously written by our friend and wellness partner Michelle Zellner, owner and founder of Better Beings. Michelle has been a trainer, coach, and facilitator for over 20 years. Seeking to inform, influence, and inspire, Michelle’s experience allows her to deliver on a wide variety of topics, including exercise, nutrition, weight loss, stress management, sleep, preventing and managing chronic disease, and work-life balance just to name a few.

Sleep – The Luxury You Can’t Live Without

How did you sleep last night?  No, really, HOW did you sleep?  I’ve spent years asking this question to those around me who always seem to get a good night’s sleep.  What’s the secret?  People who have no trouble sleeping don’t give it a second thought, but there are so many things needing to go right to get that good night of sleep, I think it’s amazing anyone does!  I have come to believe sleep is like most other things—some people are naturally better at it than others.

As a kid, I was the one at the slumber parties who was up, ready to go, at 6am.  Let me tell you, parents were not so thrilled!  Growing up, I remember lying awake, unable to fall asleep, for what seemed like forever. I was certain I was missing out on some kind of fun!  I always wondered how my sister could sleep sooooo late, even on Christmas morning.  She would tell me—”just wait until you get older and you’ll be sleeping in too.”  Nope, never happened.  By the time I moved away for college, things were getting especially interesting.  Sleep talking and sleepwalking became regular occurrences.  Japanese was my foreign language of choice and my roommate would tell me I’d sit straight up in the middle of the night and start speaking Japanese (more fluently than when I was awake).  I would often find my way to the stairwell at the opposite end of our dorm hall and have conversations with friends as they were coming home from a fun night out. On several occasions, I woke up to find myself sleeping on the floor outside my friend’s door.  I had no recollection of any of these events, but it turns out I was a pretty social, conversational person, while completely asleep.

At the time, I thought this was funny, odd, weird.  It made for great stories but was definitely a bit scary.  I wish I had been more interested in figuring out WHY this was happening, but eventually it became less frequent and then ceased altogether.  I now know that change, stress, irregular sleep patterns, and chronic sleep deprivation are triggers for this type of nighttime activity.

These are just a few of the challenges I’ve had with sleep.  For a period of time, I battled severe insomnia.  It would take hours for me to fall asleep and then would wake at 1:00 or 2:00am, unable to fall back to sleep.  This would happen several nights in a row and led to anxiety about going to bed.  My journey on the quest for the magic answer to blissful sleep has led me to discover I am far from alone in this struggle. While your challenges may be different, the root causes of sleep issues, and the consequences of sleep deprivation, are the same.  When we are young, we can get away with a lot.  I did well in school, had energy for gymnastics (as a kid), work and fun.  I was a generally pleasant person and any moodiness could be attributed to A) being a teenager or B) being hungry.  As with many things, the older we get, the less resilient we become.

Unfortunately, societal norms including schedule patterns (school, work, activities, and dietary habits) and the overuse of technology, are making it increasingly difficult for children, teenagers, and adults to get the quality sleep necessary for optimal human functioning and performance.  The side effect of not being tired the next day is just one small piece of why we need anywhere from 7-10 hours of quality sleep per night.  This should be the time for rest, repair, and hormonal reset.  Parts of the brain and body get to relax, while other parts of the brain and body get busy. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the increased risk for every single physical and mental health issue, because the critical functions designed to take place during various phases of our sleep cycle are either cut short or not happening at all.  Sleep is actually a necessity—not a luxury!

There are many reasons why we are sleep deprived, and identifying your obstacles to healthy, quality sleep is the first step.  I have come to realize that a good night’s sleep starts in the morning.  The behaviors we engage in throughout the day will either promote or obstruct our sleep that night.  Let me outline a few of the basics.

Back in the day, we operated on a natural day/night cycle…hunting and gathering during the day and, as darkness approached, we got quiet and hid from all the dangers that lurk. With that darkness, the pineal gland produced and released melatonin—one of our sleep-inducing hormones.  Our movement throughout the day allowed the body to produce adenosine triphosphate—a byproduct of the glucose burned as fuel in the body.  Adenosine is a brain chemical that also signals it is time for sleep.  Upon rising with the sun, the body released adrenaline and cortisol—two hormones that help get us going by releasing glucose and triglycerides into the bloodstream for fuel and circulating that fuel by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.

We ate real food (in appropriate amounts), which provided nutrients that enabled the body to produce adequate amounts of melatonin (think Omega-3 fatty acids), we did not eat fake food that the body had to work really hard to get rid of (think excess sugar), and we were not overconsuming stimulants (which trigger a release of cortisol, keeping you alert!).

We had the occasional big stressor (a big beast that wanted to eat you) and we did not have artificial light and physiologically and cognitively stimulating media devices.

For most people today, life looks nothing like that!  In fact, it may be quite the opposite.  The environment in which we live is not the one the human brain and body were designed for, so we need to do the best we can to simulate or create such an environment.  To set ourselves up for quality sleep (and a quality life!) we need to:

  1. Eat real food more often than not—consuming most calories early and often during the day and fewer as bedtime approaches.
  2. Minimize caffeine intake (no more than 200mg/day) and make sure you cut off consumption at least 10 hours prior to going to bed. In addition, avoid alcohol at least 4 hours prior to going to bed.
  3. Move your body as much as you can, as hard as you can, as often as you can.
  4. Manage your stressors during the day (meaning do not allow cortisol to be released unless it is really a threat to your existence).
  5. Have an evening winding down routine, allowing the house, the body, and the mind to get ready for sleep. The house gets dark, the body gets relaxed, the mind gets quiet.  Turn off the devices!
  6. Listen to your body and brain! If you find yourself snacking at night, it may be because you are ignoring the signals that it is time for bed.  When you override the messages from adenosine and melatonin and force yourself to stay awake, you reach for some form of sugar.  Instead—GO TO BED.

If you struggle with getting quality sleep, here is my suggestion.

  1. Identify the obstacle to sleep (check all that apply)
    1. Busy Mind
    2. Stress (cortisol released throughout the day)
    3. Inactivity
    4. Eating too late/types of food/amount of food
    5. Caffeine consumption
    6. Technology
    7. Interruptions (kids, animals, full bladder, significant other)
    8. Other?
  2. Create a real strategy to modify a behavior that could be impeding quality sleep.
  3. Recognize that it is the cumulative effect of all the things we do consistently over time that have the largest impact on the outcome. Multiple behaviors may need modification, and they have to become your habits to really reap the benefits.

Through analyzing my own tendencies, and acknowledging which ones were potentially impacting my sleep, I have been able to restructure and modify many of those habits.  While I occasionally have a difficult night of sleep, I am happy to say that insomnia is no longer a regular part of my life.  I also know, that even though that I am doing all I can right now to set myself up for quality sleep, it is not always in my control.  I try to make really healthy choices in every other area—what I put in my body, how much I move my body, and how I manage my stress triggers—to hopefully minimize the damage that inadequate sleep may be causing.  The healthy choice is usually the harder choice, but ultimately, I believe those healthy choices will produce a healthy, happy, productive human being.  So far, I have found it worth the effort—and I believe you will too!

 

To your wellbeing,

Michelle Zellner, Owner/Founder of Better Beings

www.betterbeings.net

Facebook: facebook.com/betterbeingsus

instagram:  @betterbeingsus

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Total Wellbeing: December 2017

 

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December 2017: Physical Wellbeing and Stress

Get Involved!

Welcome to the December issue of TotalWellbeing! If you have been following TotalWellbeing you know that every month we focus on one of the 8 Dimensions of Wellbeing. As we come to the end of the year, stress can increase and your attention to your physical wellbeing may decrease. As the holidays bring forth stress around money for gift giving and around family gatherings, and the many holiday parties you may attend certainly don’t help your nutrition commitments. Please take this time focus on what matters, use your emotional resilience skills to de-stress, and focus on eating healthy.

For a closer look at this month’s topic and helpful resources please check out The Path and The Connection below or check out our newest infographic on Stress for some helpful information around stress in the US and how to managed a stressful situation in  a healthy way.

In case you missed it, November was a great month on MINESblog! We started off with a great post from our affiliate and Alzheimer’s/Dementia expert JJ Jordan for Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Next, we celebrated World Kindness Day with a post talking about how to use kindness to improve your life and the lives of those around you. And finally, we posted about the interplay between stress and physical wellbeing as a tee up to this month’s focus. Be sure to check all of these out for great information and practical resources.

As always, for more information please check out the links to the left or hit the share button to send us a message. To be notified when we post more resources and articles make sure to subscribe to MINESblog. See you next month!

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

The Path: Health, Holidays, and Stress

Physical Wellbeing can encompass a lot of things from exercising regularly, eating healthy, taking time to make sure your stress is worked out through physical activity, and getting enough sleep. Stress can exasperate many medical and mental health conditions. This month is a perfect time to work on your stress by focusing on your physical wellbeing which will help resolve the side effects of stress. The blog on stress and physical wellbeing has some great tips and thoughts on this subject. As the holidays approach it is easy to put aside eating healthy and exercising. However, this is the best time to focus on doing this as it can actually improve your holiday experience and your overall wellbeing.

Check out these tips to incorporate healthy habits during the holidays!

Tips for you:

Emotions are a healthy part of the human experience. Acknowledging emotions and understanding your personal stress style is the first step in beginning to control them. In this session, we will discuss a selection of customary stressors as well as techniques for exercising control over them.

Check out the webinar here!

The Connection: Get Involved

Wellbeing does not simply start and stop at the individual. Our community is connected to each of our own individual wellbeing in a huge way. When we are well we can better function within our community.  We can help our fellow humans thrive, and in turn, when our community is prospering, it helps each of us reach our goals as individuals. So why not help our community so we can all thrive together? Each month we will strive to bring you resources that can help you enhance the wellbeing of those around you or get involved with important causes.

Community Wellbeing Resources:

This month look at how you can expand your knowledge and skills within your community in regards to physical activities. Check out your local community’s website for senior centers where you could volunteer to help take people on a hike or to do yoga. Or look for other ways you can improve your, and others, physical wellbeing.

Click here to find a place to use your skills near you!

If your organization has access to PersonalAdvantage make sure to check out this customizable online benefit available through MINES. It has tons of the same great resources for all the dimensions of wellbeing that we discuss here, along with some articles and a whole section on having a stress free holiday season! If you haven’t checked it out yet, or want to see what resources they have for this month’s topic check out the link below. You’ll need your company login, so make sure to get that from your employer or email us and we’ll be happy to provide that to you.

Check Out PersonalAdvantage Here!

 If you or a member of your household needs assistance or guidance on any of these wellbeing topics, please call MINES & Associates, your EAP, today for free, confidential, 24/7 assistance at 800.873.7138.

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 mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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Physical Wellbeing and Stress

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), being mindful of your physical wellbeing means recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep in order to maintain a healthy mind and body. Physical wellbeing is an important concept on many levels as your level of physical health has a huge influence on other parts of your life such stress levels, optimal hormone production, and energy levels to name a few. In this blog, my intention is to look at how stress and physical wellbeing interact with each other on a day-to-day basis and explore some things that we can all do to boost our physical wellbeing and lower our stress levels at the same time.

What does Physical Wellbeing Look Like?

The choice to maintain your overall physical wellbeing is one of balance. It doesn’t mean that you need to eat a super strict diet and exercise every day. It is more about creating healthy habits that you do on a consistent basis. If you are mindful of what you eat and how much you exercise, you will naturally start to move towards the healthier path. The more you repeat the behavior, the more you will begin to see the effects and the easier it will become to develop a routine. As you choose the healthier path more often than not, the good habits will grow and soon you won’t have to think about it, eating healthy foods will become the norm and a day where you don’t exercise or do some type of physical activity will feel strange and unproductive.

Before we get ahead of ourselves it is important to remember that physical wellbeing is just as much about making good decisions as it is about avoiding bad ones. For example, excessive drinking and drugs will impact your physical wellbeing in a huge way, as will eating junk food or never exercising, so remain vigilant and avoid the dangerous stuff just as much as you seek out the healthy. If we learn to moderate and balance ourselves it can go a long way in managing the impact of one of the biggest health hazards around, stress.

What is Stress?

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. While the definition is pretty broad, how each of us experience stress, and the circumstances that may be responsible for our stress, can be very specific and personal. This is one of the reasons there is no “cure-all” or universal way to eliminate stress from your life. The important thing is to monitor yourself for signs of stress and manage any stress in a proactive way to minimize any effects on your wellbeing.

So, what happens when we don’t manage our stress in a healthy and proactive manner? Well, stress can lead to numerous negative effects that can impact our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Some signs of unmanaged stress include fatigue, nausea, muscle tremors, twitches, headaches, anxiety, guilt, grief, fear, depression, irritability, inability to rest, memory and attention problems, trouble sleeping, and more. Again, since each of us has our own unique sources of stress, it is important to understand how you as an individual react to stress and monitor yourself for signs.

How Physical Wellbeing Interacts with Stress

The good news is that there are things that we can do to manage and reduce the stress that we experience. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on the physical wellbeing side, which includes physical activity, good nutrition, and sleep. Focusing on your physical wellbeing can both manage current stress as well as prevent future stressors such as disease and health conditions caused by poor physical wellbeing, so it really is a win/win situation!

Exercise

First, as a proactive management tool, exercise is one of the best and healthiest ways to manage the stressors of our daily lives. Exercise helps your muscles get rid of stress-induced tension and acids that build up, while also helping your body release feel-good endorphins that will help you relax. It will be important to develop an exercise routine that is aerobic, so you get all the heart-healthy benefits and make it fun so you’ll continue to enjoy doing it.

In addition to higher energy levels and relaxation benefits, another “pro” of regular exercise is a higher quantity and better quality of sleep. Now we will talk about sleep more in a bit, but for now I just wanted to note that it is important to stick to your exercise routine when you are stressed or tired. One of the reasons for this is that while we sleep our body uses this time to regulate chemicals in our body including neurotransmitters and hormones. When we don’t get enough sleep, those chemicals can be out of balance, but when we exercise it helps to balance out those same chemicals, meaning that when you don’t get enough sleep it becomes more important to exercise in order to keep your body in stasis.

Some exercise tips include:

  • Get a workout buddy. When you have a reliable partner to workout with, it makes exercise more fun. You can encourage and hold each other to the commitments that you have both made.
  • Talk to your doctor. A doctor can help gauge where your physical wellbeing is at now and help set healthy goals to strive for. This will also help you approach your goals in a safe and calculated way specific to your individual needs.
  • Avoid Boredom. Don’t set yourself up for failure by selecting activities you know you hate. If you can’t stand running in place on a treadmill, run outside or bike instead. Working out in solitary not your thing? Try group classes to shake things up.

Nutrition

Next up is nutrition. Good eating habits centered around eating regular, nutritious meals will further help your body stay chemically balanced, improve energy levels, and reduce the chances of stress causing disease caused from poor nutrition including obesity and diabetes.

When developing your nutritional goals, it will be important to focus on foods low in fat, sodium, and refined sugars. Look for foods containing complex and complete carbohydrates such as whole wheat breads and flours. When purchasing meat, think about using leaner options such as turkey bacon and chicken over fat-heavy pork. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and limit alcohol consumption.

It can also be important how you eat. As much as you can help it, eating should not be a rushed or stressed endeavor. Try to set aside enough time that you don’t need to rush through your food. Not only will this lead to easier digestion, but mindful eating can be a time for relaxation and contemplation. For instance, try this mindful eating exercise next time you are having dinner. Begin by taking the time to look at your food and notice how it looks, if it’s a hot meal pay attention to how the steam rises from the dish, and how the colors of the various food items look. Take a single bite and focus on how the food tastes, what the texture is like, and what you enjoy about each bite. If you are eating with family members have them describe their own thoughts about the food and the eating experience. Mindful eating not only helps you appreciate the food and the overall experience of eating, it also has physical benefits such as easier digestion from the slower eating pace. Eating slower also means your body will have more time to tell you it’s full before you take those few extra bites. Of course, this is just one example of using a simple everyday activity as a mindfulness exercise, but it should get you thinking about other activities in your own day-to-day life that have mindful potential. Leveraging these small “mindful moments” can go a long way in helping you maintain perspective and stay present among all the external stressors in your life.

Some other nutrition tips include:

  • Do not go to the store hungry and stock only healthy foods at home. Not going to the store hungry and making sure to only buy healthy food means that when you are hungry and craving the junk food you will simply not have access to it. Over time you will begin to truly enjoy and crave the good, healthier options.
  • Make simple swaps for a leaner diet. Rather than eliminating foods you love, try simply making them healthier with a few substitutions. Prepare veggies without sauces or butter, reduce your fatty meat portions, grill instead of fry, dip food in sauce rather than smother it, and choose whole-grain, low-salt, and low-fat options when shopping.
  • Make a meal log. Keeping a list of the meals you eat can help you visualize your eating habits, identify patterns, and find opportunities for improvement. Sometimes you just don’t realize that you had 3 cheeseburgers already this week, but if you keep a list it becomes easier to find those bad habits you may not think about otherwise.

Sleep

Sleep can be a huge issue for many people, and the frustrating thing about the sleep/stress cycle is that stress can often be the cause of sleepless nights and in turn being tired makes you less resilient to the effects of stress. This can cause an exhausting spiral that can quickly take its toll on your wellbeing and other good habits such as your exercise routine, even though as I mentioned above, it’s even more important to exercise when you have had poor sleep.

In addition to magnifying the effects of stress, not getting enough sleep causes all sorts of negative effects and can be dangerous. Drowsiness can cause delayed reaction time, impaired judgement, poor vision quality, decreased motivation, irritability, and lack of focus. All of these side effects are bad by themselves but when combined with activities like driving or operating machinery, the risk factor goes way up. To combat these risks, you need to be mindful and purposeful of your sleeping routine. Make it a goal to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and build your bedtime routine around this effort. Begin by building a bedtime ritual that you start at the same time every night. Pick relaxing activities that help you wind down. This could be reading a book, meditating, taking a warm bath, journaling, or something else you find enjoyable and relaxing. Try to avoid any activities that involve a screen like a TV, computer, or mobile device as these screens can emit light within a specific spectrum that can interfere with, and alter, your sleep/wake cycle.

Some sleep tips include:

  • Keep to the same bedtime and wake time schedule, even on weekends.
  • Eliminate noise and light from your sleep environment (use eye masks and earplugs).
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and foods close to bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol; although it may seem to improve sleep initially, tolerance develops quickly and it will soon disturb sleep.

Other Considerations

By now you should have at least some idea around how stress and physical wellbeing interact with each other and may even have an idea of how you’re going to use your physical activities to help reduce stress. No matter what your physical and nutrition plan is, balance and moderation will be important. Don’t exercise yourself into exhaustion and don’t diet yourself into a nutrient deficiency. In fact, we would advise that you talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen or diet. Find out what path works for your unique set of needs and proceed slowly. Start developing those good habits while you scale back the bad ones and before you know it these changes you make will become habitual and most importantly, sustainable.

It is practically impossible to avoid stress in our daily lives, and we must accept that many things are outside our control. However, by maintaining the facets of our lives we do have control over, we can be infinitely better prepared to handle the stressors that inevitably come our way. It is crucial that we maintain healthy habits that will build “positive spirals” in our lifestyle and overall health. The journey is not always an easy one but the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to your social network of friends and family and see who wants to take the journey with you or is at least willing to encourage you and help you stick to your convictions. Read self-help books on topics your struggling with, talk to others that may have experience, and try out local support groups.

If your employer offers one, you can also reach out to your Employee Assistance Program to see what resources they can offer to help such as MINES’ wellness programs or online portal, PersonalAdvantage, that provides articles, assessments, tips, trainings, and other resources on fitness, nutrition, stress, and much more. Call us at 1-800-873-7138 or email us at communications@minesandassociates.com if you have any questions.

 

To your wellbeing,

Nic Mckane

The MINES Team

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Suicide in the Workplace

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide. Consider that number for a moment.  Imagine someone asked you to count 1 million toothpicks.  How long would it take?  Most Americans have been impacted by suicide.  The topic of suicide and the workplace is not frequently talked about and often gets overlooked.

A colleague or employee contemplating suicide can be overwhelming for HR representatives, supervisors, and managers.  You may not know what your role is or how to offer support without overstepping professional and personal boundaries.  One of the most difficult questions has to do with assessment.  How does one determine if a person is really at risk for suicide, and if a risk is detected what is the most effective way to intervene?

This blog provides a brief reference, or starting point, for developing strategies to manage suicide in the work place.   It addresses warning signs, prevention tips, and postvention tips.  It also offers suggestions for what you can do to support those who have lost an employee or co-worker to suicide.

When a person is contemplating taking their own life, they often will not voluntarily tell anybody.  They may, however, reach out in non-direct ways.  Below are some warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide:

  1. Talking, writing about suicide/death. The phrases, “I wish I were dead” or “the world would be better off without me” are common examples of things suicidal people might say.
  2. Someone might be suicidal if they begin actively seeking access to guns or other weapons, pills, etc.
  3. They begin putting their affairs in order. Things like making a will, or tying up loose ends as not to be a further burden on friends and family might be a sign that they are contemplating leaving for good.
  4. A person who appears down, depressed, or hopeless.
  5. Isolating themselves from others. Somebody who normally engages socially might become isolated or start to withdraw from co-workers, work engagements and other social obligations might be suffering from major depression.
  6. Increase in risky behavior. If a person significantly increases alcohol, or drug use, incidents of unsafe sex, calling into work, reckless driving, or a host of other harmful activities, they are demonstrating unsafe behaviors and may have given up.

If you witness one or more of the above behaviors the next step is to determine their risk.  It is helpful to consider multiple factors that could increase ones risk.  The brief list below is a place to start.

  1. Biopsychosocial factors: The individual is at higher risk if they have a history of trauma or abuse, alcohol or drug addiction, or mental health issues–especially those that have gone undiagnosed or untreated.  If there have been previous attempts and/or a family history of suicide then this would increase the likelihood that someone would seriously complete suicide.
  2. Sociocultural factors: Being part of a stigmatized, non-dominate group in society like LBGTQ can cause a person to feel isolated especially if they do not have the support of friends and family.  The person may have been in a social environment where suicide is normalized, they may have had friends or family complete suicide which makes suicide contemplative.  Barriers to mental healthcare associated with socioeconomic issues prevent individuals obtaining the help and early intervention they need.
  3. Environmental factors: These might include a recent job loss, dropping out of school, or loss of a loved one or relationship.  The person may live in an environment where access to guns or pills is readily available increasing their means–subsequently increasing risk.
  4. Does the person have a plan, intent or means to commit suicide? If somebody discloses that they have a specific plan to harm themselves, high motivation to do so, and a way to do it, they are at high risk for committing suicide.

If you have seen the warning signs in someone and determine that they are at high risk and you feel they are in imminent danger you should get them to a mental health professional, call 911, or take them to the nearest emergency room.  For long-term suicide prevention tips in the workplace see the ideas below.

Prevention tips:

  1. Make help accessible by posting suicide prevention hotlines in lunchrooms, break rooms, and bathrooms.
  2. Raise awareness regarding resources; make sure employees know that they have an employee assistance program (EAP) and that using the benefit is confidential. Post flyers with numbers to the EAP so that number is accessible to everyone. Oftentimes EAP programs are accessible to human resource representatives, mangers, and supervisors; take advantage and seek advice.  Have a list of community resources that offer mental health services.  Let employees know that they can also talk with their human resources representative.
  3. Educate employees by destigmatizing mental health and substance abuse issues by offering lunch and learns or trainings on various topics such as suicide, healthy coping skills for managing stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues.
  4. Create a balanced work environment by allowing for “mental health” days or offering work from home days if it’s possible. Managers and supervisors can help by assisting in resolving work problems as they arise and managing conflict effectively between co-workers, managers, and supervisors.

If your company has experienced a suicide, the loss of a colleague or employee can be shocking and traumatic. Below are a series postvention tips that might be helpful in the event of a workplace suicide.

Postvention tips:

  1. Acknowledge that your employees may have strong emotions surrounding the suicide and will need opportunities to express their feelings.
  2. Supervisors and managers should be on alert for PTSD symptoms. A drastic change in behavior may be a sign that a person is having a hard time dealing with the incident.
  3. Encourage healthy grieving by providing a basic understanding of the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  The stages of grief affect individuals differently at various rates.   Some employees may express their grief as sadness or anger over a long period of time, while others may get back to their normal lives rather quickly.
  4. Offering empathetic and compassionate listening will give employees permission to talk openly with their supervisors and managers and will give them the opportunity to ask for what they might need in their grief. Being accessible to employees lets them know that they are not alone and that they are supported
  5. Become a role model for healthy grieving by being open with your feelings surrounding the suicide.

The purpose of this blog is not only to help employers notice the warning signs of suicide and help them assess their employee’s risk for suicide, it also serves as a basic framework on how to instill awareness regarding suicide, prevention and postvention tips in the workplace.  It is likely that if there is early recognition and intervention of a person who is contemplating suicide, that there can be a positive outcome.  In honor of suicide prevention month remember, asking someone “how are you doing” or “are you ok” should reach farther than the project they’re working on.  By asking and being open to talk, you can save a person’s life.

Helpful resources:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://www.crisischat.org/

http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html

http://actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/sites/actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/files/Managers-Guidebook-To-Suicide-Postvention-Web.pdf

Crisis Lines:

1-800-273-TALK (8255):  This number will connect you with a mental health professional who will be able to assist you.

Apps:

Ask:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ask-prevent-suicide/id419595716?mt=8

The Jason Foundation:  http://jasonfoundation.com/get-involved/student/a-friend-asks-app/

MY3:  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/my3-app.aspx

Alea Makley, MA
Case Manager
MINES & Associates

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