When employees can manage strain, they’re on the way to being more productive

A company can expect to see a measurable effect on its bottom line when it helps employees make the connection between lifestyle choices and the risk of serious illness. A healthy employee is a more productive employee, and one who recognizes the pillars of wellness:

  1. Eating patterns.
  2. Activity patterns.
  3. Rest and relaxation patterns (perhaps the most important).

Each has a significant effect on the other two. That’s why you tend to eat more junk if you are sleep-deprived, and it’s why the last thing you might feel like doing after dinner on Thanksgiving is to get off the couch for a game of football with the kids.

But it works the other way, too, which is why you tend to sleep better after a strenuous hike, a day spent kayaking out on the lake or a light dinner.

The major disruptor

You may be surprised to learn that one of, if not the most significant disruptors of health and wellness is stress. The 2010 Stress in America survey showed that most American families live with moderate to high levels of chronic stress causing serious health problems for both adults and children.

Chronic unrelenting stress increases the likelihood of developing a wide variety of illnesses, as well as causing worsening of outcomes in individuals already diagnosed with diseases as seemingly disparate as heart disease, breast cancer, mental illness and others.

The research shows that stress management, at least in nonsmokers, may be the single greatest modifiable risk factor for serious illness.

What to do?

What can you do about this? You can learn about mindfulness, a simple technique for focusing awareness on the present moment and calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and sensations.

A colleague recently described it to me as sitting by the river of your thoughts and watching them go by without judgment, without jumping in and landing downstream.

Among many ways to learn about mindfulness is Stress Free Now, a six-week, online training program that teaches participants to improve their health, well-being and enjoyment of life. Developed at the Cleveland Clinic, Stress Free Now focuses on developing mindfulness skills and brings newfound awareness into the relationship with self and others. Some have described it as discovering a new room in their own home, a home in which they have lived for years.

Managing stress and its effects is a critical component of a comprehensive wellness program. The better rested and less overwhelmed you are by stress, the more likely you are to be able to devote yourself fully to the task at hand, whether at home or on the job.