Don’t Let Stress Sabotage Your Holidays!

Stress Free Holiday

By Lizzie Meyers

Finding the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, arranging travel plans, and all the while, keeping up with your work at the office – whew, this time of year can be exhausting. Expectations and planning during the holiday season tend to cause people to neglect their own happiness. Often, we strive for what is actually an unrealistic idea of how we picture the holidays should be.

Rarely will you find a gift to please everyone without spending a fortune. Hardly ever will a holiday pass without a disagreement between family members or friends. You will likely have to neglect some plans in order to accommodate for others. The reality of the holidays, and everything else in life for that matter, is that they won’t turn out “perfectly” and that’s entirely okay! The sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we can let go, relax and enjoy the festivities.

You’re not alone if you’re stressing out. It’s a natural inclination to experience pressure and anxiety at this time, and thinking clearly and realistically can be much more difficult than expected. Try these simple tricks to reduce holiday stress:

Put things in perspective:

“Frame every so-called disaster with these words, ‘In five years, will this matter?” (45 of Life’s Lessons by Regina Brett.)

This nugget of wisdom from an Ohio newspaper columnist can work wonders in stressful situations such as the ones we experience during the holidays. Of course, the first step in this process is to identify what is making you feel stressed. A family argument, conflicting plans, and other possible contributors to holiday anxiety are much more manageable when we step back and look at the grand scheme of things. In five years, you’ll remember the happy moments with family and friends and most of the stress-inducing issues will be long forgotten.

Take a moment for yourself each day:

While it is the season of giving and helping others, it is just as important to keep your own happiness in check. If you tend to spend the holidays pleasing others, make sure that you allow yourself 15 minutes a day of “me time.” Go for a walk, get a massage, or watch some mindless TV. This time to yourself should distract you from overwhelming obligations, allowing you to clear your mind and recharge. Bonus – spend those minutes engaged in a healthy activity and you’ll feel extra refreshed.

Try meditation:

Many people use the practice of meditation as the ultimate stress-reliever. The goal of this practice is to clear the clutter in our mind produced by day-to-day stressors. Through the use of meditation, eliminating holiday stress can become much more accessible.

New to meditation? Here are “20 Practical tips for Quieting the Mind.”

Take some tips from the gingerbread man pictured above. He knows what’s up. Remember, the key to steering stress away from your holiday experience is to stay in the moment and relax.

Workplace Health Incentive Programs

Liz Myers, September 24, 2013

Courtesy of Collective Inktelligence

It is no surprise that poor diets and lack of exercise are major contributors to our country’s serious health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Often, poor health decisions are either due to lack of knowledge or lack of motivation. So, logically, in order make our country healthier, people must be educated and motivated. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Workplace Wellness the Norm

By John Dineen, First Posted on the World Economic Forum, January 25, 2013

As countries around the world strive to create sustainable health systems, conversations are shifting to a place many people spend sizeable amounts of time: work. The integration of wellness and health in the workplace is proving to be a powerful influencer in helping employees lead healthier lives and improving long-term economic impact on healthcare costs.

Employers have a unique vantage point: there is strong evidence that a healthy workforce is vital to a company’s and a country’s competitiveness, productivity and well-being. Over the past three years, the World Economic Forum has explored this premise through its Workplace Wellness Alliance initiative, which shared findings from its latest report, “Making the Right Investment: Employee Health and the Power of Metrics,” at this week’s Annual Meeting in Davos.

With findings from the Alliance’s 2012 data collection, covering almost two million employees from 25 companies and 125 locations worldwide, this report also puts forward nine corporate case studies on the types of return observed from specific workplace health and well-being programs. The companies include: Discovery Health, General Electric, Humana, Johnson & Johnson, Jubilant, Novartis, Saudi Aramco, Unilever and US Preventive Medicine (USPM).

Among the Alliance report themes is ‘return on investment (ROI) for workplace wellness,’ which is applicable around the world, regardless of how developed wellness efforts are. Through metrics, both qualitative and quantitative, employers are realizing the value of engaging employees in their health and the likely long-term impact on healthcare costs for companies and employees.

This isn’t theoretical.  Companies can – and should – lead by example. As governments around the world look to improve the health of their people, local employers can significantly contribute with accessible and sustainable workplace wellness programs. Not only is it good for their employees’ health; it makes good business.

Continue Reading…

Need More Reasons to Get Healthy? It Can Help with More Things Than Just Your Waistline

First Posted on, January 16, 2013

Words on wellness: Exercise can help relieve anxiety, even depression.

For most of us the holidays bring happy thoughts, extra time with loved ones, time for shopping and cooking and celebrating the New Year. But for many others, the holidays are a sad reminder of lost loved ones, broken relationships, little money to splurge on gifts and fancy foods. Many of these folks deal with a lot of anxiety and depression for which exercise can help.

As you know, exercise has many benefits and very few negatives attached. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel euphoric and over time get you slightly addicted to exercise. That is a good thing! Exercise is great to keep the heart, skeletal muscles and bones healthy; and helps to keep body weight in check by increasing your metabolism.

All of these benefits help in the treatment of depression, which does not always necessitate medications. There are many things that can be done to decrease the symptoms of depression, starting with identifying the cause if possible. When a person is able to identify the cause, it helps them to understand why they are getting the symptoms.

The symptoms of depression can include sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, not socializing with family and friends, not concentrating on work and other important things, and may even bring about thoughts of suicide. If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have any tendencies to hurt yourself, please seek medical attention immediately.

Once you have identified a potential cause, you can work with your health care provider to develop a plan for treatment, and again this should include an exercise as well as a nutrition plan. It is well known that eating healthy foods improves brain function and in combination with other treatment options can effectively treat depression.

When considering an exercise plan, you may want to think about doing this with other individuals. It is also known that people who exercise with others stay more committed to their program. It is certainly more fun to exercise in a group and when it is fun you do not think of it as a chore. You might even look forward to doing it again.

Continue Reading…

Three Reasons Why Your Corporate Wellness Program Won’t Deliver the ROI You’ve Been Promised.

By: Jon Cooper

The corporate wellness market today represents a triumph of faith over reason.  Large companies have been willing to try just about everything in hopes of stemming their ever-growing healthcare liability.  While done with the best intentions, employers have been truly challenged to demonstrate an “R” on their “I”, in other words a positive return…

So what went wrong?  Why are employers forking out, on average, $600 per employee for wellness, and not seeing results?

Oh “big” brothers, where art thou?
Let’s face it.  Just a few years ago you were probably offered pretty rich health benefits: low deductible, low co-pays, and an open network.  One recession and several years of health inflation later, it just is no longer economically feasible to offer those kinds of benefits.  So, like most companies, you probably had to scale back benefits.
At the same time, you want to offer your employees the very best within the scope of your budget, and a corporate wellness program seems like a win-win.  Your employees will be healthier and enjoy a better quality of life, and you will have lower costs and a more engaged workforce.
Here’s the rub.  For your corporate wellness program to be successful, you need your employees to adopt it…
Sadly, in the era of “Occupy Wall Street”, 8% unemployment, and political vitriol, mistrust is at an all-time high.  Rather than welcoming corporate wellness, workers perceive it as a cynical attempt to obfuscate the cuts made to their benefit packages and to exercise more control over their lives.
So what’s the solution?  Companies that want to see real results from their wellness program have to engage not just their employees, but also those whom their employees trust, their family and friends.

We’re all unique, so why aren’t our incentives?
Corporate wellness companies all claim to offer “personalized incentives”, but what they truly mean is that they will customize incentives for the employer based on a budget.  While this is important, this is a far cry from personalized incentives, tailored to the individual employee.  Anyone who’s taken an economics class, or just spent a few minutes thinking about it, knows that different people are motivated by different things – economists call this “risk tolerance”.
A perfect example is that people of lower incomes are far more likely you to play the lottery than those who earn higher incomes. Why?  After all, the odds of winning the lottery are the same irrespective of your income level.  The reason is that, in general, people of different income levels have different risk tolerances, and respond differently to incentive structures.
Indeed, if this is the case, then why do corporate wellness programs offer the same incentive to everyone in your workforce?  For example, who says that $200 is the right incentive for smoking cessation?  Is $200 enough to motivate Susan, a married executive in a dual income household earning hefty six figure salaries?  Would Stacey, a single mom who earns a quarter of what Susan earns be motivated to quit smoking for less?
A one-size-fits-all incentive program is kind of like a one-size-fits all t-shirt.  Everyone fits in it, but no one looks good in it…  A company is a dynamic organization comprised of unique individuals with different backgrounds, beliefs, and value systems.  An effective health incentives program must take that into account and be truly personalized at the individual level in order to drive adoption and behavior change across the diversity of your workforce.

Quit measuring steps and start measuring outcomes…
Unfortunately, “steps walked” is not a currency.  Health plans don’t underwrite based on “steps walked” and hospitals don’t accept “steps walked” as a form of payment, so why are you spending oodles of money rewarding people for logging a few extra steps on their pedometer, especially when they could be walking to KFC to double down on a Double Down?

Yes indeed, those are fried chickens in place of a bun.  What else would you expect from a KFC breakfast sandwich…

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a strong correlation between physical activity and health, but with limited resources and a healthcare crisis looming, we can’t afford to measure the noise, we have to go straight to the signal.

Fortunately, in healthcare, a few very important biometrics which are highly correlated to the leading chronic diseases, can very easily be  measured in a fast, low cost, and entirely non-invasive manner.  Moving the needle on these biometrics will indisputably lower an individual’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD, etc…

Now, I’m the first person to admit that giving someone a nifty pedometer and telling them that they’ll get an iPod if they walk 10,000 steps a day is pretty nice and simple, but wouldn’t you rather tell them that as a result of their efforts, they’ve increased their life expectancy by 2 years and have their doctor back you?

If you incentivize true outcome-measures, you can give your employees much more tangible feedback on their progress and reward true reduction in health risks.  Furthermore, with volumes and volumes of epidemiological studies supporting the link between key biometrics and health risks, you can proudly promote the achievements of your program, and use this data to negotiate lower insurance premiums and a raise for yourself!

So what’s next?

Don’t be discouraged.  There is light at the end of this tunnel.  Wellness is an area of rapid innovation.  Increasingly, new and innovative companies are introducing novel concepts to shake-up this sleepy industry, and individuals, employers of all sizes, and even government organizations are embracing the change.

So what should you look for in your wellness program?  The following elements are must-haves if you want your wellness program to truly drive results:

Family and friend engagement
Changing bad habits is not easy, but when your loved-ones are aware and support your efforts, you are 50% more likely to succeed.[1]

Truly individualized incentives
Realistically, it  isn’t adequate to customize wellness incentives based solely on one’s budget.  Your wellness program must have the flexibility to allow incentives to be tailored down to the individual level.

Measure what matters
It is not enough to measure and reward compliance metrics such as “steps walked” or “visits to the gym”.  To really understand the impact that your wellness program is having, you have to measure more robust biometrics which are tied to health risks.  By doing this, you will be able to make a much stronger business case for your wellness program, and be able to leverage this information to negotiate lower premiums.  Not to mention, your employees will appreciate the candid and actionable feedback, and to see how their sweat translates directly to improved life expectancy.

[1]  (Michaela Kiernan, 10/2011)