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Stress and the Workplace - 5 Questions Answered

Allied and Well is the Health Alliance™ monthly podcast focused on health and wellness. This month we explore stress and the workplace, answering your most common questions. Our guest is Linda Culton, LCSW, the Clinical Supervisor of Carle's Resolutions Employee Assistance Program in Urbana.
Stress and the Workplace - 5 Questions Answered
Featuring:
Linda Culton, LCSW
Linda Culton, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Clinical Supervisor of Carle’s Resolutions Employee Assistance Program.
Transcription:

Alyne Ellis: Welcome to Allied and Well, Health Alliance's new monthly wellness podcast. Every month we'll address a new topic important to your health, bringing in expert doctors, therapists, and specialists who offer advice, plus myths and answer your most pressing questions. Our first topic, stress and the workplace. April is National Stress Awareness Month. I'm Alyne Ellis, and with us today is Linda Culton. Linda is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Clinical Supervisor of Carle's Resolution Employee Assistance Program. Linda and her fellow therapists at Resolutions help organizations assist their employees with counseling, conflict resolution, stress management, and many other wellness services. Welcome, Linda. It's a nice to have you with us today. So let's jump right in. Starting with why should I be worried about stress and what are some of the harmful effects it can have on my health?

Linda Culton: Well, stress is a natural phenomenon that our bodies do for us to help us through any stressful situation that could be something unfamiliar or something abnormal that's going on or just work related stress. And I think we all know the definition to that. So what happens, our body has this response. As I said, we breathe a little bit faster, our heartbeat is faster. We develop some body tension. We start to produce harmful hormones that can come out and they're there to help us think faster and to react faster. So the problem with all of those things though is that over time and without any relief from stressful times, it can cause some long-term damage to your body. So because of that stress has gotten kind of a bad rap, so to speak. There's a little bit of stigma about stress these days.

Host: So stress is one of the most common parts of almost any job. Those. So how do I know when it's becoming harmful to my health, and I'm just too stressed out?

Alyne Ellis: Stress that you haven't been able to take care of or that you can't seem to get away from, will eventually lead to what we call burnout. And with burnout, almost the opposite thing is going on then when you're feeling stressed, where you've got body tension and a sense of urgency. Now when you start feeling more physical aches and pains, when you feel like you don't even want to go to work or that you're not happy when you're at work or you start making more mistakes at work, this is the point when you need to kind of pause and reassess and see what kinds of things maybe you need to do in terms of self-care.

Host: So what are some of the strategies and tips that I can use in handling this kind of stress?

Linda Culton: Well, there's a number of things. A lot of them are in the category of physical self-care. You know, making sure that you're taking breaks during the day, that you are getting plenty of rest at night, that you've got some work life balance, that you can leave work at work. And enjoy yourself and kind of recharge that battery when you're not at work. But taking those breaks during the day can certainly help. Delegating work, learning how to say no nicely so that you don't just get more and more things piled on you. And the way that we talk to ourselves is very important to if we are kind of distracted by thinking about how bad stress is or how bad the job situation is. We continue to contribute to some negativity that has its own negative effect then on our mental health. So making sure that we're talking to ourselves as nicely as we would somebody else. You know, if a coworker came to you and said, man, I am so stressed, you would offer some encouragement. Maybe some words of advice or maybe even a suggestion or two. So talking to ourselves nicely is another way that we can get out of that stress mode.

Host: Do you recommend talking to coworkers about the stress you feel?

Linda Culton: I do because misery loves company, so to speak, but your coworkers are very likely to understand where those stressors are coming from, where perhaps someone at home they aren't at the job with you. They don't understand all of the pressures and the situations and the requirements and that sort of thing. So coworkers certainly understand where you're coming from and some coworkers maybe will have their own strategies for ways to handle stress that you hadn't thought of. So you can get some, some new ideas on how to relieve that stress at work.

Host: But how do I tell my boss if I'm feeling stressed? Cause that's really the person who probably needs to know. I don't want to be punished and I certainly don't want to be seen as weak.

Linda Culton: Well, again, that's a, when I said earlier that there is a stigma now about stress that we see it as a weakness when really it's a very natural function of our bodies and our brains. But in terms of telling your boss I think that sort of for me links to being able to say no nicely. Sometimes bosses, if they don't realize that you have kind of reached your capacity of your workload or feeling like you can cope with the workload, if they aren't aware that you're stressed, they might continue to add tasks or jobs or other kinds of pressure on you. So there are ways that you can frame that and say you know, if a boss comes to you and says, here's a new task I want you to start doing, you can pause and say, okay, can you help me reprioritize what's already on my work plate because I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Host: And if I feel just so overwhelmed that I can't talk to my boss about the stress that I feel, where else can I turn? What resources are available to help me prevent and manage this job related stress?

Linda Culton: Well, that's why EAPs exist. Employee assistance programs. An EAP is highly confidential. And that's part of your benefit package where you work, you can call your EAP provider, ask for an appointment, and then you can get some free counseling with the staff at your EAP. But for our EAP, we also have an online resource library, which gives people the opportunity to, on their own time and whenever they wish to look up some self-help strategies, articles, there's little quizzes that they can take, and things like that. And then we also have an anonymous confidential website that people can go to if they feel like their stress is really extreme. And maybe they're heading towards that burnout. They create an ID and a password on this anonymous website, fill out a questionnaire, and then I get notified via email and then I respond back to you. I don't know who you are. And for some people who are afraid to tell their bosses, this is a really good strategy, if you have that at your workplace because then I can converse back and forth with you. Your anonymity is maintained and I can give you some strategies and suggestions. It's not therapy, but it's referring people to resources.

Host: And how can Health Alliance Health coaches assist in supporting members in managing their stress

Linda Culton: As health coaches though they're going to provide services very similar to seeing an EAP counselor. So it's building on people's strengths. It's brainstorming, it's problem solving, referring them to other community resources, maybe even some other resources within the individual's own workplace.

Host: So finally, let's talk about mental health first aid and what that does for people who are under job related stress.

Linda Culton: Mental health first aid is similar to the physical first aid that many of us have been taught to give. So if someone has been trained in mental health first aid, such as a coworker or a friend or a family member, then they've been encouraged to use their listening skills to encourage people to seek self-help or different types of support. Even seeking professional help, maybe going to the doctor for a physical or maybe even medication, that sort of thing.

Host: And there anything else you'd like to add?

Linda Culton: Couple of other things that are available to people that they may not be aware of, there are some Apps that you can get for your home for what's called psychological first aid, and then people can also look up emotional first aid. So there's lots of apps and lots of new ways to educate yourself and find resources online. So I think for people to just learn a little bit more about stress, whether it's work related or not. And looking at some of these free Apps that they can use, then that'll help them find their own way to reduce the stress.

Host: Such great advice. Thank you so much, Linda, and thanks for all that you do through Carle's Resolution Employee Assistance Program. That concludes today's podcast. I'm Alyne Ellis. Tune in next month when we explore five common sleep myths with an expert on healthy sleeping. For more health and wellness tools, tips and resources, visit healthalliance.org/health. Thanks for listening to Allied and Well, we hope you tune in next month.