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Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Mental and emotional well-being are essential to overall health. So much so that social science and experimental research are beginning to suggest that initiatives that aim to promote physical wellbeing without including mental and social wellbeing may be doomed to failure. Research shows a link between a healthy mental state and physical signs of good health including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and a healthier weight.
Mind Body Connection
The body responds to the way people think, feel and act. Emotional distress creates susceptibility to physical illness. Possibly by lowering the immune system, but also by the use of unhealthy coping habits like smoking, drinking, and the consumption of high fat foods.
People who are emotionally healthy are aware and in control of their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors as well as tuned in to the emotions others experience. Good emotional health does not mean that a person is happy all of the time, but when they do have stress, anger and sadness, they know how to manage their negative feelings and seek help when a problem is more than they can handle on their own.
Are Health Problems Causing Stress or Stress Causing Health Problems?
Feeling stressed or anxious can act as emotional, social and intellectual barriers to healthy behaviors. When a person is upset, they may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods or taking medicines their doctor subscribes. Lack of emotional wellbeing may lead to back pain, chest pain, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stiff neck, upset stomach, weight gain or loss.
Expressing Feelings in Appropriate Ways
If feelings of sadness, stress or anxiety are causing physical problems, keeping these feelings inside can make people feel worse. Overcoming those obstacles for positive behavior change is a skill. Having a positive outlook can improve quality of life and give a health boost. Offering tools to help people improve their emotional health skills include:
- Life balance support. Practicing gratitude, encouraging journaling, making time for things they enjoy.
- Developing resilience. Strengthening social support, accepting change, keeping things in perspective and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBH).
- Practicing Relaxation Methods. Listening to music, guided imagery, yoga, meditation, deep breathing are all useful ways to calm the body and mind.
What can you as an employer do to promote positive mental health?
- Implement organization changes to reduce employee stress.
- Clearly identified roles and responsibilities.
- Reasonable work policies. (flexible schedules, comfortable work stations.)
- Empower employees to feel in control of their destiny in the workplace. (setting realistic goals and exepctations, clearly defined responsibilities, training opportunities and regular feedback)
- Ensure mental health services are included as a benefit on the health plan and encourage employees to use these services as needed.
- Train supervisors about any available EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) and proper ways to make employees aware of how to access programs.
- Regularly communicate about and provide directions for access to mental health benefits/services as part of your overall integrated employee engagement communications.
- Offer a mental health first aid course at your workplace that teaches people how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.
- Foster a culture that decreases the stigma that surrounds mental health. (Anti-stigma campaigns, EAP interventions, Education communications that counter inaccurate sterotyes or myths by replacing them with factual information.)
Contact us for more guidance on how to integrate, design and implement programs that balance the unique and powerful connection between mental, emotional and physical well-being.