The season is changing as the long, carefree, lazy days of summer are wrapping up. Everyone is preparing for a change in weather, as well as their own mood, behaviour and stress levels.
This time of year produces some of the highest stress levels for Canadians — even more than the holidays — and it impacts physical, mental and financial health. People find it challenging to shelve these stressors and focus at work, contributing to presenteeism in the workplace. The stress also eats away at physical health through migraines, insomnia and gastrointestinal issues, contributing to loss of productivity and absences. And finances are a prevalent cause of stress as seasonal expenses such as school supplies and cool-weather wardrobe items add to the list of concerns.
A year-round focus on maintaining an ideal level of resilience against external stressors is essential to help employees keep their cool in the most stressful situations or seasons. Though employers may not be privy to employees’ individual circumstances, it would be beneficial — throughout the year — to encourage all employees to:
- Establish and sustain positive connections with friends, family and co-workers to ensure they have support systems in place when they need them;
- Remember, and learn from, past experiences and use those to identify patterns and guide future behaviours;
- Embrace self care, taking time to do the things they enjoy and prioritize nutrition, physical activity and sleep; and
- Be proactive, facing life’s challenges head-on rather than ignoring them until they become more than they can handle.
Even with an ideal level of resilience, the balance of work and home life can still become stressful. Employers can help employees to see that developing a plan for their household will help them take control of their situation — whether that’s leaving the house on time each morning or having all meals prepared the night before. The plan can be as specific or general as each person needs, but it’s important to prioritize items and honour them.
- Begin by identifying the required amount of sleep and setting a corresponding bedtime alarm, then work the plan backwards from this point. Even if they don’t abide by this alarm every night, they’ll be forced to acknowledge the time they’ve set aside for rest and are more likely to comply.
- Designate the least busy evening of the week for meal preparation, ideally the same night each week. Make a shopping list, then shop, portion and prepare as many meals as would improve their current nutritional lifestyle. Some people may only need to tweak their breakfast or lunch habits — so employers can caution them to not assume they need to overhaul their whole life when one or two adjustments will have a positive impact.
- Make financial health an equal priority in the daily plan. Improve financial literacy whenever the opportunity presents itself so they can make informed decisions about their finances. Tweak spending and saving habits to reflect sustainable and desirable long-term behaviour. They should also budget for frivolous rewards to ensure they don’t feel like a prisoner in their own life; the likelihood of sticking to a financial diet is improved with cheat days or rewards just like a nutritional diet.
Stress is a part of everyday life, no matter how many people there are to coordinate — a full office, a few family members or just one person. Understanding that stress is a part of everyone’s life is the first step towards acknowledging and identifying personal stressors and building a resilience against them. When a person has the skills and a plan in place, they can face any unexpected stressful situation that arises.