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Can Health Coaching Help Workplace Populations Reduce Stress?

Not surprisingly, work is a common source of stress for Americans, ranking right up there with money concerns.1 Left unchecked, stress affects both physical and emotional health and impacts job performance and productivity. So what can employers do to help? One solution is to enlist the services of a health coach.

Workplace stress has a lot to do with our “always-on” culture, constant tech interruptions, social norms around working long hours, and a lack of managerial support. As a Harvard Business Review article relates, employers may think stress and pressure push employees to perform more, better, and faster, but what they fail to recognize is the hidden costs of poor health and a disengaged workforce.

One-on-one health coaching is a proven method for helping employees lower workplace stress and improve overall well-being. Using whatever mode is convenient—phone, secure messaging, or in-person—coaches create a plan of action and provide the motivation and accountability that participants often need to make the kinds of lifestyle changes that can impact stress levels.

What does a health coach do to reduce stress?

Health coaches can do a lot to help employees reduce their stress levels. Here are some ways they help:

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 they’re 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.

Help participants improve diet and nutrition.

Health experts believe that stress can be somewhat managed through diet: some foods tend to exacerbate stress, while others tame it. Health coaches can guide participants in making the right food choices to reduce stress levels. They can also steer participants to more formal weight loss programs, like Positively Me, and share practical tips like ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables throughout the day or keeping a food journal.

Teach common stress-reduction techniques.

Meditation, or mindfulness, is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety, and studies show that it has positive physical benefits, too. But mindfulness is not always an easy habit to create on your own. That’s where health coaches come in, guiding employees in mindfulness techniques and giving them the encouragement to stick with the habit.

When employees begin to practice mindfulness, there are benefits for the organization, too. For example, studies have shown that mindfulness leads to more empathetic leadership because it “allows us to step out of our own survival-centric thinking and connect with others empathetically.” When you consider that one of the greatest sources of stress is the managerial culture of an organization, this is significant.

Meditation can also increase focus, allowing employees to be more productive and lessening the stress of the never-ending “to-do” list. Mindfulness is known to create feelings of happiness, which may, in turn, lead to greater satisfaction on the job and overall engagement.

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. But this is easier said than done. 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, unless we care for ourselves, we cannot give our all to work and personal responsibilities.

Share strategies for better sleep.

The relationship between stress and sleep has been well-documented. A 2013 Stress in America survey noted that when they did not get enough sleep, 21 percent of adults reported feeling more stressed. Adults with higher reported stress levels fared even worse—45 percent felt even more stressed if they did not get enough sleep. Stress and poor sleep combined often leads to presenteeism and poor job performance.

Coaches teach the basics of good sleep hygiene: keeping to a sleep schedule, limiting activities in the bedroom to sleep and sexual relations, 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.

Health coaches are an effective way to help employees to reduce current stress levels and teach behavioral modifications to manage future stress. However, it’s become clearer than ever that a positive work environment likely has the most impact on reducing stress in the workplace. If you would like to see how our health coaches can support your organization with stress management, visit our website or contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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