Work Stress & Self-Care

Jess Welch, Wellness Coordinator

How does one cope with too much work, little help, and no time to do their mounting tasks? Through coaching I consistently hear employees tell me about low job satisfaction. Work is their number one source of stress in their life and carries out into other areas leading to low life-satisfaction.

“I have no time to work out.”

“If I had one word to describe my eating habits it would be ‘quick’.”

“Work is constantly on my mind, distracting me from time with my family.”

“I blink and my entire day is gone.”

And as much as a simple answer could be to quit their jobs, it isn’t so simple after all. Everyone has bills to pay, relationships they have made within the workplace, and face the risk of starting over while many may enjoy large pieces of their jobs. So we have this complex issue of increased stress leading to increased risk factors for things like cardiovascular disease, decreased fulfillment, and no real answer to fix it due to life’s high demands.

Because this blog is not for my recommendations of the complex situation for employers to aide in creating a lower stress environment for their employees, I am going to focus on you: the workers. How do you keep up with life’s high demands inside and outside the workplace? How do you develop healthy habits and keep a job you may have worked quite hard to obtain?

Developing healthy coping strategies takes cognitive effort. If it were something you could do outside of cognitive thought, you probably would have been doing it already. As a species, we run as efficiently as possible already but unfortunately this is a piece we still have to think about. However, once we develop the strategies needed for self-care, it becomes less necessary to be intentional about it and more habitual.

Now, I break up stress into two separate categories: the first being that immediate stress, the “here and now” stress, the “my chest hurts and my head is spinning” stress. The second being that mounting and constant stress, like a consistent dull noise in the back of your head. Below you will see some ideas to help cope with each type.

The immediate stress:

  • Remove yourself from the situation for five minutes
  • Close your eyes and take 3 slow breaths: 7 seconds in, 10 seconds out.
  • Plug in your music and listen to one song you love
  • Get a stress ball

*Try these and go right back to work.

The consistent stress:

  • Go for a walk, exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Limit Caffeine intake
  • Do something you enjoy; volunteer, read a book, etc.

Coping with the consistent stress helps decrease the times of that “immediate stress” feeling. So developing a good self-care plan will lower those intense feelings. Now, you’re probably thinking – “Jess, if I have time I would have already been doing this! This doesn’t answer my question at all.” My answer? Find five minutes in your day. Then find ten. Increase your moments of self-care by five minutes a week until you can somehow find 20-30 minutes in your day. This does not need to be all at once, scatter it if you need to. But I promise, once you do you will not regret it! Your physical body, your emotional body, heck – even your work will all thank you!

Well Leaders: Involving the Right People

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 Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

When a company implements a wellness program, many program administrators are very used to hearing that the promotion and support for this program needs to come from the top down in order for it to be successful.  While this is true, it’s not the entire story.  Each culture and logistics of the company has a role in how this plays out, but who could be more important than your CEO, CFO, HR team, and other key executives?  Middle Management.

If your CEO sends a letter home to employees encouraging their participation, their message is in your newsletter and on a flyer in the break room, that’s great.  But how much time do your employees actually spend with the CEO?  What is their level of trust of your CEO (another topic out of my expertise!)?  While in a perfect corporate world, the answers here would be “a lot of time!” and “a lot of trust!”, it’s just not reality.  Employees are spending a majority of their time in their own departments with their direct supervisors.  If those middle managers are not buying in to the program, neither will their employees!

We encourage you to host separate meetings with your management team, even one-on-one perhaps, to get their buy in and almost most importantly, their commitment to participating themselves.  Setting the example is half of the message!  Consider running special challenges or programs just for them.  Highlighting in a newsletter “Healthy Leaders” and showing what they have accomplished, or the results of your WellLeader Challenge.  Communication is also huge.  In many companies, the main route of communicating all of the fantastic programs you have going simply aren’t reaching all employees.  Your middle managers are the key.

January is National Oatmeal Month

  Jamal Mack, BS, Wellness Coordinator

According to the USDA, only 44% of Americans eat breakfast daily which means more than half of the population are not indulging in the proper morning maintenance of their bodies. Out of those 44% who do eat breakfast, 73% eat some type of sweetened cereal once or more for breakfast a week. Breakfast is the first meal of the day, setting the tone for your daily societal adventures. With that being said, we want to ensure that we are putting the right fuel in our bodies upon our awakening. Since January is National Oatmeal Month, what better way to start your January breakfast off than with the Quaker man himself? Oatmeal is a great way to enjoy a breakfast and due to its lack of (for lack of a better term) “potent” flavor there are a myriad of possibilities when it comes to adding to that flavor.

Quick Quaker Tips

  • Add a fruit : bananas, apple slices, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mangos, pineapples, and/ or peaches are good ways to add some extra flavor AND some extra nutrients into your breakfast treat
  • Add a natural sweetener: Honey, agave, and/or peanut butter are great natural sweeteners you can add to your oatmeal (can combine with fruit as well) to make that road from mouth to stomach a bit more pleasant
  • Experiment with different ingredients: Instead of regular oatmeal try flax meal, flax and quinoa meal, and/or steel cut oats. All of which taste a little different and are accompanied by some extra nutritional tools (omega-3s in quinoa/flax mix, fiber in steel cut oats, etc..)
  • Eat while fresh and hot: As tedious as this tip may seem you’d be surprised how a quick drop in temperature can sway the flavor of your oatmeal, it is best to eat it while still hot

For more interesting and TASTY ways to have your oats and oatmeal visit

http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/meal-ideas/10-new-ways-eat-oatmeal

Now that we know are better aware of how to improve our oatmeal’s taste, I think it is imperative to keep in mind the “why” behind all this which is that we want to feel and be healthier each day. Starting off your morning with oatmeal has some great health benefits such as:

  • Weight loss- Oatmeal contains beta-glucan which helps promote to release of the peptide YY hormone. This hormone may help you lose weight by making you feel more full. It does this by slowing down the emptying of the stomach.
  • Blood sugar control- Oatmeal’s soluble fiber beta-glucan, may improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels by forming a thick gel that delays emptying of the stomach and absorption of glucose into the blood
  • Cholesterol control- Once again that soluble super fiber beta-glucan has numerous benefits. It helps reduce blood cholesterol and sugar levels by promoting healthy gut bacteria and increasing feelings of fullness
  • Improved Skin- Finely cut oats aka colloidal oatmeal has historically been used to help treat dry and itchy skin and even helps treat symptoms of various skin conditions, such as eczema
  • Reduced risk of childhood asthma- A recent study found a link between oats and asthma in children under the age of 6 months
  • Relieve of constipation- With oatmeal being so fiber rich its no wonder this super food can assist with eliminating constipation

These are only brief descriptions of how/why oatmeal is so beneficial for us. For more information you may seek out information on

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-benefits-oats-oatmeal/

Well there you have it! HAPPY OATMEAL MONTH!!!! Now go celebrate with a bowl of the Quakers finest!

 

 

Keeping the Holidays Healthy

  Kelly Murray, BS, Wellness Coordinator

The holidays can be a tough time of year when it comes to making healthy choices. Below are a few easy tips and tricks to keep you on track throughout the holiday season.

Christmas Shopping – Plan ahead before your trip to the mall!

  • Don’t go to the mall hungry.
    • Before heading out for a full day of shopping, eat a meal that is going to fill you up and give you the energy to do your power shopping. Eating before you go will make it less likely that you will stop and make poor nutrition choices because you are starving.
  • Bring a water bottle and pack a light snack.
    • Shopping can be intense! Before you leave home, pack yourself a water bottle and a healthy snack to take with you. Having these readily available will help prevent you from caving and buying junk food while you are out and about.
  • Plan your route.
    • Map out where you need to go. If possible, try to avoid walking past the food court or the sugar coated almond stand 10 times as you do your shopping. You can even plan to take the long way around and get in some extra walking.
  • Avoid fast food at the food court and choose a sit down restaurant.
    • Instead of grabbing a quick bite to eat from the food court, go to a sit down restaurant. It may take a little more time, but there are usually healthier options, like soup and salad, grilled chicken or fish, and veggies. Sitting down away from all of thoe noise and rush of shoppers will also help you relax, and take time to focues on the food you are eating. Enjoy and savor your meal. There is no need to rush, the sale will still be going on in 30 minutes after you eat your meal.

Holiday Parties and Gatherings

  • Bring your own dish to pass.
    • If you are going to someone else’s house for a meal, offer to bring your own dish to pass. This way you have some control over what you are eating, and you know what has gone in to it. Many people tend to bring deserts, but why not bring a healthy appetizer or a side? Vegetable trays and salads are always welcome.
  • Fill up on the healthiest options first.
    • Begin with a salad (the green kind, not the potato or pasta salad). Fill your plate with veggies and entrees before filling up on high-calorie sides and desserts. This means having a mountain of broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans rather than a mashed potato mountain.  Instead, if you are going to make a mini mashed potato mountain try to stick with one serving size of about 1 cup.
  • Stand at least an arms length away from the munchies.
    • Take a step back from the munchies! If you are sitting down at the table, or standing within arms reach of the chips, nuts, and candies you will be more likely to mindlessly snack on them without even noticing it. By standing farther away you will need to actively choose to move towards the snacks if that is what you really want to eat.

For more tips on how to stay healthy over the holidays, take a look at the American Heart Association’s Holiday Healthy Eating Guide

Monday Mourning

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Nahshon Cook-Nelson, PR & Marketing Intern
GUEST BLOG

My first job was working at a fresh food market in the 11th grade
Finally it was my chance to get my own wage

Even more than getting paid
I was thrilled for the friends and new relationships to be made

And on that first day I…

Found out it was a masquerade
Most weren’t filled with praise but self-pity

Constantly complaining
Dramatically draining

Persistently persuading themselves and each other
That their place of work was an utter, sentence to chains

Specifically on that first day of the week
There was a sense of mourning
More people grew meek
Seeking to pull themselves from the present

As I look around today
Lots of things seem the same way

Now this may sound dumb
But I think most have grown numb
To the feeling they first had walking in the door
The urge to try new things and explore

Whether it was 9 to 5 or 8 to 4
We were passionate about the struggle and the growth
But now, we’ve grown sore

We are not required to live this way any. more.

If our work has truly brought us to the stage of worry then let it be discontinued
And our refugee begin

Otherwise, the only reason we complain is if we know of something better within
Where every Monday we can pull in to work with a grin

We may approach those whose internal lights have grown dim
But we will spread the notion of TGIM

Where many have felt the need to plead until their last working minute has struck
We will feed the seeds to give our best until our time is up

We can defeat this feeling that is so alluring
Give gratitude instead of complaints. So our joy is ever enduring

When agony rises and moments seem boring
Let us fight back so it is NEVER “just another Monday Mourning”

Find Your “Why”

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Jess Welch, Wellness Coordinator

Lose 10 pounds in 10 days! Twelve workouts to a flat stomach! Lose unwanted cellulite in just 30 minutes!

Tag lines like these pollute our media and are riddled throughout our everyday lives. Misinformation and misleading titles lead individuals to think sustainable weight loss is as easy as a snap of a finger. This leaves people feeling disheartened and unmotivated with continually fluctuating weights.  Not to mention, we live in a society which thrives on instant gratification; thus making the humbling reality of weight loss a tough pill to swallow.

One thing I have continuously learned is this: weight loss is hard. We wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic on our hands if it was easy as pie to avoid… well… pie! Oh, and bacon, ice cream, cheeseburgers, chips, and other sinful tantalizing treats. The old adage of “consistency is key” couldn’t be truer. But those three words are far easier said than done. Too often, I talk to people who have lost a whopping 55lbs in 4 months sometime in their past, gained it all back, lost 20lbs then gained that back too, plus some. The list of weight-loss attempts is never short and too often, I hear defeated voices whisper “I should do better, be better, and have better self-control.” Too many of my clients are consistently reliving their weight loss failures.

The other thing I know about weight loss is this: sustainable weight loss is slow. It is healthiest to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Like I said, sloooow. And when you’re staring at a scale that has a decline as slow as molasses in January, you lose hope.

So why try? Weight loss is difficult and time consuming. Why care? That’s an important question to answer and its one I cannot answer for you. For some people it’s as simple as wanting a pair of jeans to fit or to go to the doctor and finally not receive the advice of “you should really lose weight”. Maybe it’s more clinical, like getting off medications for high blood pressure or getting out of the pre-diabetic range. It could be psychologically deeper, like having a past of bullying or a severe deprivation in self-confidence. Your perception is your reality and once you find a reason captivating enough to make the hard work and patience worth it, weight loss will come easier, I promise!

If you can’t think of your “why”, answer this: What do you gain with weight loss? It could be that size of jeans you always wanted to be in or that number on the scale. You could gain the confidence you never had to rock that bikini you never thought you could. Maybe it’s just the accomplishment itself, the follow through to actually accomplish a goal once thought of as unattainable. Whatever it may be, I urge you to find your “why”. My message is to utilize this as step one in your final weight loss journey to a happier, healthier, you!

Going Beyond Diet and Exercise

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 Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

When you think of the term “wellness program”, the first thing that often comes to mind when it comes to programming are diet and exercise.  More and more, however, we are seeing a more whole-person wellness movement in the field which includes not only diet and exercise, but many other factors such as financial wellness, stress management, ergonomics, spiritual wellness, and much more.

September is National Yoga Month, which means it’s the perfect time to offer onsite yoga classes at your facility or at least provide local resources and information to your members.  Luckily, yoga hits two birds with one stone.  Many yogis see their practice as their own personal escape, connecting deeply to their core values and philosophy.  It also combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation and stress relief.  Seventy seven percent of people report regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and those who participate in yoga report reducing stress levels.

Outside of the mental benefits, no one can deny that yoga is a better workout than seems to those who haven’t done it before!  Not only does it improve flexibility, strength, and muscle tone, one 2011 study showed that 12 weekly yoga classes resulted in better function than usual medical care in adults with chronic or recurring low-back pain.  What this means for your health plan is less doctor or physical therapy visits!   It has also shown to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, improve respiration and energy, and reduce cardiovascular disease. It’s really a win-win.

If you’re not a big fan of yoga, or feel you are unable to host a class onsite for whatever reason, I encourage you to put out a Deep Breathing, Meditation,  at-home yoga challenge to your members, or even a Lunch & Learn seminar regarding some of these topics.  As you can see from the few benefits I sited above (there are many more!), mental and emotional wellness are just as important as diet and exercise.  That makes healthier, happier, more productive, and lower cost employees.

Namaste.

Superman, The Hulk, The Flash, Mr. Fantastic & He-Man walk into a Gym……

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

Superman, The Hulk, The Flash, Mr. Fantastic & He-Man walk into a gym…stop me if you have heard this one!  You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.  Sit tight as I drop a little superhero analogy on you.  First off, a little comic book background on our subjects:

Superman (Muscular Endurance):  As the saying goes – “Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…nanana…it’s Superman!” With this intro behind us, Superman represents all that is seen as muscular endurance; speed, strength and power.

Hulk (Muscular Strength): The green giant with the strength to destroy buildings, throw a tank and pretty much put any power lifter to shame. I don’t know of a better epitome of muscular strength in the comic world.

Flash (Cardiovascular Endurance): Does this one really need any explanation? With the ability to move, think and react at light speeds as well as having superhuman endurance that allows him the ability to run incredible distances, there is no one better to represent cardiovascular endurance.

Mr. Fantastic (Flexibility): Some of you may be wondering who this one is, think Fantastic 4. Mr. Fantastic has the ability to stretch his body like a giant rubber band, i.e. he’s very flexible.

He-man (Body Composition):  Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in a loin cloth at his peak.  Yeah, that’s He-Man.  Not to mention the superhuman strength and speed.

Okay, introductions out of the way I’ll get to the point. My question to you is: who do you want to be? In other words, what is your goal? Too many people start off an exercise routine not knowing what they really want. They want to lose weight, get stronger, bulk up their muscle mass and be able to run a half marathon.  That all sounds fine and dandy, but you have too many contradicting factors.  You can’t bulk up and lean out at the same time.  It’s incredibly hard to build serious muscle mass and train for cardiovascular endurance.  And not to mention become a yoga master and dead lift 600 pounds.  The way you train needs to match what your goals are.

If you are looking to gain muscle mass and you are starting off as a scrawny 6 ft – 175 lbs, you will probably need to go through a bulking process where you are consuming extremely high amounts of calories and limiting your cardiovascular exercise in order to gain not only muscle, but some excess fat in order to push heavy enough weight to make the muscles grow.  You say you want to get faster and run a marathon?  You should probably skip max dead lift day.  Training the muscles to be able to work hard for long periods of time is your strategy.  Think lots and lots of lunges and core work.  You want that rock hard six-pack?  Nutrition should be your first thought, but moderately heavy weight coupled with moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise is your route.  And it is really hard to pull off a Handstand Scorpion Pose (yoga – look it up) if your traps, shoulders and biceps are so large that you can’t scratch the back of your own neck.

My advice here is to have a goal in mind before you step foot in the gym. Think long and hard, do you want to lose that spare tire?  Look good in a bikini?  Sculpt that chest and back?  Bench press 450 & Squat 600?  Are you thinking you’d like to try your hand at a marathon or triathlon?  Or do you just want to be Batman?  That’s my goal, just be Batman!

Batman (All Around Bad***): But wait, wouldn’t Superman embody this description? The answer is yes, except for the fact that he is not human and Batman is just like the rest of us. No special powers, no magical abilities, just grit, determination and looks good in a spandex suit.

The Definition of Healthy

Nicole Griswold, CHWC, Wellness Coordinator

What is your definition of ‘healthy?’ Give someone a topic that is considered healthy and I guarantee they will come up with a statement (even if it’s factual or not!) as to why it isn’t good for you.  Over the weekend, I had an epiphany; as a society, we will do whatever it takes to come up with a reason why something is unhealthy. Anything! With so many studies, opinions, and fads out there these days, we are able to find someone or something that will give a reason as to why something is unhealthy.

I’ll give a few examples. These are actual examples that I have heard through health coaching in corporate wellness, personal conversations, and social media.

  1. Avid runners have such horrible knee and joint issues. It just wrecks their body!
  2. Apples are bad for you because they contain sugar.
  3. Vitamins are a waste. They’re not as natural and effective as food sources.
  4. The fresh produce at the grocery store was picked past it’s prime ripeness, so it’s really lacking nutrients.
  5. That chicken isn’t good for you because it’s been processed.
  6. Going for a walk doesn’t burn that many calories, so it’ just a waste of time.
  7.  I had to take some broccoli off my plate so I wouldn’t go over my carb count.

What do you think? Do you agree with the above statements? I believe this trend has a lot to do with our underlying psychological instinct to achieve perfect health on top of our constant ability to produce excuses and reasoning as to why most of us are not healthy. Kind of like a “I do these healthy things but they don’t work because of *excuse* so you can’t blame me” type statement.

My two cents – Don’t overthink what you know is good for you. Don’t believe everything you hear. Educate yourself. Focus on the positives. Don’t compare your state of health to others. Create your own definition of healthy!

Nutrition & Wellness Programming

 Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Wellness programs and their education components are often built on two primary staples: diet and exercise.  Exercise is relatively easy to program (and easy to understand from an employee’s perspective). But when it comes to nutrition, there is an incredible amount of conflict even within the professional world of physicians, scientists, dietitians, and experts, it’s no wonder the “normal person” is confused and that the national obesity rate is rising above and beyond 35% in the United States.

March is National Nutrition Month.  It’s the perfect time to hone in on these programs and hear from the experts (us!) on delivering effective and affordable nutrition programs to reach members.  Especially when weight loss is 80% proper nutrition and only 20% physical activity, it’s an imperative focus for an employer and should be a part of your wellness programming.

Here are our top 5 most popular nutrition programs:

  1. Educational Seminars – a fan favorite of our clients is “Mythbusting: Nutrition Edition” and “Healthy Cooking Live Demo”.  Provide a month-long challenge after the class in order to put to practice the different topics discussed in the class.
    “Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
  2. MENTAL HEALTH! – Not always an obvious thought, but in our experience, most of our members’ struggle with their food intake directly relates to stress, time management, work-life balance, and financial restrictions.  Designing programs that can pinpoint THESE issues will have a direct correlation to nutrition.
  3. Challenge – Seems obvious, as wellness programs LOVE challenges.  But it is for good reason, as challenges both involve employees and promote friendly workplace competition that truly is a drive for some members.  A good challenge will encourage employees to meet their goals, not “be the MOST healthy”.  It will also reward goal meeting each week and will have a different focus area each week (count your calories, eat foods with 5 or less ingredients or that you can pronounce, track your fiber grams, eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, etc.).
  4. Web Portal – Trackers, social accountability aspect – We’ve seen the power of the digital world through the rise of Social Media.  Using a web portal where employees can keep a food diary, share with a coach, and share their favorite recipes, exercise progress, funny and encouraging memes, and more on a social network within the portal.
  5. 1-on-1 Coaching – Speaking of coaching, the most tailored, effective programming you can do is provide your members the opportunity to talk to someone who will provide them with the accountability, the encouragement, and proper guidance to successful goal setting.