Dear Brain, Please Let Me Sleep

Does your brain kick into overdrive the minute your head hits your pillow? Read this blog post for a few tips on how to try and lull your brain to sleep when this happens to you.


There are alarms to help people wake up, but there isn’t anything similar to help people fall asleep. It seems that no matter how much you zone out just before going to bed, the minute your head hits the pillow your brain kicks into overdrive. Thoughts of every decision made that day, things that need to be done tomorrow, or that stupid song just heard continue to flood the brain with activity.

Often, when this happens to me, I’m reminded of the time Homer Simpson said, “Shut up, brain, or I’ll stab you with a Q-Tip!” because I feel like the only way I’ll stop thinking about something is to kill my brain. Fortunately, there are other ways of dealing with this problem. An article on CNN’s website titled, “Busy brain not letting you sleep? 8 experts offer tips,” reveals a few clear tips to try and lull your brain to sleep.

A few that have worked for me are to think about a story I’ve read or heard or to make one up. It may seem counterintuitive to think about something so that you’ll stop thinking, but the story tends to unravel as I slowly drift off to sleep. Another favorite is to get out of bed and force myself to stay awake. While the chore of getting out of bed, especially on a cold night, may seem daunting, there’s nothing quite like tricking your brain with a little reverse psychology. If that doesn’t work, write down what’s bothering you, take a few deep breaths, or even do some mild exercise. If all else fails, there’s always warm milk or an over-the-counter sleep aid, but really this should be used as a last resort and not your first “go to” item.

Ideally, your bedroom will be conducive to sleep anyway. Light and noise should be kept to an absolute minimum and calming, muted colors promote a more restful ambiance. Also, make sure that the bedroom is your ideal temperature because it’s more difficult to sleep if you’re too hot or cold.

Don’t let your brain win the battle of sleep! Fight it on your own terms and equip yourself with as many tools as possible to win. Your brain will thank you in the morning by feeling refreshed.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (25 September 2018) "Dear Brain, Please Let Me Sleep" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dear-brain-please-let-me-sleep


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Addressing mental healthcare at work

Studies show that one in five adults has a mental health disorder. In this article, Olson list ways employers can address mental health within their organizations.


Nancy Spangler, senior consultant at the Center for Workplace Mental Health of the American Psychiatric Foundation, says that one in five adults has a mental health disorder, and one in 10 has a substance abuse problem. In addition, major depression and its associated conditions cost the U.S. over $210 billion every year. Clearly, mental health is an issue we need to investigate both in our offices and across the country.

Many organizations have found that simply by working with employees to recognize depression, build empathy, and find resources, increased EAP utilization while claim dollars did the opposite. In most cases there was no formal program involved—leadership simply began talking about the issue, and the reduced stigma led to better health (and better offices!).

What can we do besides reducing stigma, especially from the top down? At the 2018 Health Benefits and Leadership Conference, experts listed five “buckets” of challenges in addressing mental health: access to care, cost of care, stigma, quality, and integration. Breaking these down into individual components not only helps employees find the support they need and deserve, but it further reduces stigma by refusing to separate mental health from medical coverage or wellness programs. Experts also recommend inviting EAPs to visit offices in person, instead of simply suggesting employees call when they can. Another increasingly popular technique is text-based therapy. This a great fit for many employees because someone is always available and the conversation is always private, even when the client is sitting at a desk in a shared space.

In addition to reducing stigma through transparency and access, employers can also help increase the quality of care available to employees. One key move is simply asking for data. How do vendors evaluate quality, meet standards, and screen for illness? Do health plan members have confidential ways to report their experiences? Mental health care should be seen no differently from other kinds of health care. Employees who have access to quality, destigmatized mental health care build stronger, more functional, and ever-happier workplaces.

Olson B. (17 July 2018). "Addressing Mental Health Care at Work" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/addressing-mental-health-care-at-work.


3 simple ways to get motivated

Getting and staying motivated can be tough, whether you are coming back from vacation, dealing with something you’d rather avoid or getting focused on a Monday. Not every day will be super productive, and there is no sense in punishing yourself because of it, but there are three great ways to get back on track.

One way is to take the simplest task and make it even simpler. For example, if you have to write an email, then focus on doing the first sentence. Make writing the first sentence your goal. It may feel ridiculously easy, which is the point: Once you write that first sentence, then you will likely have the confidence to begin on the second sentence, and so on.

Another approach is to think about being in bed, tonight, right before you go to sleep. What did you accomplish today? Did you feel good about what got done? What do you wish you had gotten done so you wouldn’t be worried about doing it tomorrow? Now you can stop imagining: It’s wonderful that you still have the day ahead of you and you can get things done now.

Lastly, work on your next task for only five minutes. It will be a focused five minutes, which means no multitasking. Set an alarm as necessary. Chances are that the five minutes will go by quickly and, if you like, you can set the alarm for another five minutes.

Our motivation is usually hampered by either inertia, like when we have taken a break, or by timidity, like when we are intimidated by a major goal. By using these three methods, you can move towards success and focus on the next small step towards your big successful goal.

Read the article.

Source:
Brown D. (21 February 2018). "3 simple ways to get motivated" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/02/3-simple-ways-to-get-motivated/


Spot the differences between productivity and busyness

Productivity and busyness are often used interchangeably. This is a mistake. When you think about it, you can be busy and still get nothing really done.

Productivity is efficiently using time to change something, whether it be improving a project or taking care of an errand. Efficiency is the key word here, as no one would consider, say, spending an entire day writing a letter efficient.

Busyness is being occupied with a particular activity to the point where it becomes a priority. Spending an entire day writing a letter is busyness, but it wouldn’t be considered productive. Yet, we can say “It was a busy day” and it could be, mistakenly, interpreted as productivity.

The difference matters because productivity requires strategy: What works best, what is most important now, what matters over other tasks and other standards. Busyness prioritizes going forward, whether or not it is the best thing to do right now.

Being productive rather than busy requires stopping, strategizing and consideration before taking action. To be truly productive, you must not be afraid of pausing – and pausing feels like the opposite of being busy. You must let go of the need to feel busy.

One other simple tell: Productivity tends to give energy, while busyness tends to take it away. Getting things accomplished creates momentum as well as confidence, while doing busy work often makes inertia and frustration since it usually doesn’t lead to progress.

Read the article.

Source:
Brown D. (21 February 2018). "Spot the differences between productivity and busyness" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/02/spot-the-differences-between-productivity-and-busyness/


Strengthening the Relationship between Education and Employers: Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., Appointed Chair of President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs

From the SHRM CEO, here is his opinion on the newly appointed Chair of President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs.


Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management, was appointed chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at a White House ceremony today.

In accepting the volunteer advisory appointment to the White House Initiative on HBCUs by President Donald Trump, Taylor gave these remarks:

Thank you, President Trump and Secretary DeVos.

I appreciate the trust you have placed in me to chair the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. It has been my life’s work to unleash talent — in all its forms, from wherever it originates.

As CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), I work with employers across the country.  No matter their industry, size or longevity, today’s organizations all share the same challenge — closing the skills gap while building diverse, inclusive, engaged workforces.

For each of them, the “War for Talent” will never end and, thanks to this incredibly strong economy we’re experiencing, it is now a way of life. And today, people are an organization’s only competitive edge.

Employers depend on our country’s educational institutions as a reliable source of the multi-faceted talent they need. HBCUs are a critical conduit for this talent. Every year, over 300,000 students turn to these institutions for their education and to prepare them for their careers.

This President’s Advisory Board can be the nexus between higher education institutions and employers. As a CEO (in both non-profit and for-profit businesses), a former Fortune 500 chief HR executive, and someone with over 7½ years of experience in the HBCU space, I am up for this very challenge.

At SHRM, we are the experts on people and work and on building powerfully diverse organizational cultures that drive success. SHRM’s 300,000 members impact the lives of over 100 million people in the American workforce. SHRM is also an experienced academic partner, currently providing human resources curricula through 465 programs on 354 college campuses.

By working together, across all sectors, the HR profession, HBCUs and this Advisory Board can strengthen the relationship between education and employers. This Advisory Board can facilitate this critical relationship and support innovations in work-based learning opportunities for HBCU students. And as the world’s largest human resources association, SHRM can work with CEOs to connect industry to the diverse talent at these institutions.

This Board has an incredible opportunity to highlight HBCUs as wellsprings of the diverse talent American employers want and need today. HR and education, along with the support of this administration, must move together, forward.

Read the article.

Source:
 SHRM (27 February 2018). "Strengthening the Relationship between Education and Employers: Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., Appointed Chair of President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/strengthening-the-relationship-between-education-and-employers-johnny-c-tay

CenterStage: February is American Heart Month - Are Your Loved Ones Knowledgeable?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Talking with your loved ones about heart disease can be awkward, but it’s important. In fact, it could save a life. At the dinner table, in the car, or even via text, have a heart-to-heart with your loved ones about improving heart health as a family. Engaging those you care about in conversations about heart disease prevention can result in heart-healthy behavior changes.

Source: Wellness Layers (27 June 2017). Retrieved from http://www.wellnesslayers.com/june-2017-american-heart-association-launched-its-new-heart-and-stroke-patient-support-network-and-patients-registry-powered-by-rmdy/

Here are three reasons to talk to the people in your life about heart health and three ways to get the conversation started.

Three Reasons You Should Talk to Your Loved Ones About Heart Health

#1. More than physical health is at risk

Millions of people in the US don’t know that they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure raises the risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and many other health issues. Researchers are learning that having high blood pressure in your late 40s or early 50s can lead to dementia later in life. Encourage family members to be aware of blood pressure levels and monitor them consistently.

 

#2. Feel Younger Longer

Just as bad living habits can age you prematurely and shorten your lifespan, practicing good heart healthy habits can help you feel younger longer. On average, U.S. adults have hearts that are 7 years older than they should be, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Just beginning the conversation with the people in your life that you care about can begin to make changes in their heart health.

 

#3. You Are What You Eat

Even small changes can make a big difference. Prepare healthier versions of your favorite family recipes by making simple ingredient swaps, simply searching the internet is all it usually takes to find an easy ingredient alternative. Find a new
recipe to cook for your family members, or get in the kitchen together and you’ll finish with something delicious and possibly making some new favorite memories as well. When grocery shopping, choose items low in sodium, added sugar, and trans fats, and be sure to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Three Ways to Start the Conversation

  1. Encourage family members to make small changes, like using spices to season food instead of salt.
  2. Motivate your loved ones to incorporate physical activity into every day. Consider a family fitness challenge and compete with each other to see who can achieve the best results.
  3. Avoid bad habits together. It has been found that smokers are twice as likely to quit if they have a support system. This applies to practicing healthier practices as well. Set goals and start by making small, positive changes, chances are they may have a big difference.

The key to heart health is a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to try to let go of bad habits that increase your risk of heart disease. By setting small, achievable goals and tracking those goals, you can possibly extend your life expectancy a little bit each day.

Heart disease can be prevented by making healthy choices and consciously monitoring health conditions. Making healthy choices a topic of conversation with your family and loved ones is a great way to open the door to healthier practices in all walks of life.

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HRL - Employers - Happy

Court Modifies Order Regarding EEOC Wellness Rules

In August 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to adopt 30 percent incentive levels for employer-sponsored wellness programs under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) rules.

In January 2018, the EEOC asked the court to reconsider the portion of the court's order that required the EEOC to promulgate new proposed rules by August 31, 2018.

UBA has published a short Compliance Advisor on the impact of the rulings on employer wellness plans. The co-branded email and the Microsoft Word version can be downloaded from AdEase. Log in to AdEase from the Wisdom Network, then select Compliance > All Compliance - By Date to download.

Questions? Contact Danielle Capilla at dcapilla@ubabenefits.com or Karen Hsu at khsu@ubabenefits.com. If you need help with AdEase, contact Meg Cipar at mcipar@ubabenefits.com.


5 things to know about this year’s flu

The nation is having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad flu season.

Flu is widespread in 46 states, according to reports to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nationally, as of mid-December, at least 106 people had died from the infectious disease.

In addition, states across the country are reporting higher-than-average flu-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Hospitalization rates are highest among people older than 50 and children younger than 5.

In California, which is among the hardest-hit states, the virus struck surprisingly early this season. The state’s warmer temperatures typically mean people are less confined indoors during the winter months. As a result, flu season usually strikes later than in other regions.

Health experts aren’t sure why this season is different.

“We’re seeing the worst of it right now,” said Dr. Randy Bergen, a pediatrician who is leading Kaiser Permanente-Northern California’s anti-flu effort. “We’re really in historic territory, and I just don’t know when it’s going to stop.” (Kaiser Health News, which produces California Healthline, is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

Here are five things you should know about this flu season:

1. It’s shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years.

The H3N2 influenza A subtype that appears to be most prevalent this year is particularly nasty, with more severe symptoms including fever and body aches. Australia, which U.S. public health officials follow closely in their flu forecasting — in part because their winter is our summer — reported a record-high number of confirmed flu cases in 2017. Another influenza B virus subtype also is circulating, “and that’s no fun, either,” Bergen said.

Flu season in the U.S. typically starts in October and ends in May, peaking between December and February.

2. This season’s flu vaccine is likely to be less effective than in previous years.

U.S. flu experts say they won’t fully know how effective this season’s vaccine is until the it’s over. But Australia’s experience suggests effectiveness was only about 10 percent. In the U.S., it is 40 to 60 percent effective in an average season. Vaccines are less protective if strains are different than predicted and unexpected mutations occur.

3. You should get the flu shot anyway.

Even if it is not a good match to the virus now circulating, the vaccine helps to ease the severity and duration of symptoms if you come down with the flu.

Children are considered highly vulnerable to the disease. Studies show that for children a shot can significantly reduce the risk of dying.

High-dose vaccines are recommended for older people, who also are exceptionally vulnerable to illness, hospitalization and death related to the flu, according to the CDC.

“Some protection is better than no protection,” Bergen said, “but it’s certainly disappointing to have a vaccine that’s just not as effective as we’d like it to be.

Shots may still be available from your doctor or local health clinic, as well as at some chain drugstores. Check the Vaccine Finder website for a location near you.

4. Basic precautions may spare you and your family from days in bed.

As much as possible, avoid people who are sick. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

Masks aren’t particularly effective in keeping you from catching the flu, although they may help keep sick people who wear them from spreading their germs further.

If you are sick, cover your cough and stay home from work if you can, Bergen said. Remaining hydrated, eating nutritious foods and exercising can also help strengthen your immune system.

Because elderly people are so vulnerable to the flu, some nursing homes and assisted living facilities may limit visitors and resident activities, depending on the level of illness.

 

5. Don’t mistake flu symptoms for those of a common cold.

The hallmarks of flu are fever and body aches that accompany cough and congestion, Bergen said.

If you feel as if you’re having trouble breathing, or if your fever can’t be controlled with medication like Tylenol, check with your doctor. It’s even more important for patients to see a doctor if they have a chronic medical condition like diabetes or heart disease, or if they are young or elderly.

Kaiser Permanente doctors now are being advised to prescribe antiviral drugs like Tamiflu — given as a pill or, for kids, an oral suspension — even without a lab test for influenza, Bergen said. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, however, Tamiflu supplies are running low.

And Bergen cautioned that these medications are only partly effective, reducing the time of illness by just a day or two.

Read the original article.

Source:
Kaiser Health News (22 January 2018). "5 things to know about this year’s flu" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/01/5-things-know-years-flu/

Prepare your workforce for flu season

It's that time of the year - flu season (yuck!). Protect and prevent the flu from taking over your workplace with this helpful article from Employee Benefit Advisor.


The flu doesn’t discriminate as to who it will infect, which is why it’s important to make sure your workforce is prepared for flu season — which is now in full force. While there are simple personal health practices everyone can adopt to help stay germ-free, getting an annual flu shot is the most effective way to protect against the virus.

Employees miss an average of five workdays per year due to the flu, at a cost of about $200 per person for each lost day. That means for a workforce of 250 employees, flu season could cost $250,000 in missed workdays every year. And, with between 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations from the flu each year, adopting preventative steps to cut your company’s exposure is vitally important for your employees’ health and your bottom line.

[Image: Bloomberg]

[Image: Bloomberg]

One of the most convenient options employers have in preventing the flu is on-site clinics. Some healthcare companies offer this option as part of a worksite wellness program in which they administer flu shots and provide educational materials. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on-site vaccines increase productivity and decrease absenteeism in the workplace.

Business leaders also can help increase employee participation in on-site flu shot clinics by educating their workplace on the importance of the flu shot and helping to dispel common misconceptions associated with the shot. As a physician, here are some of the most common “myths” I’ve come across:

The flu shot will make me sick. This is probably the most common flu shot misconception employees have. While a flu shot can sometimes produce minor side effects, like headache or low-grade fever, the vaccine contains inactive flu viruses that cannot cause illness.

Statistically speaking, some people will come down with the flu shortly after getting the flu shot — but, again, the illness isn’t caused by the vaccine itself. The most logical explanation for this is that the person was already exposed to flu viruses shortly before, or within two weeks after, getting vaccinated. It typically takes two weeks for the body’s immune system to fully protect itself after getting vaccinated, so it’s possible to come down with the flu in that period of time.

It’s too late to get vaccinated. It’s never too late to get a shot. Because flu season typically peaks between December and February and could last until late May, you still have time to schedule an on-site flu clinic. However, don’t wait too long. Even if employees receive the vaccination very early on in flu season (September or October), they will still benefit from protection lasting well into 2018. As always, the earlier the better.

I don’t really need a flu shot. While the vaccine’s effectiveness can vary from year to year depending on what strain is going around, research continues to support the recommendation that working adults should get vaccinated every fall. The CDC agrees, stating that a flu shot can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by between 40% and 60% if the dominant flu strain matches the vaccine.

For a healthy person, the flu often just means using a couple sick days to recover. But receiving a vaccine also prevents the spread of germs to other people, keeping the virus out of the workplace completely. Getting a flu shot protects not only the person getting vaccinated, but also his or her coworkers.

Of course, there’s always room for simple, yet effective prevention practices for the entire workforce. Wiping down surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes kills many different viruses, including the flu. Hand sanitizer also limits the spread of flu, especially if it contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol. This percentage ensures the product will have maximum effectiveness in killing germs.

There’s no better time than now to start preparing for flu season. On-site clinics go a long way in making sure employees are healthier and happier this fall and winter. And that’s a win-win for both worker and employer.

 

Source:

Erickson R. (3 January 2018). "Prepare your workforce for flu season" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/how-to-prepare-your-workforce-for-flu-season


HRL - Employers - Happy

Safety Focused Newsletter - January 2018

Common Reasons Workplace Hazards Go Unreported

In order to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, organizations rely on their employees to report safety concerns. While hazard reporting is critical for discovering and addressing risks, many employees avoid it. The following are some reasons why workplace hazards go unreported:

  • Employees lack the time. It can be easy to be distracted by daily work and not take the time to fulfil extra responsibilities. However, if you notice a hazard, it’s important to notify your supervisor to ensure the safety of you and your co-workers.
  • Employees don’t know how to report the hazard. Sometimes employees may notice a safety issue, but don’t report it because they don’t know how. In these instances, it’s important to ask your supervisor to teach you hazard reporting processes.
  • Employees are concerned about getting in trouble. If a hazard is the result of negligence, employees may worry about repercussions for identifying an issue. However, hazard reporting isn’t about discipline, but rather prevention and correction. Employees should feel empowered to speak with their supervisors about workplace issues without worrying about getting in trouble.

When it comes to hazard reporting, employees should be proactive instead of waiting for an inspection to take place.

Working Safely in the Cold

Employees that work outside in the winter months are at risk of serious health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration and muscle injuries. What’s more, frigid temperatures can also cause additional pain for those who suffer from arthritis and rheumatism.

Common symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries include uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue, confusion, white or grayish skin, skin that feels waxy and numbness.

To reduce the risk of cold-induced injuries, consider doing the following:

  • Layer clothing to keep warm enough to be safe, but cool enough to avoid perspiring excessively. Layered clothing should contain the following:
    • An inner layer of synthetic weave to keep perspiration away from the body
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain body heat
    • An outer layer designed to protect from wind chill and allow for ventilation
  • Wear a hat.
  • Place heat packets in gloves, vests, boots and hats to add heat to the body.

It’s important to note that many people do not notice they are suffering from cold-related illnesses because their tissue is numb. Therefore, it is wise for employees to check on each other periodically when working outdoors in the cold.

If employees experience any symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries, they should get indoors, alert their supervisor and call for medical attention if symptoms do not subside.

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