Do you think knowledge is power when it comes to changing health behavior? Think about it. Are there things you know you should do for better health but you can’t manage to make the change?
Traditional worksite wellness approaches focus on educating employees on what they should eat, how they should exercise and how much they should weigh. We take a “knowledge is power” approach as if we can just give people all the facts and they’ll rationally decide to change their health behaviors.
Worksite wellness programs don’t connect the fact that changing a habit takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. A plan to eat healthy can result in buying 12 chicken wings at lunch because you are having a bad day at work (true employee story). Or your resolve to exercise 3 days a week ends by Tuesday because your boss just dropped a new project in your lap.
Worksites can be stress zones. Most of our day is spent getting along with many different personalities and work styles. There are changes within your org structure, reporting structure or title. There’s always more work to do than resources allow.
Aside from those stressors, there are drains on your emotions as well. You are bored with your job but feel stuck. You’re trapped in endless meetings and have no time to get your work done. You haven’t had a real meeting with your boss lately and start wondering if there’s more to it than just busy schedules.
Work can be stressful for many reasons but work stress isn’t always negative. Think about work with no stress. You never have a conflict. You get everything you ask for. Your co-workers and boss are a dream to work with. Your work is easy.
That sounds fantastic, right? Besides being unrealistic, think about that “perfect” world in the long run. If there was no challenge to your day or life, you would never grow personally or professionally. So, if some stress is good for us, then what’s the problem?
In Corporate America, it’s a badge of honor to work the longest hours, take on the most projects and be the most responsive to emails. Having no downtime or recovery is the norm and in many cases, rewarded. We never break from the stress and end up exhausted, burnt out and on a path that doesn’t align with what we truly want out of life.
Having downtime or recovery isn’t just referring to taking a vacation but rather having times of recovery throughout the day. It’s key to have planned periods of recovery to prevent you from getting to the exhausted and burnt out stages (otherwise known as forced recovery).
Planning recovery throughout the day is a key factor to building your resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of stress. If you have planned recovery throughout the day, you are building your ability to thrive in the face of stress.
Building resilience is an acquired skill and for me, a work in progress. You can start building your resilience by asking yourself the following questions:
What and/or who drains you physically, mentally and emotionally?
On the flip side, what and/or who boosts your physical, mental and emotional health?
For me, getting less than adequate sleep is my physical drainer. I’m short tempered and don’t care about excelling (surviving vs thriving). I get mentally drained when I have too many big deliverables (and meetings) in a week. This also emotionally drains me because I feel like I have to be “on” and can’t take a step back and have quiet time.
Which leads me to what boosts my energy. I need downtime to myself. Not hanging with friends, family or co-workers but by myself. Running helps to boost all dimensions of health. Listening to podcasts is a mood booster for me. These are all items on my recovery list but it took me a long time to figure out that introversion and reflection time are necessary for me to perform at my best.
Everyone has their own personal drainers and boosters, so you may not relate to mine. At a recent resilience training, an employee gave a unique example that worked for her. She kept aromatherapy oils on her desk. Right before she had a tough client call, she would take a minute and let herself enjoy the scents. Then she was in the right mental and emotional place to best serve her client and it took her less than a minute.
Take some time to think through your personal perspective. Once you figure out what drains and boosts you, you can incorporate those items into your day.
Comprehensive worksite wellness programs can encourage employees to reflect on what their version of recovery looks like. Find ways to incorporate the importance of recovery into your corporate culture. Finally, emphasizing the connection between the body, head and heart will give your employees a wider perspective of employee health.