Deal with Stress Before It Deals with You

“What an awful day.” Have you ever heard yourself – or someone close to you – express that sentiment? Some days are tougher than others . . . nothing seems to go right, time feels like your enemy, and whatever is plaguing you throughout the day follows you home like a stray cat. There you cope with bills, things that are broken (there’s always something broken), kid troubles, dog troubles, neighbor troubles – it’s a long list that seems overwhelming, especially when your work life is stressing you out, as well. Then you can’t sleep, and tired and cranky, you arise to face another day, frustrated, worried and exhausted.

Stress and work go hand in hand, but the physical and emotional costs of employee stress taxes employers as well through reduced productivity, low morale and teamwork issues. Together, these problems affect quality, service and overall performance.

Stress is insidious and pervasive. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence, more than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress. The APA also found high levels of employee stress, with two-thirds of those surveyed citing work as a significant source of stress, and more than a third reporting that they typically feel stressed during the workday.

These numbers help put into perspective what organizational development experts see as an epidemic-level wave of unhappy employees. If you’re wondering what the impact of this unhappiness may be on your workplace, consider that stress at work manifests itself in increased absenteeism and presenteeism, lower productivity and increased service errors, and has a negative impact on safety, quality and teamwork.

Yet despite growing awareness of the importance of a healthy workplace, few employees say their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage stress and meet their mental health needs.

People want to see an employer show an interest in them as human beings, and want to be recognized for their hard work, dedication and value. And since health is important to all of us, investing in health and wellness planning, and involving your workforce in both the planning and execution can result in a significant return on investment.

Taking time to ask employees what they think is important. That can be done informally at lunches, team meetings, small-group interactions, and one-on-one. There are a variety of inexpensive online tools available for surveying attitudes and communication, as well. But the easy steps, like building employees into planning and decision making is invaluable for improved execution and buy-in. And recognizing performance, personally and in front of the team, pays back in spades. Small gestures like gift certificates, comp time, and team lunches go a long way toward improving morale.

Additionally, you can sponsor team walks, charity events and after-hours athletic activities, supplement fitness center fees, host on-site health screenings, and take many other steps to foster improved wellness and comradery – the list of potential steps is long, as are the benefits.

Coping with Financial Stress

There’s an insidious nature to how we spend money, how we talk with our significant others about it, and the impact finances have on our mental and physical health. Worrying about money and debt causes increased anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, and stress that taxes our hearts, contributes to high blood pressure, aggravates stomach issues like acid reflux and ulcers, and can lead to strokes and heart disease.

Three out of four American families are in debt, and the weight of all that anxiety can become more apparent in our performance in the workplace, as well. Whether it’s lack of sleep, irritability, lower productivity or increased absenteeism due to the side effects of stress and depression, money woes cost us professionally and personally across a wide spectrum. Unhealthy spending behaviors and debt are a major cause of relationship problems and often cited as a contributing factor in many divorces and breakups.

There’s a difference between active coping and comfort coping – some of us eat more, spend more, or devise short-term solutions. Instead we should be thinking about informed, collaborative planning and strategies for dealing with our money issues. Creating goals is important–working toward a home purchase, a special vacation, college, or retirement savings. We need a clear game plan and tools to help realize our dreams. It’s important to think long term, but live with short-term daily strategies, as well.

Employers pay attention to the health and well-being of their employees, so why should employees’ financial health be any less important? Financial experts and coaches are available to come into the workplace for “lunch and learn” or after-work discussions, and employers can encourage employees to seek outside counseling and guidance, or offer to supplement the cost of these kinds of programs.

Here are tips to share for improving financial health:

  • Make a budget. While it sounds simple, many people fail to truly organize their financial lives and understand what they bring in and what they can afford. Is it possible that you spend $25 a week on coffee? Sure it is – and that’s okay, if you can afford the extra hundred dollars a month. If you have a detailed budget and you stick to it, buying things during the day that make you happy is okay. If you can’t pay your bills, you may consider making your own coffee at home for a fraction of the price.
  • Track your expenses. Write it in a notebook, record it on your computer, or download a spending application on your phone. Tracking what you spend is an important way to understanding your spending habits, course correcting, and establishing a realistic budget.
  • Avoid credit or use it wisely. Credit cards can be a good way to build your credit, but only if you use them infrequently and wisely. If you can afford something, buy it with cash or use a debit card. Use a credit card as a last resort for important purchases you don’t have the money for upfront, but be diligent about paying it off as quickly as possible to avoid exorbitant finance charges.
  • Talk to others about your financial concerns. Share your worries and issues with people close to you, especially your partner. The stigma and shame that accompanies money problems – and the weight of hiding those pressures – causes stress, anxiety and depression. Good communication and honesty can help alleviate some of the stress and the sense of hopelessness that comes with every bill or debt collector’s call.
  • Consult a financial expert. You don’t need investment income to seek guidance from a financial planner or consultant. They can help you devise a savings strategy, prioritize your debt, build your budget, and plan for the future more effectively.
  • Refinance your debt. Consolidation loans with a lower monthly finance charge can help you rid yourself of credit cards. If you can, pay more than the minimum monthly payment and avoid missed payments.

There also are services available to help negotiate payment plans and for consolidating debt, but many of them charge a service fee for this assistance. Look for support groups, free counseling services, and programs such as Debtors Anonymous (DA), a confidential 12-step program available online and across the country, where people with debt or spending issues can come together to examine solutions to their money issues, and find fellowship and support.

We all have to deal with stress – the question becomes, can we face our challenges in a healthy way, and get help when we need it, at home and at work, before it takes its toll on our physical and mental health and productivity? Employers can play an important role in helping to recognize and mitigate stressful factors and consequences.


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Stop Working to Increase Productivity

Our brains and our bodies run out of steam after sitting or standing too long at our desks, work stations, machines, counters or work sites. Excessive sitting, in fact, wreaks havoc with our physiology, and is a known factor for increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, depression and obesity.

Our metabolism slows after 20 minutes of physical inactivity, lowering HDL, which is the “good” cholesterol. And without some physical stimulation over an extended period, we tire, lose focus, productivity drops and opportunities for mistakes and accidents increase.

Taking breaks is smart business practice, though many people choose to work through lunch or avoid breaks. That may be due to deadlines and important projects, piecework, service coverage or because of a work culture that doesn’t encourage downtime. Many managers and senior executives often set that pace by not taking breaks themselves or by not encouraging their workers to take time for healthy movement, stretching or recreation time during the day.

According to a workplace study conducted by Tork, a leading global hygiene, medical supplies and health company, nearly 20 percent of North American workers surveyed worry their bosses think they aren’t working hard enough if they take regular lunch breaks. Another 13 percent worry that their co-workers will judge them, and 39 percent say that don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.

And their fears appear justified, in that 22 percent of North American bosses say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking. To the contrary, nearly 90 percent of employees surveyed said that taking a lunch break helps them feel refreshed and ready to go back to work.

Taking Breaks Increases Productivity

Smart organizations realize that productivity and quality are negatively affected when employees are more tired, stressed and physically inactive. To help mitigate productivity loss and employee burnout, they are making great strides toward changing this paradigm by encouraging employees to regularly stand up and move, stretch, walk or exercise during breaks and lunch and generally move around during the work day.

For some workers, it’s simply knowing the importance of getting up and moving for three or four minutes at least once an hour. That can be walking to get a beverage, going to another office or work area, or strolling for a few minutes. Proper stretching to loosen muscles and limbs is valuable, and encouraging individuals or groups to walk together at or after lunch or dinner promotes exercise, safety and teambuilding.

For good health, adults should engage in moderate physical activity at least 30 minutes a day. Many organizations now offer fitness, yoga or meditation instruction at the workplace, have fitness rooms, or subsidize local gym memberships. Companies also sponsor charity walks, runs or bicycling activities, team athletics such as softball, basketball, volleyball and tennis, and support personal interests such as swimming, climbing and dance.

Here are some simple and easy steps you can take to get moving during work hours:

  • Take daily breaks from work and go for a short walk. Over time, try increasing your distances or taking multiple short breaks several times a
  • Take a few minutes for some easy, natural stretching. Do this several times a day at your desk or in a private area, such as a fitness space. If you go for a walk, include a few minutes for gentle
  • Join a lunch-hour fitness program, or choose a time that works for you, such as in the evening or before work. Select activities that you can also do on your own time so it can become a regular part of your
  • Consider taking public transportation and daily walks to transit stops. Try to enjoy the walks and the fact that they allow you to be more
  • For those with disabilities, or medical or mobility issues, take breaks that are right for you and approved by your doctor. If you have a medical condition, you may be able to participate in or modify some of the exercises in a fitness
  • Support fundraising events with your co-workers for charitable causes that support active living events by training regularly with your co-workers; this can be good for both your health and for
  • Host walking meetings for small groups. Also, getting outside for a walk can invigorate participants, encourage creativity and reenergize everyone.

Worksites can encourage physical activity through a multicomponent approach of offering management support, physical access to opportunities, policies, and social-support programs. We each have to take personal responsibility for our own health and wellness. But when organizations demonstrate their commitment to employees’ health in the workplace, that benefit carries over out of the workplace, as well, and results in reduced absenteeism due to illness and stress, and increased productivity, morale, personal engagement and teamwork.

 


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Laughter and Work Actually Do Mix

What’s so funny about work? Well, depending on where you’re sitting and your position in the organizational hierarchy, just about everything! Come on, now, you have to admit it: Who doesn’t laugh at work? And if they don’t, what do you honestly think about them?  We all know that person – stiff, always serious, never smiling or seeming to enjoy work or their life . . . a sad stereotype. But whatever their reasons for being who and how they are, the uber serious aren’t just missing out, they are likely not as healthy as those who laugh and find humor in the people and things around them.

That’s not to say the workplace shouldn’t be a serious place. Work is important, as is making deadlines, ensuring service and decorum, maintaining quality and increasing productivity. But humans are social beings, and laughter helps relieve stress, strengthens teams and binds us to common goals.

When you watch people sitting together at lunch or talking at breaks or at gatherings you can see them change physically and relax. Whether enjoying a joke, story or anecdote, or just reflecting on something that has happened or been observed, laughter is good for our mental and physical health and should be encouraged, as appropriate to time and place. But as we can’t legislate happiness, sadness or frustration, we also can’t control people wanting to laugh . . . nor should we. Instead, as employers, we can encourage and support opportunities for relaxing and enhancing teamwork.

People have the remarkable ability to find the humor in almost every situation. It’s an important coping mechanism, and a way to release tension and search, consciously or subconsciously, for empathy. And that is very, very healthy.

Next month (April) is both National Humor Month and Stress Awareness Month. While many health-related awareness designations have little relevance to one another, this combination is an exception. Humor plays an important role in reducing stress, and laughter, whether loud and boisterous, or soft and silent, drives biological reactions that reduce pain, strengthen our immune systems, increase productivity and improve our relationships with our fellow workers, friends, families, and even with total strangers.

Striving to see humor in life and attempting to laugh at situations rather than complain helps improve our disposition and the disposition of those around us. Our ability to laugh at ourselves and situations helps reduce stress and makes life more enjoyable. Humor also helps us connect with others. People naturally respond to the smiles and good cheer of those around them.

The chemical reaction linked to humor and laughter involves endorphins, pain-relieving chemicals usually caused by physical activity or touch. Our bodies create endorphins in response to exercise, excitement, pain, spicy food, and love, among other things. In addition to giving us a “buzz,” bursts of energy and a general good feeling, endorphins raise our ability to ignore pain. In fact, researchers believe that the long series of exhalations that accompany true laughter cause physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles and, in turn, trigger endorphin release.

Consider these facts about the positive health effects of humor:

  • People with a developed sense of humor typically have a stronger immune system.
  • People who laugh heartily on a regular basis have lower-standing blood pressure than the average person. When people have a good laugh, initially the blood pressure increases but then decreases to levels below normal. Breathing then becomes deeper, which sends oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body.
  • Laughter can be a great workout for your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg, and back muscles. It massages abdominal organs, tones intestinal functioning, and strengthens the muscles that hold the abdominal organs in place. It is estimated that hearty laughter can burn calories equivalent to several minutes on the rowing machine or the exercise bike.
  • Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information. Laughing also elevates moods.

Organizations can support this spontaneous health benefit by encouraging people to dine together in and out of the office or workplace, and by creating common areas where people may congregate before, after or even during work hours. Pictures and posters that elicit humorous comments, sharing of humor online and through organizational websites and emails, as well as through speeches, meetings and presentations, shows employees that everyone – even the boss – has a good sense of humor and realizes that while we’re all working hard, we need to acknowledge our social side and not take ourselves too seriously.

The sound of laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle, or sneeze. Humor and laughter have many benefits, and they don’t cost a penny. So, laugh at yourself and laugh with others — you’ll be improving your health and the health of those around you with every chuckle and smile!


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Being Mindful Throughout the Day

A lot has been written about stress-reduction techniques like exercise, yoga, meditation and mindfulness. While all offer methods for strengthening our bodies and our minds, each technique may not be practical at work, at school, or while shopping or driving in traffic. Yet there’s no question that the ability to calm ourselves and improve focus reduces tension, improves our mood, is good for heart health (February is National Heart health Awareness Month), and increases productivity, morale and teamwork. So clearly, there’s value in considering how to implement or support stress-reduction in the workplace.

The trick, says experts, isn’t to see relaxation through mindfulness or meditation as a magic pill you take when you’re already melting down, but rather, as a daily practice that begins when you awaken and carries forward throughout your day, regardless of where you are or what you are doing.

Mindfulness is being focused on the present moment. That means you’re not worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow, or dwelling on what happened in yesterday’s meeting, before you left your house this morning, or what’s waiting for you later in the day. By remaining totally present, you are able to take a step back and make better decisions. That includes not reacting negatively in that moment, being able to take the time to think things through more objectively, and not making judgments based only on what could be incomplete, emotionally polluted or circumstantial information.

There are a number of ways to achieve this more peaceful, calm presence. Some steps are obvious; these include:

  • Don’t answer your phone or check your emails when meeting with another person or group;
  • Establish an advance agenda and stick to it during the allotted time;
  • Keep meetings or calls on schedule and respect other people’s time
  • Listen carefully to what others are saying, not just their words; and
  • Try to put yourself in another person’s shoes, knowing full well that whatever you think may be driving their actions or words could be completely wrong.

But getting to a more peaceful place yourself, and for your workers, takes practice. Here are a few techniques to consider:

Start your day by meditating. Meditation is useful in dealing with medical conditions worsened by stress, such as anxiety disorders, asthma, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain and trouble sleeping.

Don’t let the thought of meditating the “right” way add to your stress. If you choose to, you can attend special meditation centers or group classes led by trained instructors. But you can also practice meditation easily on your own.

Taking 15 minutes to half an hour each morning before the day carries you off is a perfect way to seize control before the stress and pressures seize you. Find a quiet spot, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Just breathe in and out, slowly and rhythmically, and feel the air entering your body through your nostrils, traveling down through your body, and then being slowly expelled.

One common trick is to practice a simple one – two count. Breathe in, one two, breathe out, one two, and repeat this step 20 times.

While you are breathing, try clearing your thoughts. This isn’t easy . . . but the idea is to let things come in and pass out without allowing them to attach. You may not be able to prevent these thoughts, but, as one meditation expert says about random ideas, “they may come to your house, but you don’t have to invite them in for tea.”

Consider a mantra. This can be a positive thought, a few simple words or a phrase that is simple and meaningful that you repeat over and over while relaxing. It can be a goal, an aspiration, a prayer – whatever works for you. Again, the purpose is to help you control your breathing and relax.

Take a lunch break or quiet time. It sounds obvious, but when we’re busy, pressured or on a deadline, we may feel we don’t have time to take a break. But separating ourselves from our stress, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes, allows us to reset and refresh. How you use the time is wide open:  take a quick walk, sit and meditate, write a personal note, read, eat a meal, listen to some music . . . whatever works for you. The trick is to give your brain and body a few minutes to recharge. Taking a deliberate break and detaching from work is a mindful way to improve concentration, facilitate greater awareness, and take control of our day.

Talk with a friend, family member or co-worker. When we’re busy we get into our own heads and become preoccupied with whatever challenges we are facing. It’s good to be reminded that there are plenty of other things going on in our lives, and that work – while important – isn’t everything.  While we want to remain mindful and focused while on task, taking a few minutes during the day to get in touch with our outside world is important, as well.

Keep a journal or daily record. Set goals and record successes and actions. Each step we take is important and when we don’t achieve our goals, it’s not a failure – just part of the process for self-improvement and increased awareness. By organizing ourselves and keeping track of how we do, we can better plan for each day and see our incremental improvement.

Celebrate milestones and successes. When we hold ourselves or our teams accountable for huge successes, it’s easy to forget to recognize each step in the journey. Establishing achievable milestones – and then rewarding ourselves for reaching them – is an important part of teambuilding and boosts morale and engagement.

Establish a “quiet place.” If possible, setting aside a small area or room for people to visit during down times, for lunch, reading, or for mediation is very helpful. It can be a corner with a few chairs and lamps, or an unused office . . . the idea is to demonstrate your support for this common area, and to encourage people to find ways to relax and focus on their health and wellbeing.

Remember, learning how to be mindful doesn’t happen overnight. Like anything else worth doing, it takes practice and dedication. But the rewards, individually and collectively, are great, and the long-term value is priceless.


 

If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

 

Putting Disease Management Programs to Work

People with chronic health conditions can benefit from specialized healthcare outreach and self-management programs in place at CBIA’s health benefits partners, ConnectiCare and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. These programs help patients manage their conditions more effectively, with the goal of enhancing patient knowledge about specific diseases, encouraging compliance, preventing painful or dangerous complications as much as possible, and mitigating flareups when they occur.

ConnectiCare’s Touchpoints Program offers options to help members manage specific conditions including:

  • BREATHE – Asthma: for all members with asthma.
  • BREATHE – COPD: for members with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • DiabetiCare – for adult members with diabetes.
  • HeartCare – CAD: for members with coronary artery disease.
  • HeartCare – HF: for members with heart failure.
  • Birth Expectations — for pregnant members with a history of a previous pre-term delivery or of carrying more than one baby.

Additionally, they offer a Kidney Case Management Program designed to help ConnectiCare members and their families manage kidney disease. A registered nurse with specialized training calls members to provide guidance and support and to monitor health conditions and complications that are commonly related to kidney disease.

Harvard Pilgrim takes a comprehensive approach to disease management, focusing on patient-centered care that coordinates resources across the health care delivery system and throughout the life cycle of a disease. Harvard Pilgrim’s disease management programs include a range of components specifically designed to reinforce clinicians’ treatment plans. These include:

  • Clinical practice guidelines for effective care
  • Patient identification and outreach
  • Patient education in managing their condition in order to reduce adverse outcomes and maximize quality of life.

These programs assist patients by helping them better understand their condition, giving them useful and timely information about their disease, and providing them with assistance from clinical health educators, nurses and pharmacists who can help them manage their disease.

If you think you qualify for a disease management program, or have other questions, contact your health benefits provider directly using the customer service number on your member identification card.


 

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

 

Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail

As we race to the end of another calendar year, it’s time to take stock of the health and wellness goals we set for ourselves in early 2018. Whether our intention was to lose weight, get to the gym regularly, run our first 5k, bicycle or hike, stop smoking or do something about stress, the remaining days of this year are short, but there’s hope:  after December 21st, each day is getting longer and we have a clean slate for implementing our healthcare plans for 2019!

Start with a glass-half-full approach: whatever we did do in 2018 counts and is better than nothing. There’s no point in lamenting about all the well-intentioned health and wellness options we never fulfilled, how badly we ate at the holidays or missing our weight-loss goal. Rather, now is a great time to make a firm and achievable personal wellness plan designed to improve physical, emotional and spiritual health in 2019 and beyond.

But first, we have to get through the holidays – so take it easy and enjoy the season. That may not sound like sage nutritional advice, but we all know what the coming weeks bring. It’s a stressful time of year without putting additional pressure on ourselves. Eat and drink consciously and in moderation, try substituting healthy snacks like vegetables and fruit when possible, and think about your personal goals.

Be it eating more healthfully, exercising more, finding time to relax or whatever suits you, change takes place progressively and through conscious choice. Making resolutions is as old as the hills, but setting simple goals includes taking the time to determine how we’ll achieve them, and how we will measure our success. This isn’t difficult and may be the best gift we can give ourself as we approach the new year.

When it comes to reasonable health and wellness planning, “simple, achievable and realistic” are our keywords. Here are some tips to help guide your steps:

  • Acknowledge a realistic vision of success. If losing weight is one of your goals, set a realistic number and timetable, so you can achieve your goal safely. Avoid “fad diets,” and take the time to learn about potential problems, such as vitamin deficiencies or other health risks that accompany weight loss. Read about sugar, fat, carbs, and the chemistry of food.
  • Adopt an effective strategy. Focus on relatively short-term goals, like eating vegetables four times a day, cutting back on carbs and sugar, eating healthy snacks, and doing at least 20 minutes of cardio a day. Keep track of your efforts daily and weekly by writing on a calendar or maintaining a journal, and create simple “rewards” for your weekly or monthly successes, such as buying a gift or doing something personally meaningful.
  • Seek professional assistance: If, for example, losing weight is an important health goal, speak with your physician, fitness expert and/or a licensed nutritionist about longer-term lifestyle changes that will help you achieve your mission. If you’re planning on losing or gaining weight, or considering supplements or aggressive options, seek professional input to ensure healthy results. And if you want to stop smoking, there are a variety of smoking-cessation programs and medications to assist you.
  • Review and adjust your commitment. To be successful you have to set goals, measure your progress, and adjust. Be flexible — if you find, for example, that walking every day is impossible, walk four days a week, or longer on the weekends. Sign up for a yoga or fitness class. And when you give in to that yummy, calorie-rich dessert, don’t despair . . . tomorrow is a new day. You know yourself better than anyone — make adjustments that will work for you if you fall off the wagon or fail to achieve your weekly goals.
  • Use the “buddy system.” Tell a friend about your goals and see if you can work out, walk, or practice your new diet together. Share helpful articles and tips, check in regularly, support each other when you miss a goal, and celebrate your individual and mutual successes.

Ultimately, the best advice about getting healthier is to just get started and to not give up, even when you miss a day or have a bad week. By setting realistic goals and a simple, formal plan, the gift of improved health and wellness is yours to keep.


Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Recognizing and Managing ADHD

Time management can be our friend or our nemesis – how we use time, and our ability to stay organized and on task varies from person to person. We may be constantly drawn in several directions simultaneously, often with multiple conflicting priorities. For many task-oriented people, variety is the spice of life and they thrive on challenges and deadlines. But for others, it’s often difficult to remain focused, to complete tasks without interruption or distraction, or to finish one assignment or activity before moving onto something else.

The failure to remain focused, difficulty completing tasks without interruption, and the inability to successfully negotiate distractions can be signs of chemical, emotional, and genetic challenges such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Over the past decades, these symptoms have been more readily diagnosed in children, especially those having trouble in school or unable to relax, play quietly or get along effectively with others. With today’s technological advances, it’s easy to blame over-stimulation for playing a strong supporting role in keeping kids off balance, more easily bored without technology, and wanting more all the time. But for adults, these same symptoms can be more insidious, limiting our efficiency at work and at home, straining relationships, and interfering with sleep and health.

Currently, approximately seven percent of American children are being treated with medications for ADHD, and about half of them will carry those symptoms into adulthood, says the American Psychiatric Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates numbers are even higher, at least twice as many. On top of that, many adults have ADHD or ADD but have never been diagnosed.

The average age of ADHD diagnosis is seven years old. Males are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females, and during their lifetimes, 13 percent of men will be diagnosed with ADHD. Just 4.2 percent of women will be diagnosed.

Signs You Might Have ADD or ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD typically first appear between the ages of three and six, but as many children and adults have never been diagnosed, it’s difficult to judge exactly when symptoms might have appeared, since those inflicted have been living with these challenges most of their lives. Here are common behavioral signs:

  • Lack of focus.Possibly the most telltale sign of ADHD, “lack of focus,” goes beyond difficulty paying attention. It means being easily distracted, finding it hard to listen to others in a conversation, overlooking details, and not completing tasks or projects.
  • Hyperfocus. While people with ADHD are often easily distracted, the flip side of the coin is called hyperfocus. A person with ADHD can be so engrossed in something that they can ignore anything else around them. This kind of focus makes it easier to lose track of time, ignore those around you, and cause relationship misunderstandings.
  • We all forget things occasionally. But for someone with ADHD or ADD, forgetfulness is an everyday part of life. This includes routinely forgetting where you’ve put something or important dates. Some can be menial. Others can be serious. The bottom line is that forgetfulness can be damaging to careers and relationships because it can be confused with carelessness, lack of intelligence, or ambivalence.
  • Impulsivity. Impulsiveness in someone with ADHD or ADD can manifest in several ways:
    • Interrupting others during conversation
    • Being socially inappropriate
    • Rushing through tasks
    • Acting without much consideration to the consequences

Even a person’s shopping habits are often a good indication of ADHD. Impulse buying, especially on items they can’t afford, is a common symptom of adult ADHD.

  • Restlessness and anxiety. As an adult with ADHD, you may feel like your engine never stops. Our yearning to keep moving and doing things constantly can lead to frustration when we can’t do something immediately. This leads to restlessness, which can lead to frustrations and anxiety. Anxiety is a very common symptom of adult ADHD, as the mind tends to replay worrisome events repeatedly.
  • Poor health. Impulsivity, lack of motivation, emotional problems, and disorganization can lead a person with ADHD or ADD to neglect their health. This can be seen through compulsive poor eating, neglecting exercise, or forgoing important medication. Anxiety and stress negatively affect health, so without good habits, the negative effects of these illnesses can make other symptoms worse.
  • Relationship issues. An adult with ADHD or ADD often has trouble in relationships, whether they are professional, romantic, or platonic. The traits of talking over people in conversation, inattentiveness, and easily being bored can be draining on relationships as a person can come across as insensitive, irresponsible, or uncaring.

Treatment and Coping with ADHD

People who experience some or many of these symptoms also change employers more often, miss deadlines, experience higher use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and suffer from repeated relationship failures, including divorce. If all of this sounds too familiar, it doesn’t mean you suffer from adult ADD or ADHD. But if you do, here are a few steps you can take to improve your life.

Treatment for adult ADHD or ADD is similar to treatment for childhood ADHD/ADD, and includes stimulant drugs or other medications, psychological counseling (psychotherapy), and treatment for any mental health conditions that occur along with adult ADHD.

Stimulants (psychostimulants) are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD, but other drugs may be prescribed. Stimulant drugs are available in short-acting and long-acting forms. Other medications used to treat ADHD include antidepressants. The right medication and the right dose vary between individuals, so it may take some time in the beginning to find what’s right for you. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of medications. And keep your doctor informed of any side effects you may have when taking your medication.

Counseling for adult ADHD can be beneficial and generally includes psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and education about the disorder. The benefits of psychotherapy can include:

  • Improve time management and organizational skills
  • Learn how to reduce impulsive behavior
  • Develop better problem-solving skills
  • Cope with past academic and social failures
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Learn ways to improve relationships with family, co-workers and friends
  • Develop strategies for controlling temper, stress and impatience

ADHD is a neuropsychiatric condition that is typically genetically transmitted. These challenges are caused by biology, essentially a miscue in how our brain is wired. It is not a disease of the will, a moral failing or weakness in character. Professional interventions, medication, support groups and self-education can help those with ADHD manage, or even overcome many of these challenges.


Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Recognizing Team Healthcare Wins

It’s marathon season – as in running a little over 26 miles in one race for fun, health, personal challenge, charity or any of these motivators combined. However you cut it, completing a race of any length, as well as competitive or non-competitive walks, bicycling, swimming, hiking, fitness activities or sporting events are enormous achievements, worthy of recognition and support. They also are huge morale boosters and team-building opportunities in addition to the obvious health benefits.

While employers cannot legislate their employees’ personal fitness and physical activities, they certainly can encourage, promote, model, sponsor and support these strengths and healthy behaviors. Creating time and space for these activities, rewarding for participation and generally promoting a culture of health and participation is a successful strategy for large and small companies regardless of their business, product or service inclination.

Many organizations establish employee health committees who focus on healthy eating and nutrition, fitness, athletics and stress-reduction activities such as yoga, meditation and walking. From hula hooping to jumping rope, whether for fun or charity, there are dozens of pursuits worthy of note that engage employees during the day and after work to come together in the name of health, fraternity and personal growth. Those values all benefit employers, as well.

Picking up the tab for a competitive sporting activity like bowling, volleyball, softball, hockey or golf, to name but a few, can be a wise investment in your team’s health. Supplementing gym and fitness memberships often is the little push people need to focus on their health. And getting people outdoors during lunch and after hours to walk together or to train for charity or competitive events enhances the work environment and employee attitudes about their jobs and work/life balance.

From a promotional perspective, it’s always good to see the company name emblazoned on tee-shirts and banners, on view for the public, at charity walks, runs and rides. But the catalyst isn’t self-promotion, it is the recognition that teams that play together work better together, as well.

Team activities have a positive impact on productivity, quality, safety, customer service, retention and absenteeism. Personal health and fitness challenges help employees maintain a healthier lifestyle, reduces susceptibility to illness, and carries over into employees’ lives and family relationships outside of work.

Even something as simple as setting, sharing and celebrating goals related to nutrition, weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation and other health-related activities is a win/win for employers and employees. Leaders who get involved make it easier for employees to participate, as well, but at the least, supporting your team through sponsorship, financial contributions and constant encouragement is a winning strategy for completing the marathon we all face each day.


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Appreciation Boosts Productivity, Morale, and Health

How important is it to you to know you’re doing a good job, or to hear someone say “thanks” for your work and efforts? While the personal satisfaction and pride we take in knowing we’ve done something well or right can be its own reward, numerous studies have shown that overall personal satisfaction is enhanced when we receive praise, recognition and constructive feedback from employers, customers, parents, teachers and friends. It’s simple, it’s free, it helps increase productivity and quality, boosts job satisfaction, morale, teamwork and retention – and helps improve emotional and physical health.

When someone feels taken for granted, unrecognized or under-appreciated, it has a direct impact on their emotional health and stress levels. Lack of recognition, especially in the workplace, often is mentioned as a contributing factor to overall employee dissatisfaction. And the more employees are unhappy at work, the more productivity, teamwork and customer relations may suffer.  Quality suffers, as well, and increased stress is a known factor in promoting irritability, increasing conflict, interfering with sleep and diet, boosting absenteeism and increasing “presenteeism,” a loss of workplace productivity resulting from employee health problems and personal issues. It also contributes to increases in blood pressure, heart disease, poor nutrition, sleeplessness and weight gain.

Americans like being told “thanks” but aren’t that great at thanking others, according to a national survey on gratitude commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation. The polling firm Penn Shoen Berland surveyed over 2,000 people in the United States, capturing perspectives from different ages, ethnic groups, income levels, religions and more.

Gratitude was enormously important to respondents, who also admitted they think about, feel, and espouse gratitude more readily than expressing it to others. This might be why respondents also felt that gratitude in America is declining. Some of the findings included these facts:

  • More than 90 percent of those polled agreed that grateful people are more fulfilled, lead richer lives, and are more likely to have friends.
  • More than 95 percent said that it is important for mothers and fathers to teach gratitude.
  • People are less likely to express gratitude at work than anyplace else. Seventy-four percent never or rarely express gratitude to their boss. But people are eager to have a boss who expresses gratitude to them. Seventy percent would feel better about themselves if their boss was more grateful, and 81 percent would work harder.
  • 93 percent of those polled agreed that grateful bosses were more likely to be successful, and only 18 percent thought that grateful bosses would be seen as “weak.”

It’s human nature:  We’re better at noticing and tallying what we personally do than what other people do.  According to the data, most of the people surveyed appreciate being appreciated, but lack in their tendency to say “thanks”– despite knowing that expressing gratitude can bring more happiness, meaning, professional success, and interpersonal connection into their lives.

Taking the time to express gratitude to others goes a long way toward improving individual and organizational health. Ultimately, there are so many ways to say “thanks” to our employees. Whether verbally, through written or public commendation, one-on-one recognition or in front of peers, gratitude is an important employee relations, productivity and stress-reduction tool. And while bonuses, pay raises, gift cards, and compensatory time off are terrific recognition tools, employees want to feel like it is more than simply “doing their jobs and meeting expectations” that matters. Increased responsibility, promotions and inclusion also are important factors, but it all starts with feeling appreciated and respected.


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

 

 

Why Our Brains Say “Yes” When the Facts Say “No”

If you’re an employer trying to motivate your workers, how do you get past their biases to get everyone on the same page, or at least rowing in the same direction? Psychologists suggest that, rather than taking on people’s surface attitudes and beliefs directly, tailor messages so that they align with their motivation.

Using vaccinations as an example, everyone agrees that deadly diseases exist, that they are bad, and that people are getting sick and dying from them. By exploring what happens when people resist vaccinating themselves or their children – the very real possibility that those adults or children will either get sick themselves or be a carrier who gets another child or person sick – and by examining statistics from reliable sources, we can “agree to disagree,” but still make a decision based on logic and the well-being of those around us.

That same thinking can be applied to getting employees to work together toward a common cause or goal. Influential people – leaders, both natural or by ranking in the workplace – can sway opinion. People want to be accepted, recognized, and considered a valuable part of a team. By looking for the things we have in common, listening to differing opinions, recognizing how people make decisions and then finding solutions and compromises, we become more effective leaders.

It isn’t entirely our fault that we err to the side of comfort. Based on scientific research, our brains protect us, validating information that supports our biases, often to the point of denigrating the information with which we disagree, accepting compatible information that makes us feel better – or which supports our beliefs – almost at face value. Scientists link this to our innate “fight or flight” response, with the twist being we may choose to fight by latching on to what we want to believe, in essence, “taking flight” from the truth to protect our opinions.

Psychologists have identified key factors that can cause people to reject science – and it has nothing to do with how educated or intelligent they are. In fact, researchers found that people who reject scientific consensus on topics such as climate change, vaccine safety, and evolution are generally just as interested in science and as well-educated as the rest of us. It’s just that they think more like lawyers than scientists, meaning they “cherry pick” the facts and studies that back up what they already believe is true.

As hard as this is to believe, or to understand, the rationale for this behavior often comes down to a simple, though troubling truth: No matter how irrefutable the evidence is, many people reject anything which contradicts their deeply entrenched false belief.

How they arrive at their false belief often has to do with how they are raised, religious doctrine, political leaning and their willingness to accept and believe information from powerful or confident people. Oftentimes, people would rather think they are right, even if they’re wrong. It becomes a tug of war between ego, self-esteem, long-held beliefs and the desire to stick with something that meshes with your own way of seeing the world, even if facts refute or contradict your opinion.

Over 90 percent of our decisions are made at an unconscious level. Brain imaging has shown that when the brain inputs data, the emotional centers light up first (what does this mean to me?), followed by the logic centers (what do I do with it?). This means that ‘facts’ are what people use to validate decisions already made at an unconscious level.

For example, if someone believes that vaccinations aren’t safe, they will ignore the hundreds of medical studies that support vaccination safety and glom onto the one study they can find that casts doubt. These phenomena are known as cognitive bias – people treat facts as more relevant when those facts tend to support their opinions. They may not totally deny facts that contradict their beliefs, but they will say that those facts are “less relevant.”

Our brains tend to easily accept information compatible with what we already know, and minimize information that contradicts what we already know, or believe we know. The information goes into our brain, but the importance our mind allots to these facts and information is being weighted unconsciously in favor of those bits of data that already fit our preconceptions. Our brains unconsciously diminish their importance, regardless of the truth or facts, and since they are perceived as “less important,” these facts or truths quickly fade from memory.

 


 

If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!