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Wellness at work

Because of COVID-19, the Oswego Health Foundation Business Relations Committee feels it is especially important to regularly practice self-care and take time to keep ourselves healthy.

Our committee will be continuing to share simple ways for you to boost your wellness while at work.

We hope these tips are beneficial and help to relieve some of the stress you may be experiencing during this ongoing difficult time.

Tips for Staying Healthy and Safe at Work

As we go to work every day, we often think about the tasks we need to do and our interactions with co-workers. Most of us may not think much about our health and safety on the job, but we probably should. Colds and other viral infections can spread quickly and can affect productivity, and more than 3 million disabling accidents occur in American workplaces every year. To avoid being sidelined by an illness or injury, start taking action today.


Protect yourself against infection

Colds and flu are caused by viruses that can pass easily from one person to another when you sneeze or cough, or handle objects contaminated with a virus. Some viruses can live up to three hours on phones, doorknobs and desks. Because most adults average about two to four colds a year, there's a good chance that germs may abound in many workplaces.

You can help limit your exposure with these tips:
  • Wash your hands frequently. Be sure to scrub them with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. The scrubbing action removes germs so that you can wash them away. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based gel or wipe.
  • Try not to touch your face. Once a virus gets on your hands, it still has to get inside your body. Touching your eyes, nose or mouth gives it easy access.
  • Use a disinfectant. Clean surfaces such as telephones and keyboards regularly, especially if you share them with others.

If you do get sick, should you still go to work? Sometimes staying at home is a better idea, especially if you:
  • Are coughing, hacking and sneezing, all of which can spread a virus
  • Have a fever
  • Feel nauseous, are vomiting or have diarrhea
  • Are so sick that you can't do your job
If you feel well enough to go to work, try to prevent infecting others. Avoid shaking hands with anyone, always use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands or use an alcohol-based gel or wipe afterward.

Make routine tasks safer

Repeatedly clicking a computer mouse or turning and lifting can take a toll on your body. In fact, about half of injuries that occur in the workplace are related to frequent repetition of everyday movements such as these.

You can help reduce your risk of injury:
  • Vary your activities. It's important to give your body a break now and then while you're at work. It's a good idea when you're off the clock, as well. "If you're working assembly in a manufacturing environment or typing in an office, you're better off not doing those same motions when you're not at work," says Tim Morse, Ph.D., associate professor of ergonomics at the University of Connecticut.
  • Check your computer setup. If you spend a lot of time working at a computer and it isn't positioned correctly, you may be risking pain in your neck, shoulders, elbows or wrists, says Jack Dennerlein, Ph.D., associate professor of ergonomics at Harvard University. To check your computer's position, stand in front of your chair. The backs of your knees should be about two inches above the seat. When you're sitting down, the top of the monitor screen should be at about eye level. Position your keyboard so that your elbows are at an angle of at least 90 degrees. This may help relieve stress on your wrists.
  • Avoid overreaching. Whether or not you work at a desk, it's important to keep frequently used materials and tools within reach. When sitting, you shouldn't have to reach more than 15 inches. When standing, items should be no more than 14 inches away if you're reaching for them with both hands. If you're using just one hand, 18 inches is OK for most people.
  • Listen to your body. "Little aches and pains are good indications of a potential injury," says Dr. Dennerlein. If you start having these types of symptoms, call your doctor.
Practice safe lifting

Try not to lift more weight than you're used to carrying. How much you can handle safely depends in part on your level of conditioning. Technique also makes a difference.

To help avoid back injury, remember to lift with your legs. Here's how:
  • Bend your knees.
  • Keep your back straight, even when you're putting down the load.
  • Hold the load close to your body and use a slow, steady lifting motion.
  • Don't twist while carrying something. Instead, turn your feet and your body in the direction you want to go.

If you need to move something that's too heavy for you to lift, ask someone to help you. Or, if you're authorized to use a forklift or other device, use it to move the object.
The StayWell Company, LLC ©2022

Past tips

Tip 1

First Things First. Stop for a moment and take a breath.

Keep Things in Perspective - When you're stressed by a particular event, it's easy to lose perspective, particularly of how good your life is overall. Pause for a minute, take a step back and look at it in the context of the big picture of your life.

Be Thankful - Adopt an attitude of gratitude by directing your thoughts away from negative thought patterns that are common when you're stressed. Stop for a minute and make a list of all the things you're grateful for or take for granted. Look back at this list as a reminder.

Tip 2

A Deep Breathing Exercise

This exercise can be done standing up or sitting in a chair that supports your back.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can.

If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.

Place your arms on the chair arms if it has them.

If you're sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you're in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.

Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.

Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.

Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.

Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Tip 3

Personalizing Your Workstation Can Make a Big Difference

Posting photos of loved ones, relaxing places, a vacation you've been on or destinations you want to go to also can provide a much needed mental break from stressful situations.

It's easy to get lost in whatever is going on when you're at your desk. Looking at a pleasant picture temporarily takes you someplace else for a few moments.

Also fragrant fresh-cut flowers also can help you reduce stress, as can a memento from your childhood or gift from your child.

There are other benefits to having a personalized work space as well. Personal items can provide a great ice breaker in a potentially stressful meeting. Surrounding yourself with familiar items helps you enjoy your environment and boost your happiness.

Tip 4

Standing or sitting for long periods of time can take a toll on your muscles. To prevent or reduce stiffness and pain, try these simple upper body office stretches throughout the day. Perform these stretches several times throughout the day to help keep your muscles from feeling sore and tight.

Shoulder stretch

Start by stretching the back of your shoulder:

  • Place one hand under your elbow.
  • Lift your elbow and stretch it across your chest. Don't rotate your body as you stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. You'll feel tension in the back of your shoulder.
  • Relax and slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the stretch with the other arm.

Upper arm stretch

To stretch the back of your upper arm and shoulder:

  • Lift one arm and bend it behind your head.
  • Place your other hand on the bent elbow to help stretch your upper arm and shoulder.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Relax and slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the stretch with the other arm.

Chest stretch

To stretch the muscles of your chest:

  • Place your hands behind your head.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, bringing your elbows back as far as possible.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Relax and slowly return to the starting position.

Tip 5

Managing Your Self Talk

We are all living in a near-constant state of stress with work, family life and COVID on top of it all. The cost of this stress on your health and work can be extraordinary. Managing your self-talk can have a direct impact on your perspective. Let's try keeping it positive!

Instead of saying...

I can't do this.

I have to do all this right now.

I'm not good enough.

It's not fair.

Why me?

What if i make a mistake?

I have to do it right now.

Try saying...

I can do this!

Relax.

One thing at a time.

I need to take a break.

Breathe.

It's going to be ok.

This is just one more challenge.

I can ask for help if I need to.

Try this at while work for the next week and see how much better you feel!

Tip 6

Get the Most Out of Your Day at the Office

What would your life be like if you could make every day at work a great day?

If you've been feeling like a victim at your job, you may be able to change your approach to work. Even if your situation is difficult, you can make choices to create better days at work. Here are a few.

Start the day before

A great day at work really starts at the end of the day by clearing off your desk, figuring out what you need to do the next day, then prioritizing those things the best you can.

Focus on your work and set aside personal distractions

To help you set aside your personal distractions, write them on a piece of paper or in a journal. When you write out personal problems that are bothering you, it keeps them from swirling around in your head and distracting you from your work.

Give 100 percent

People who have great days at work are the ones who give 100 percent. Many people do just enough to get by or stay out of trouble. People who give their best tend to get caught up in their work and, therefore, enjoy more of what they're doing.

Get along

Make a sincere effort to get along with their coworkers, supervisors and clients or customers.
While you may not like all the people you work with, you can show everyone respect and consideration.

Make these choices and make it a great day!

Tip 7

Planning Strategies for Work and Home

Planning ahead can be a difficult skill for some, while others find it easy to plan in many areas of their lives. But even if you aren’t a natural planner, you can learn skills that will help you organize and prioritize tasks and events. This can ultimately help you reduce unnecessary stress and increase your productivity. In fact, the better prepared you are for handling life’s challenges the more likely you are to achieve your goals and fulfill your dreams. Use the tips below to help improve your planning skills at work.

At Work

  1. Planning for Long and Short-Term Goals - When planning for success at work, start by establishing long- and short-term goals. These goals will tell you what to focus on and what you ultimately want to achieve.
  2. Analyze Your Goals - Look at each goal you’ve created and define the tasks needed to accomplish it. Set deadlines and plan to reward yourself once you’ve accomplished the goal.
  3. Use a Planner - Take advantage of yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily charts to map out your schedule of tasks. Cross off tasks and goals as you fulfill them.
  4. Prioritize Daily - Your weekly planning chart will help you make to-do lists for each day. Before you start your day, write down a list of priorities. Then, write down an A, B, or C next to each priority, according to these rules;
    1. Priority A - Must-Do Item - Priority A items are your most important tasks. Do these right away.
    2. Priority B - Should-Do Items - Should-Do Items don’t have to be done today, but should be accomplished very soon.
    3. Priority C - Nice-to-Do Items -These items can be postponed or left as long-term goals.
  5. Delegating Duties - If you can, cross-train your coworkers so they can help when you are absent. Try to balance your workload, and give others credit if they assist you in performing tasks.
  6. Meet with Colleagues and Customers at Appropriate Times - Schedule meeting times with colleagues to avoid workplace disruptions. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, make a list of people you frequently call. When you think of something to discuss with the person, make a note of it under their name. Then, when you talk to them next, you can address everything you need to.

Written by Life Advantages - Author Dr. Delvina Miremadi 2021

Tip 8

Journaling for Mental Health

Journaling is simply writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. And if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can be a great idea. It can help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health.

The Benefits of Journaling One of the ways to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to find a healthy way to express yourself. This makes a journal a helpful tool in managing your mental health.

Journaling can help you:

  • Manage anxiety
  • Reduce stress
  • Cope with depression
  • Journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by:
    • Helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns
    • Tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them
    • Providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors

When you have a problem and you're stressed, keeping a journal can help you identify what’s causing that stress or anxiety. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and reduce your stress.

Keep in mind that journaling is just one aspect of a healthy lifestyle for better managing stress, anxiety, and mental health conditions. To get the most benefits, be sure you also:

  • Relax and meditate each day.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly—get in some activity every day.
  • Treat yourself to plenty of sleep each night.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs.

The StayWell Company, LLC ©2021

Tip 9

Still Working from Home: Tips to Help Alleviate your Stress

Carve Out a Specific Workspace

  • Be sure your workplace is separate from the main living area
  • Make sure your area is Private and Secure
  • Create work rituals and routines

Make it Comfortable

  • Promote good ergonomics
  • Be sure to use a comfortable chair
  • Use a well light area

Use the Right Tools and Equipment

  • If you are using a dual monitor at work, you should do the same from home
  • Speak with your employer about them supplying you with the tools you normally use when at the office
  • Consider using a headset

Stay Healthy and Active

  • Follow a routine
  • Schedule breaks
  • Set start and end times for your workday
  • Be intentional about food
  • Take time to be active

Combat Loneliness and Anxiety

  • Stay connected with family and friends as much as possible
  • Use the camera when on a video call
  • If you need support, reach out

Tip 10

Understanding the connection between stress and your health

Stress exists in your mind — but it's also evident in your stomach, heart, muscles and even your toes.

During stressful times, your body produces various chemicals, including cortisol, an immune-suppressing hormone. The more cortisol produced, the weaker your immune cells become and the more susceptible you are to illness.

Migraine headaches, sleep disorders, backaches, skin rashes, fatigue, irritability, headache, depression, worry, mood swings, chest pain, anxiety, upset stomach, ulcers, and high blood pressure are common reactions to stress.

By gaining a better understanding of the stress/disease connection, you can reduce your stress and, in turn, improve your health and well-being.

Keeping stress in check

No one can avoid all stress — and a certain amount actually is good for you. But it's best to keep unhealthy levels in check.

The following steps can help you control everyday stress:

Recognize your stress signals. Once you're aware of your stressors, you'll have a better idea of when you're stressed and can take steps to reduce them.

Notice when you're most vulnerable to stress and prepare yourself. Are you most affected in the mornings? On Mondays? In the winter?

Exercise. Aerobic workouts — walking, cycling, swimming, or running — can release pent-up frustrations while producing endorphins, brain chemicals that counteract stress.

Eat a healthful diet. A balanced diet can help stabilize your mood.

Communicate with friends and family. Social ties relieve stress and contribute to a positive attitude.

Spend time enjoying your hobbies. Doing so allows you to focus on a pleasurable activity instead of your problems.

Try relaxation techniques. Meditation, creative imagery, visualization, deep-breathing exercises, yoga, and listening to relaxation tapes can help you relax.

Learn to set limits. Don't agree to unnecessary, stressful obligations.

Get enough sleep. Stress interferes with relaxation, making it hard to get a good night's sleep, which can lead to fatigue and a reduced ability to cope. To get the best sleep possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Steer clear of caffeine. Caffeine can add to your anxiety, making you feel even more stressed.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. Using alcohol or other drugs to relieve stress only masks symptoms and can worsen stress in the long run.

Learn something new. The excitement of learning something new, such as how to speak a different language or play a musical instrument, can make your worries seem far away.

Take a breather. Stressful situations can make you breathe more shallowly or hold your breath. When you have to relax fast, belly breathing can be done in seconds. To do it: Concentrate on making your abdomen move out as you inhale through your nose, then in as you exhale. Using imagery as you belly breathe can help you further deepen and slow the pace of your breathing. As you inhale, close your eyes and imagine the air swirling into your nose and down into your lungs. As you exhale, imagine the air swirling back out again.

Combatting serious stress

When faced with a highly stressful event in your life — perhaps the death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness or a serious financial loss — the following strategies will help you cope:

Avoid unnecessary changes in your life. Instead, reserve what energy you do have for dealing with the stressor at hand. If possible, stabilize your work and home environments while working out the primary problem.

Quiet your mind. In times of stress, the mind makes things seem worse than they are by creating endless versions of impending disaster. Because the body can't tell the difference between fact and fantasy, it responds with heightened physical response.

Keep in the present. You can calm both your mind and body by keeping your mind in the present, which is seldom as stressful as an imagined future or regrettable past. To keep your mind in the present, focus your attention on your breathing, a sound or visual pattern, a repetitive movement, or meditation.

Courageously and aggressively face the stressor. Resist any temptation to ignore the stressor. Instead, carefully appraise the seriousness of the problem without magnifying it out of proportion. In addition, confirm your view of the stressor by talking with others. Make a special effort to speak to family, friends, or co-workers who have dealt with similar experiences.

Take inventory of your coping responses. Confidence is a valuable ally in combating stress, and it builds on memories of past successes. Review successes you've had with other stressful life situations. Recall some of the specific things you did to cope.

Take action. Commit yourself to a reasonable course of action to deal with the stressor. Action is a powerful stress-reducer. Research shows the body lowers its production of epinephrine, a powerful stress hormone, when a person shifts into action.

Take time out to relax. At least once or twice a day, take time to decompress by relaxing — perhaps by listening to soothing music, taking a walk, gardening, reading, or exercising.

The StayWell Company, LLC ©2021

Tip 11

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the days get shorter and there is less daylight, you may start to feel sad. While many people experience the “winter blues,” some people may have a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The first step is to determine how much your symptoms interfere with your daily life.

Do you have mild symptoms that have lasted less than 2 weeks?

  • Feeling down but still able to take care of yourself and others
  • Having some trouble sleeping
  • Having less energy than usual but still able to do your job, schoolwork, or housework

These activities can make you feel better.

  • Doing something you enjoy
  • Going outside in the sunlight
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Eating healthy and avoiding foods with lots of sugar

If these activities do not help or your symptoms are getting worse, talk to a health care provider.

Tip 12

Help for the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be stressful. Shopping, social events, debt, and other pressures can lead to anxiety. Missing loved ones and stewing about past events can also contribute. This change in your everyday routine can cause you to neglect good nutrition. And, you are more likely to skip exercise. Together, these factors can lead to holiday blues.

Will your holiday be blue?

During the holidays, you may feel lonely, sad, angry, and have poor sleep. Even if you’re not prone to depression, you may have other symptoms, such as headaches, tension, and fatigue. It’s also easy to eat and drink too much.

It’s also common to feel a holiday letdown after the holidays are over. Hectic holidays can leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained. You may feel a sense of loss or frustration. That can turn into the blues.

Don’t confuse holiday blues with clinical depression. Clinical depression is a disorder that may need to be treated with medicine. The holiday blues could need something as simple as a good listener. Clinical depression, however, can be triggered in a number of ways at or just after the holidays.

There is also a tendency to link the holiday blues with the seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called depression with seasonal patterns. SAD, however, is a diagnosable problem linked to fewer hours of sunlight during the winter. People with the holiday blues also can also have SAD. But the two aren't directly related. People with SAD have symptoms of major depression throughout the fall and winter.

Keeping the blues away

You might ease your holiday blues with something as simple as getting enough rest. People tend to lose sleep during the holidays and end up shortchanging themselves. Lack of sleep can cause cloudy thinking and irritability. It can also hamper your ability to deal with everyday stress.

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and getting some exercise can ease the blues. Also, make an effort to stay positive.

Tips to ease the blues

If you have the holiday blues, try these tips:

  • Have a heart-to-heart with a friend.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Stick to your normal routine as much as you can.
  • Set a realistic budget and then stick to it.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Don't label the season as a time to cure past problems.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t go to parties when you don’t really have time. Don’t take on events that will crowd your time. Don’t overextend yourself. Don't spend time around people who add to your stress.
  • Find time for yourself.
  • Enjoy free holiday activities.
  • Try to celebrate the holidays in a different way.

The holiday blues can be quite common, but if you are feeling especially down—for example, your sleep or your appetite is affected, or if your feelings persist after the holidays —contact your healthcare provider.

The StayWell Company, LLC ©2021

Oswego Health Foundation Business Relations Committee Members

  • Molly Ball - Huhtamaki
  • Brad Broadwell—Fulton Community Development Agency
  • Laura Denny—NBT Bank
  • Lynne Eggert—Novelis
  • Alison Fluman—Oswego Health, Occupational Health
  • Kevin Hill—JP Jewelers
  • Kelly Montagna—Oswego Health, Fulton Medical Center
  • Charlie Noel—AmeriCU
  • Chena Tucker—SUNY Oswego, Office of Business and Community Relations
  • Chris Waldron - City of Fulton, Parks and Recreation Director
  • Garrette Weiss—CitiBOCES

For other resources to keep your workforce healthy, safe and productive, view our occupational medicine services at Oswego Health.

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