Buck Bond Group
12 blogs of Christmas: Combatting stress

12 blogs of Christmas: Combatting stress

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Managing day-to-day stress can be difficult for everyone at times.  But how many of us are good at recognising the relationship between stress and its physical and mental manifestations?

When we are on the go all the time, it can be hard to recognise why some unhealthy things are happening and what to do to help break the cycle. While it might be easy to fall into less healthy habits because we are stressed and short on time, these themselves can actually perpetuate stress: they can lead to poorer physical and mental health, in turn reducing the ability to cope with pressures. When helping your employees manage stress, it is necessary to understand the complexities of the resulting symptoms. Employers can assist their employees by supporting them with both the mental and physical symptoms of stress, in order to recognise – and ultimately improve – both sides of the coin.

What are some of the ways that stress can manifest? These are some areas where stress has an impact, and how employers can help employees address and improve them: 

  1. Sleep deprivation: We all know that being stressed out can make it harder to fall and stay asleep. Most obviously, insufficient high-quality sleep can lead to irritability and difficulties focusing, or having the energy to do what we need to do and stick to good habits. It can also increase levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which makes maintaining a healthy diet harder. Directing your employees to resources on good sleep hygiene and mindfulness or meditation apps can assist improved sleep.
  2. Increased cortisol: This hormone rises when under stress and has numerous mental and physical impacts. Increased cortisol puts us into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which we are not designed to be operating under consistently. While it might be harder to identify its mental effects, such as increased anxiety, it can also lead to symptoms such as raised blood pressure, weight gain, muscle tension, and headaches, as well as ongoing sleep problems.  Again, providing access to apps and resources related to mindfulness and meditation, as well as physical exercise, can help to regulate cortisol levels.
  3. Diet: When stressed and short on time, there is a greater tendency to eat at irregular times and make poorer nutritional choices for the sake of convenience. Convenience food is less likely to provide us with the nutrition we need, and the metabolism can be disrupted by irregular eating patterns. Both of these things have an impact on mental health as well as physical health, as nutritious food supports healthy brain function as well as energy levels.   Access to resources on good nutrition (some group insurers offer complimentary nutrition counselling), as well as ensuring that your work environment accommodates sufficient, regular breaks, will help employees maintain a healthy diet and the physical and mental benefits that come with it.
  4. Suppressed immune system: Prolonged stress can suppress the immune system and increase the likelihood of getting ill. This can be another thing that compounds stress, if the ability to manage day-to-day life is affected. As well as providing access to stress management tools, such as an employee assistance programme, tools to maintain good physical health will also bolster immune system.

Some stress in life will be inevitable, and tools to maintain good physical and mental health can mitigate it by interrupting the vicious cycle which can otherwise develop. By assisting employees in recognising the ways that stress manifests, and providing ways to address them, employers can help their people in maintaining overall wellbeing. As we are soon heading into the new year, when many people look to implement better routines, it can be a great time to provide access to the tools which can jointly combat stress and improve overall health.