Health coaches are known for helping with weight loss and fitness, but did you know they can also support employees with stress and mental health? As we close out Mental Health Awareness Month, we share how health coaching for stress management can help your employees be happier, healthier and more productive across their whole lives.
A 2022 MetLife Employee Benefit Trends study recently found that while employees’ physical, social, and financial health have improved since the early days of the pandemic, mental health has shown no improvement. The study also noted that 72% of employers feel that stress and/or burnout are a challenge or concern for their organization.
The good news is employers are responding. Many have added corporate stress reduction programs that include more free counseling sessions through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and access to mental health apps. Encouragingly, we’re also seeing efforts to change workplace culture to reduce common sources of stress, like the need for flexibility in when and where employees work.
One additional way to help employees improve their mental health is to offer health coaching for stress management in the workplace. This kind of personal, one-to-one support is a powerful way to reduce stress and improve holistic well-being.
Here are some things a stress management coach does to help employees make positive changes to their mental health:
Encourage participants to set boundaries and engage in self-care.
The pandemic reinforced how critical it is for our mental and physical health to set better boundaries between work and life, and to take time for ourselves. A health coach shares tips for time management, and helps participants learn techniques for doing less of what drains them and more of the things that renew their energy. As many have learned the hard way, we cannot give our all to work and personal responsibilities unless we care for ourselves first.
Teach stress-reduction techniques.
Meditation, or mindfulness, is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety. In addition to creating a sense of calm and inner peace in the moment, a meditation practice can help people face stressful situations throughout the day. But mindfulness is not always an easy habit to create on your own. Health coaches guide employees in mindfulness techniques and encourage them to stick with it.
Share strategies for better sleep.
Chronic stress results in increased production of the stress hormone cortisol, which profoundly impacts sleep quality—and poor sleep often causes us to feel even more stressed. Coaches teach the basics of good sleep hygiene: keeping to a sleep schedule, maintaining a cool temperature, practicing a bedtime ritual, and reducing screen time right before bed. Again, participants can learn these practices on their own, but they’re more likely to be successful when a coach provides guidance, reinforcement, and the tools to track progress.
Create personalized plans to increase physical activity.
Physical activity is a known mood booster and stress buster. Health coaches help participants find creative ways to incorporate physical activity into their days, whether in the office or working from home. My team teaches people how to fit in mini-workouts or stretches between meetings and encourages participants to block time on their calendars for workouts. They also devise individualized workout programs that focus on cardiovascular health, flexibility, and strength.
Steer participants to helpful corporate well-being resources.
Sometimes an employee dealing with stress simply doesn’t know where to turn. So in addition to pointing them to other areas of the well-being program, health coaches serve as a connection point to corporate programs that are available to employees. This may include mental health services through the EAP, financial wellness programs, help finding child or elder care, and even ways to increase all-important social connections at work.
Help connect the dots between all aspects of life.
Health coaches increase participants’ awareness that everything we experience in our bodies—both physically and mentally—is connected. They take time to understand all facets of participants’ lives that could contribute to stress—work, family, caregiving responsibilities, health conditions, and so much more—to develop a plan that is achievable for their unique life circumstances.
Work on improving diet and nutrition.
Health experts believe that stress can be somewhat managed through diet as some foods tend to exacerbate stress, while others tame it. Health coaches guide participants in making the right food choices to reduce stress levels. They can also recommend more formal weight loss programs, like Positively Me® by WebMD, and share practical tips like ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables throughout the day or keeping a food journal.
Health coaches are an effective way to help employees reduce current stress levels and teach behavioral modifications to manage future stress. This, in combination with changes to work culture, can make a real difference when it comes to retaining talent and increasing productivity in the workplace. If you would like to learn how a corporate health coaching program can support your organization with stress management, visit our website or contact us at email@example.com.