The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a healthy work environment as one that not only lacks harmful stimuli but that actively aims to improve the health of workers. Stress has shown to be harmful to both mental and physical health condition. Interventions to help individuals cope with stress have been proven to help stress-related physical and mental ailments. It is estimated that mental health-related diseases cost America $9.5 million in 2007. Therefore, improving your employees’ mental health should be a top priority for all employers. Here are some handy tips and tricks to help you get started.
1. Breathing Exercises
This seems to be a method that pops up whenever stress relief is mentioned. It is a classic for a reason. Breath is vital to life. However, one would be wrong to think that this is a one-size-fits-all fix. Here are some really good breathing examples:
- The Calming Count – Count your natural breaths per minute. This is perhaps an adult version of ‘counting to ten’ when one gets angry or stressed.
- Time your breath – An ancient technique of breathing in for four counts, holding the breath for five counts and breathing out for seven counts. This exercise has been used by Yogis for centuries with great effect.
- Belly Breaths – When humans are under threat the body goes into fight or flight response. Breathing deeply into your abdomen triggers the diagram, which sends a signal to your brain that you are not in danger, reducing the amount of stress hormones your body produces.
- The Sigh – Take a deep breath, hold it and when you exhale drop your jaw open and release the breath as a sigh. This helps release the jaw muscle which is often clenched in times of stress.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing – This exercise may feel silly to beginners but has shown to be very effective. Block your one nostril and breathe in deeply through the other. Swap nostrils every breath and repeat for a total of 10 breaths.
2. Flash Meditation
Meditation is not something that has to be done in isolation on the top of a mountain. Having a break of a few minutes to try and clear your mind is all it takes. This can be extremely tricky for beginners, particularly if they are in the stress of a busy workday. Follow these simples steps:
- Close your eyes
- Take natural breaths, do not try to alter your natural breathing pattern but rather try to observe it without judgment
- Try to clear your mind of internal chatter by focusing on a particular rhythmic sound (such as a ticking of a clock, or the flow of traffic) or your own breathing.
- Take some time to enjoy this internal peace and when you are ready, go ahead and fight your day!
3. Some Quick Stretching
Often when we are stressed or have been working in one position for a long time, our muscles seize without us even knowing. Taking the time to do some quick stretches, even simple ones such as touching your toes or rotating your neck can make the world of difference.
4. Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks!
Although this is not technically a ‘relaxation exercise,’ it is a point worth mentioning nonetheless. When blood sugar drops, the body goes into fight or flight response. When this happens, adrenaline (your body’s stress hormone) is released. This causes a biological increase in stress. Providing healthy snacks, such as fruit, in the workplace can really help your employees to manage their stress during the workday.
5. Talk About Mental Health More!
If you are having a high-stress day, it is likely that some of your colleagues are experiencing similar strain. Encourage your employees to voice their feelings and concerns with each other and to management in a casual manner. Sharing one’s feelings is a great way to relax and refocus. While not a traditional exercise, it is extremely effective.
Knowing these activities is one thing, but being able to implement them within your workplace is a completely different challenge. As a manager or employer, teaching your employees to destress should come across as caring and fun, rather than as intruding or rude. There are many different ways to approach this task. One idea would be to host team-building seminars where employees share their stresses and frustrations. During this seminar, approaching the topic of stress-relief may come across as natural.
Alternatively, sending an email to your employees might be a good idea, as it allows them to process the information on their own time without feeling pressured to follow any particular method. The most important thing an employer can do to help their staff deal with stress is to be patient, listen, and be present. There is no quick guide to help you with this challenge but, hopefully, these stress-relieving exercises will give you a place to start. If an employee needs medical attention for their stress, there are many options available to employers who want to assist them. Scoop Health offers comprehensive medical cost sharing that can help your employees when they need it most.