Stressed Employees and Business Owners

Stressed employees and business ownersStressed employees and business owners

Helping Stressed Employees and Business Owners

Most stress reduction techniques taught provide temporary improvements and are dose dependent (you have to repeatedly do them to get the benefit), much like medicines that treat symptoms instead of curing the problem.

Our program teaches skills that create mindsets that are more adaptable and that actually experience less stress than untrained minds in the same circumstances.

The changes become permanent and life is less stressful thereafter.

Lower stress means more engaged and productive employees. This is a competitive edge that keeps increasing.

Because we address stress relief from the root cause, the benefits spread throughout the system (physical, mental, behavioral).

 


Stress Culture to Health Culture

Since the 1970’s, it has been widely recognized that stress is bad for our health. Researchers agree that at least 60% of illnesses and disease are the result of stress.

During the years since the 1970’s we have learned many details about the path stress takes and how it harms our physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Those pathways are helpful in creating pharmaceutical bandaids (which I know are needed by many people today). But, the reason they are needed is because the recommendations for dealing with stress have not changed or advanced much in the last 40 years. Oh meditation and yoga have moved out of the cult or woo woo classifications they once suffered and become more mainstream, but the root of stress is still not being widely addressed.

As Thoreau said,

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

If you substitute stress for evil, I would say,

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of stress to one who is striking at the root.

Happiness 1st Institute exists because I came to understand the root cause of stress and how to eliminate it and recognized the significant benefits to society’s around the world that could come from sharing what I had learned. Unlike much of the advice given today, eliminating the root cause of stress does not require anyone to give up activities they enjoy. In fact, doing so is counter to what reduces stress.

Addressing stress at its root is a perfect example of another old saying, one Ben Franklin believed,

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Addressing stress at its root is what we call Primary Prevention. It prevents the illness or disease from developing in the first place. Stress disrupts numerous functions critical to healthy living including immune function, cognitive function, digestive function and some central nervous system functions. It can also lead to adverse epigenetic changes that turn on genes that lead to adverse consequences. Cumulative stress (both pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy) have adverse impacts on duration of the pregnancy (causing pre-term births) and adverse outcomes including increased asthma, sleep and behavioral problems, and depression in the children.

A recent infographic produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) shows many of the adverse consequences of stress (although their solutions are not Primary Prevention–they address the symptoms of stress instead of the root).

The negative impact of stress on the body begins immediately. If you’re one of the people who doubt this, recall a time when you were nervous. Perhaps that good looking person you’d been hoping to talk to unexpectedly stepped into the elevator with you at the last moment. If that doesn’t do it, imagine you’re 11 years old when it happens. You remember the instantaneous perspiration, the sweaty palms, perhaps the blush that swept across your cheeks. How long did it take to have that reaction in your body? That was stress. Those are signs of stress you can feel immediately. What you don’t feel is the slowing down of your immune function and digestive function or the cognitive constriction of your ability to think clearly (or maybe you did feel that if that person stepping into the elevator made you tongue tied).

The negative effects begin immediately.

Stress Culture to Health Culture

Our bodies are designed to respond to stress and return to a relaxed state but our society’s beliefs and structure do not support that. We are trained to remain in hypervigilant states of worry, fear, and concern. We are trained to live with stressors like frustration, anger, grief, depression, hopelessness, irritability and more rather than deal with the negative emotions as they arise. Many people suppress their emotions. Others have felt them so long it has become their norm and they don’t realize that it is killing them–literally.

To truly move from a culture of stress to one of greater health and wellbeing for everyone we must begin using primary prevention to reduce stress. If we don’t, the epidemic chronic illnesses like Type II diabetes, heart disease, addictions, obesity and numerous social problems like crime will all continue to increase. Stress is the root cause and primary prevention is the only way to avoid the undesired outcomes. It is a significant factor in disparate outcomes, one that can be solved today.

We are designed to deal with stress when we experience the negative emotion. When we do, we thrive. When we don’t, we suffer. So do our relationships, our careers, and our level of happiness. New research has pointed the way to do this without having to give up what we love (or even family members we find difficult to love). We can have far greater control over our stress level than most have ever experienced. That’s what we teach at Happiness 1st Institute. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us for details on upcoming classes.


Smart Employers Know . . .

Smart Employers Know the effect of chronic stress on the success of their employees and therefore, their business.

The smartest employers are implementing programs that teach employees psychological flexibility that considers the human drive for autonomy and reduces stress far more than any of the dose dependent stress reduction methods.¹ ²

Smart Employers Know that focusing their efforts on Primary Prevention which is designed to prevent problems from occurring, rather than waiting until after they occur to address them, will always be ahead of those whose strategy is reactive.

Smart Employers Know that the level of stress most employees experience in modern society is typically enough to be in the harmful level. Our society routinely tolerates far higher levels of stress than is healthy, often wearing the level of stress tolerated as a badge of honor. This tactic is completely ignorant of the facts that living with chronic stress:

  • Decreases the function of our immune system, leading to more illness and earlier deaths
  • Decreases cognitive function, leading to more unhealthy decisions and a lower ability to solve problems
  • Contributes significantly to the high percentage of GNP we spend on health care while receiving poor results
  • Increases the chance of addictions
  • Is the leading contributor to mental health issues from depression, anxiety to bipolar disorder and more
  • Increases the prevalence of chronic diseases that rob people of a high quality of life far too often and at young ages
  • Significantly reduces the quality of relationships of all types, from spouses and children to co-workers and neighbors
  • Is the # 1 factor that prevents good results in:
    • Employee Engagement
    • Turnover
    • Absenteeism
    • Creativity
  • The impact of stress begin almost instantaneously and compounds over time
  • The risk of preterm delivery of our offspring when we’ve endured chronic stress for years
  • The negative impact on physical, mental, and behavioral health of our children

Smart Employers Know that employees who have been trained in psychological flexibility experience significantly lower harmful stress under situations that produce harmful levels of stress in those who do not deliberately use their ability to be psychologically flexible to reduce stress.

What could your team do that it is not doing now?

Contact us today to learn how we can help your team develop winning mindsets and the psychological flexibility it takes to go the distance and arrive healthy.

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¹ Kashdan, Todd B., Psychological Flexibility as a Fundamental Aspect of Health, Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 November 1; 30(7): 865–878., doi:  10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.001,

² Gorin, Amy. A., Powers, Theodore A., Koestner, Richard, Wing, Rena R., Raynor, Hollie, Autonomy Support, Self-Regulation, and Weight Loss, Health Psychology, 2014, Vol. 33, No. 4, 332–339, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0032586

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Perfectionism Harms

Perfectionism Harms

People wonder why so many people fail to thrive in modern times. One reason is we have widely accepted but inaccurate beliefs about many things that affect our well-being on a regular basis.

Our classes overturn a few dozen of these false premises. Today I’m writing about perfectionism. It is commonly accepted as a positive characteristic to be admired and developed, perfectionism is often praised.

It is true, there are some benefits that come from pessimistic tendencies. I’m just not sure they are worth the price the individual pays. It varies on an individual basis, and we have to look at the underlying reason the person attempts to achieve perfection to know whether it is harmful on an individual basis. If it is a critical task, for example, brain surgery, perfection is essential to task. The brain surgeon who has perfected her craft but can allow herself to not be perfect in other areas of life, whose perfection is dictated by the necessity for perfectionism, is far less likely to suffer the negative consequences of perfectionism. In fact, I would not describe such a person as a perfectionist.

Another brain surgeon, just as skilled, who also demands perfectionism from his children, spouse, home, attire, and public persona is at risk of the negative consequences of perfectionism. The pervasiveness of the tendencies indicates that the underlying reason for the characteristic is not healthy. This type of pervasive perfectionism causes persistent high stress on the body and mind of the individual.

One of the very common, but not well-known, risk factors for suicide is this sort of perfectionism.

“…high Persistence and Harm Avoidance are predisposing traits for burn-out in healthcare professionals who are often overly perfectionistic and compulsive, predisposing them to anxiety, depression, suicide and burn-out.” (Stoyanov and Cloninger)

The perfectionistic tendencies result in this person hiding their discomfort and angst. Often it is the type of suicide that surprises those closest to the individual. They hide their symptoms and then apply their desire for perfection to their attempt at suicide, which increases the death rate from those attempts.

This same type of perfectionism increases the risk of burnout.

Perfectionism is not a fixed personality trait. It’s not easy to change if you don’t have the key but with the key it is relatively simple to change. Many people simply believe that is how they are–an integral part of their personality–part of what makes them who they are. That is not true. It is a reflection of the fact that these tendencies develop at a young age, not of the immutability of the characteristic.

If you are a perfectionist who demands perfection in all areas of your life, your life is far more stressful than it should be and far more stressful than it has to be. That is a less than perfect life. We can help you relax and enjoy your life more without giving up the quality you demand of yourself in the areas where it is important. Any of our premier programs would help you and those you love enjoy your lives and one another more fully.


Burnout in High Stress Occupations: Solutions

Employee Engagement

Recent studies have reported employee engagement levels at or below 30%. Traditional methods of employee engagement attempt to change the corporate culture and management in order to change the employees. But older wisdom tells us that true change must come from within. After decades of using the traditional approach with dismal results (30% of employees are engaged), isn’t it time to give another method a try? The results could hardly be worse.

Burnout in High Stress Occupations

Worldwide, burnout in high stress occupations is taking a toll and causing concerns. This is especially true in the healthcare industry where physicians and nurses are experiencing burnout with two dire consequences. 1) The care they are able to provide is lower as a result of the burnout, and 2) They are leaving the field and taking their years of training, hand in hand engagement burnout resilience-001expertise and experience with them.This is not good for the employees, the employers, or the public. Burnout and lack of employee engagement go hand in hand.

We need a better solution and there is a mountain of evidence pointing to resilience as the missing piece. Resilience stands alone as the most important factor in maintaining employee engagement.

“The failure or loss of resilience in physicians leads to burn-out, which is a major concern in medical centres because of its impact on health care.” (Eley et al, 2013)

If you step back and look at the relationship between employee engagement and resilience, it becomes easy to see why addressing engagement by attempting to change the environment instead of strengthening employees is failing.

Perhaps employers are reluctant to spend their resources strengthening employees who can leave the organization. I can see how easy that objection to strengthening employees could be made. I also see how short sighted it is.

Beyond a certain point, the work and work environment is far more important to employees than compensation. If that weren’t true, many occupations would have to pay a great deal more to get anyone to do the work.

Does management affect culture? Yes, of course. But a resilient employee can thrive under a bad manager because that employee will respond in ways that support his or her own continued engagement. Resilience relies heavily on mindset. With the last really bad boss I had, I developed several mantras that helped me remain engaged with the work and the company even though I had no respect or trust for the boss I had caught lying and deliberately wasting company resources. At the time I worked for one of what I call the “Big Box banks” and in my time there my bosses tended to last 6 – 8 months, then I’d report to the Senior Vice President until a new boss was hired. I loved working directly for the SVP because of the mutual respect we’d developed over the years. The main thing I had to do to remain engaged in my role was remind myself that the bad boss would be gone soon.

Okay, yes, that is over simplification. But the other perspectives I took to feel better all flowed easily once that one was in place. Did I thrive? Yes. In fact, it was while working under that boss that I was promoted to Vice President. I also did not stress about him after hours. If my mind began ruminating about what he had done that was irritating, frustrating or infuriating I would remind myself that he would be gone soon, which enabled me to let it go. Was he gone soon? Yes. In fact, I’ve noticed that most really bad bosses don’t last too long–not just for myself but also with friends and family.

Who suffers most under a bad boss? It is not the most vulnerable. I was a single Mom raising two children on my own. It is the one who believe the current problem is going to be permanent. The ones who worry not just about today, but about what it will be like working for that bad boss in six months or six years. It is those who do not believe they can do anything about the situation.

Interestingly, those same traits are associated with depression. Ruminating, anxiety, and unnecessary worry make someone vulnerable–not their life circumstances.

What Difference Does this Make?

If your employees are not resilient, adverse circumstances can quickly lead to a lack of engagement. You cannot control the circumstances the employee works under. There are too many moving parts. You have some control over these parts but no control over most of them. The employer cannot control whether or not the:

  • Employee gets adequate sleep before coming to work
  • Employee’s children are cooperative while they prepare for the day ahead
  • Employee eats breakfast
  • Employee argues with members of their family before coming to work (or even during work)
  • The morning commute goes well (millions of moving parts here including other drivers being rude, getting  a ticket, having an accident, car breakdowns, spilling coffee, heavy traffic, noticing weeds allowed to flourish in a neighbor’s yard, a song on the radio that makes the employee feel sad, flat tires, parking issues, and more)
  • Other employees are rude to the employee
  • Customers are rude to the employee
  • Employee likes the way coffee in the breakroom was prepared
  • Employee has minor illnesses or aches/pains (i.e. tension headaches, minor stomach upset, indigestion, sore muscles, etc.)
  • Employee is worried about personal finances
  • Employee is worried about a child being bullied, skipping school, having sex, drinking, doing drugs, smoking or other undesired activities
  • Employee is worried about the health of a personal relationship
  • Employee is worried about a loved one for an unlimited number of reasons
  • Employee feels loved or appreciated by anyone
  • Employee finds meaning in their work (this is a function of perception–not the role)

The above list may seem lengthy but it is far from an exhaustive list of factors that contribute to the employee’s performance on any given day. If the employee works with others, whether bosses, peers, or subordinates each factor would be multiplied by each of the people with whom the employee has interactions.

The bottom line is that the employer cannot control the work environment beyond a very limited scope. How the employee responds to the circumstances has a far greater impact on employee engagement than anything the employer can do. Resilient employees respond to life’s ups and downs in ways that allow them to bounce back. What is a deep valley to an employee who lacks resilience is a mere pothole to the resilient employee.

The Good news is

Resilience is a learnable skill. (Cloninger & Cloninger, 2011)

Resilience leads to desirable traits including:

  • Being responsible
  • Perseverance
  • Psychological and Behavioral maturity
  • Cooperation
  • Optimism
  • Self-direction

Resilience is associated with a lack of unnecessary worry, anxiety, and negative rumination.

Building A Resilient Culture

You can build a resilient culture that will support and encourage engagement by teaching employees skills that increase their personal resilience. Once taught, there will be a natural tendency to support and strengthen that culture.

We all know, intuitively, that we want to feel good. Resilience feels better than the alternative. Working with other people who are resilient creates an atmosphere that is positive and nurturing. There is less competitiveness within the organization and more cooperation toward accomplishing shared goals. There is a greater desire to better oneself because the belief that doing so will have a positive outcome increases in the resilient individual. There is greater focus on solutions and less frustration with problems.

One of my all time favorite quotes is:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Maimonides

Teaching employees the skills that lead to resilience is like teaching them to fish. Once acquired the skills are used because using them feels better than not using them. In an organization where all employees are being taught the skills the opportunities for positive reinforcement will help them quickly develop new habits of behavior and thought. The way these skills are taught makes individuals more receptive to feedback about course adjustments than they were before.

If you’re not satisfied with your employee engagement numbers or you’re concerned about burnout, contact us today for a free consultation. You’ll be glad you did.

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P.S. The other great benefit with our program? The way we increase resilience also increases Emotional Intelligence (EQ), an essential trait of leaders who can go the distance.

 


Empowered Employees Blue Heron Wisdom’s Radio Show

Listen From Around The WorldRadio

Our founder, Jeanine Joy (formerly Broderick), has accepted an invitation to be a guest on Blue Heron Wisdom’s Radio Show.

The show can be heard on WBLQ 1230 in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island at 4 pm Eastern on November 6, 2012.

You can listen to the recorded show here.

Look for Laura Longley’s program, Blue Heron Wisdom Radio, at 1 pm Pacific/4 pm Eastern (7 am Byron Bay, Australia on Wednesday), 9 pm in London, (2 am Wednesday in India).

Recordings will also be available in the archive.

For a direct live stream or as a backup, you can connect to this link Windows Media Player http://deadby28. net/wblq/main_files/player2. asx 

Winamp/iTunes: http://deadby28. net/wblq/main_files/player2. pls 

Please mark your calendars.

The topic is how happy employees benefit an employer and how employers can increase employee happiness – the best wellness program possible.

Hope you can tune in or listen to the recording.

For more information, check out Jeanine’s upcoming book, Empowered Employees are Engaged Employees.

Engaged Employees 9780692547557.MAIN 0692491945.MAIN Diversity Appreciation main cover