Ideas to Celebrate Holidays

As we navigate 2020, we have been faced with disappointments, challenges and uncertainties.  We have also learned and tried new things!  We know how important social interaction is to our mental health, and it can be challenging now to fill that need.  As we head into the holiday season, we are considering new ways that we can celebrate the holidays and socialize with our families and friends.  Here are some ideas from your co-workers to connect with your loved ones over the holidays, if you aren’t able to be with them in person.  

  • Apps such as House Party – you can have a virtual gathering where you can video chat and play games with a group of people.
  • Kahoot for family games – your kids may use this in school and they probably love it.  It is a game based learning platform (ex. quizzes) that multiple people can join, and does have a fee. 
  • Send printed photos or kid’s drawings to family members.  
  • Send an encouraging note, email, or card to friends, family, and co-workers.
  • Virtual family gatherings via Zoom, Microsoft TEAMS, Skype, FaceTime, etc. 
  • Call on the phone if Grandpa doesn’t ‘zoom’ 🙂 
  • Consider your holiday traditions, and see if you can continue any of them in a different way – maybe someone makes Grandma’s special Christmas candies and ships some to family members, or individual families do the annual sledding at their homes and share photos or videos of it with everyone, or a Zoom call while watching the Thanksgiving football game.
  • Have a younger family member help put together a collage or scrolling pictures of family members or past gatherings – throw in some new and funny pics to share with everyone!
  • Have a family trivia contest – ask each family member ahead of time for some random/interesting facts about them, put them into trivia questions and see how everyone does.
  • Family members or friends each put together a Power Point about a topic and share it while video chatting, like which breed of dog each person in the friend group would be and why, favorite memories of grandparents, bucket list of top 5 things you want to do in your lifetime, etc.
  • Christmas tree or gingerbread house decorating contest 
  • Secret Santa or White Elephant – you could pick names and mail the gift ahead of time to be opened during the zoom meeting!

Plan ahead so that your holidays are more enjoyable and can still provide you that precious time with loved ones.  You may make some fun memories that you’ll talk about for years!

Teleworking During the Coronavirus: Tips for Coping

‌Teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic can make you feel like you’re working all the time. Know how to set boundaries between your work and personal life, as well as avoid professional isolation. 

If your office is closed due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, you might be working from home for the first time. While teleworking can offer many benefits, teleworking during the pandemic poses unique challenges. Consider these tips for maintaining work-life balance and avoiding professional isolation while social distancing.

Pros and cons of teleworking

Before the pandemic, research suggested that teleworking can increase employees’ job satisfaction and commitment to an organization and even slightly improve their performance at work. Teleworking can also reduce exhaustion and work-related stress, possibly due to a reduced commute or more-flexible hours. Other benefits include a reduction in commuting costs and more freedom to work independently.

However, teleworking has always had drawbacks, including social and professional isolation, decreased information sharing opportunities, and difficulty separating work and personal time. The lack of a physical separation between these two worlds can cause family obligations to intrude on work and work obligations to bleed into family time. This can cause teleworkers to work extra hours to prove themselves, resulting in burnout. The ability to be constantly connected to work through a variety of technologies also can cause employees to feel like they are always on or unable to unplug at the end of the day.

Teleworking due to the coronavirus

Teleworking during the pandemic brings extra challenges.

Those new to working from home likely aren’t used to being isolated from co-workers and might not have a home office or area conducive to doing work. With other family members also potentially at home, including children or a partner, avoiding distractions and interruptions might be next to impossible. To find privacy, employees could find themselves in the awkward position of conducting meetings from their bedrooms or kitchens. And getting virtual meeting technology to work properly isn’t always easy. These changes can cause anxiety, stress and frustration.

Preventing professional isolation while teleworking

For those new to teleworking, the biggest challenge of working from home during the pandemic might be the lack of in-person collaboration with colleagues. Teleworkers don’t get to see their managers, staff or team members in the hallway or at the watercooler. As a result, regular contact through email, phone calls and virtual meetings is crucial. You might make time at the start of meetings specifically for small talk to give people time to interact.

Managers might consider having a regular five-minute check-in with each staff member, even if there is no pressing business to discuss. For colleagues, consider scheduling virtual lunch and coffee meetings to catch up on each other’s projects and maintain your relationships. Online communication platforms also can help keep you connected throughout the day.

Teleworking and work-life balance during the coronavirus

The key to work-life balance as a teleworker is being able to set boundaries — both for your work and personal obligations. To get started:

  • Develop a routine. Come up with rituals that help you define the beginning and end of your workday. For example, make your bed and get dressed each morning as if you were going into the office. When you’re done working each day, change your outfit, take a drive or walk — in place of your normal commute — or do an activity with your kids. Starting and stopping work at around the same time each day might help, too.
  • Exercise your willpower. Take care of yourself by eating healthy and working out. Resisting the temptation to do otherwise will help you when you need the discipline to set boundaries for your work and personal life.
  • Talk to your manager. Discuss your manager’s expectations for your availability and the obstacles you might be facing at home. Ask what time of day is acceptable for you to stop checking your work emails or responding to work requests. Or agree on an alternative schedule with flexibility that allows you to spend some time caring for your kids during the day and make up hours at other times.
  • Talk to your family. If you are working from home due to the pandemic and also have family at home, try to establish guidelines regarding interruptions. If your children are young, you’ll likely need to regularly talk to them about when you are working and can’t play, as well as come up with activities or temporary distractions for them. If there is more than one caregiver at home, you might take turns caring for the kids. You might also remind family and friends what times of day you can and can’t talk or text.
  • Think before you press send. Working from home might mean emailing, messaging or texting every time you want to talk to a co-worker. Reduce the burden on your colleagues by making it clear when a request is urgent or important. If you’re in a leadership role, consider how sending late-night emails might affect your employees’ ability to unwind and enjoy time away from work.
  • Prioritize your work. Focus on your most important work right now. Working all of the time isn’t good for you — or your family.

Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic requires patience, creativity and persistence. Keep experimenting to figure out what works best for you during this uncertain period.

Source: Mayo Clinic/2020, from FEI website

Back to School in 2020: Helping Kids and Families Cope

Listen in to an interview with Ryan Herringa, MD, PhD, Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, about how to support kids and parents during this difficult time.

  • Date: Tuesday, September 22, 2020
  • Time: Noon to 12:30 pm
  • Format: Well Wisconsin Radio (*counts towards your “Activity” goal for your wellness incentive)

Well Wisconsin Radio is a podcast style monthly interview series with health and well-being experts from all across the state of Wisconsin. Listen in from Noon to 12;30 pm on Tuesday, September 22nd to earn credit for your well-being activity.

REGISTER HERE

QUESTIONS? Contact the StayWell HelpLine at 800-821-6591 or wellwisconsin@staywell.com.

*The Well Wisconsin incentive program is a voluntary program available to employees, retirees and spouses enrolled in the State of Wisconsin Group Health Insurance Program, excluding Medicare Advantage participants who have incentives available through their health plan. The Well Wisconsin incentive will automatically be issued to eligible participants upon completing the applicable activities. All wellness incentives paid to participants are considered taxable income to the group health plan subscriber and are reported to their employer, who will issue a W2. In some cases, the Wisconsin Retirement System acts as the employer. Retirees, continuants and their spouses will have some taxes withheld from the incentive amount earned.

Source: The StayWell Company, LLC

UW System Introduces Online Behavioral Health Tool

The University of Wisconsin System announced a new online behavioral health tool, SilverCloud, that offers self-guided programs for anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, and resilience. The tool is now available to faculty, staff, and students at any time, on any device, and at no cost.

“While the behavioral health of our students, faculty, and staff has always been a high priority for the UW System, the current COVID-19 pandemic has put those needs into even sharper focus,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “We are working hard to find ways to provide these vital services to our UW community and this online tool is a great option.”

System experts have been broadly reviewing the behavioral health challenges facing students, the availability of existing services, and the need for additional services. The SilverCloud tool emerged as one of several strategies.

“The Board of Regents has made student behavioral health a top priority,” said Regent President Andrew S. Petersen. “We are pleased that SilverCloud will be available to our students, staff, and faculty during the upcoming academic year, and we look forward to additional recommendations from our campus and System experts.”

In April 2019, a UW System report showed a 55 percent increase in demand for behavioral health support since 2010. That report, in conjunction with other behavioral health indicators, led the System to create three work groups that focused on identifying solutions and approaches to mitigate the growing behavioral health needs of the UW community. One work group reviewed crisis management services for students at risk of suicide or self-harm. A second looked at targeted interventions for vulnerable student populations, including veterans, students of color, and LGBTQ+ students. A third studied ways to foster healthy learning environments. The UW System Board of Regents will receive an update on this work at its meeting in October.

Based on cognitive behavioral therapy principles, the SilverCloud self-guided program allows individuals to manage day-to-day stressors personally and anonymously using interactive content and skill-building tools.

Studies have shown that online cognitive behavioral therapy can provide an effective form of care for those who are highly motivated and experiencing mild to moderate symptoms. The program can supplement traditional therapy or campus mental health services, while some individuals may use it without seeing a counselor at all.

To sign up or find out more about the tool, visit: https://uwsystem.silvercloudhealth.com/signup

Source: UW System

Are you ready for some BINGO?

Here is your wellness challenge for July!  Complete at least 20 of the 24 activities on the bingo card from July 1st to July 31st to qualify for a chance to win a prize!

  1. Click here and print out your bingo card
  2. Mark off each square and write the date you complete that item during the month of July
  3. Scan or take a photo of your bingo card and email it to wellness@uwgb.edu by August 10th

Stay healthy this summer! 

Returning to the Work Site

In an upside-down world, sometimes good news can cause mixed feelings.

For instance, if you or a family member was furloughed, temporarily laid off, or asked to work from home in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, being asked to return to work can be great news—wrapped in fear. With a bow of anxiety on top.

That’s OK. That’s a normal reaction.

Make a Personal Plan

Some states are very slowly starting to reopen work sites, shops, schools, and public spaces. Venturing back into these spaces may cause feelings of fear, worry, and even anger.

It may help you to know that many other people share your anxiety. It’s a healthy response. Use it to motivate yourself to make a solid plan for returning to work. Here are some things you should know before creating your plan:

  • How COVID-19 is transmitted.
  • Basic infection prevention measures.
  • The signs and symptoms of infection.

Execute Your Plan

Now that you have some solid science-backed information, start your plan. The best plan is one that you create and feel you can execute. Below are some suggestions. You can rearrange, skip, or add items as you need or want to. This is your plan.

Make sure you continue to:

  • Exercise to reduce stress and boost your immune system.
  • Get enough sleep to help your body manage stress and boost your immune system.
  • Eat healthy to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to prevent infection.
  • Meditate to calm your mind for clear thinking and better focus.

Start working on:

  • Figuring out how you will ease back in to work—Create a calendar, step-by-step plan, or tactical report—it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you have a plan.
  • Making household arrangements—Talk to family members about their concerns and expectations. Don’t wait until the day before to line up daycare, meals, etc., if you usually take care of those things.
  • Getting your supply list together—Start a list now of the things you want to bring with you.
  • Learning to avoid touching your face—Seriously. You would be surprised how often and unconsciously you touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Things you can do when back on the work site:

  • Discourage coworkers and visitors from using your phone, computer, tools, or other work items.  If you must share, be sure to wipe down all surfaces between users.  And try not to use others’ items as well.
  • Keep a 60%-alcohol (or higher) hand sanitizer at your desk or in your tool bag or pocket.
  • Try to maintain space between yourself and coworkers.
  • Stay home if you are sick.  Ask others to do the same.
  • Know and follow your employer’s guidelines about staying safe at work.

Source: The StayWell Company, LLC

Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty

The following article is from our
Employee Assistance Program, FEI

Spring EAPost: Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty

Human beings like certainty.  We are hard-wired to want to know what is happening when and to notice things that feel threatening to us.  When things feel uncertain or when we don’t generally feel safe, it’s normal to feel stressed.  This very reaction, while there to protect us, can cause all sorts of havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us.

A large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but can’t.  Right now, many of us are worried about COVID-19, known as the “Coronavirus”.  We may feel helpless about what will happen or what we can do to prevent further stress.  The uncertainty might also connect to our uncertainty about other aspects of our lives, or remind us of past times when we didn’t feel safe and the immediate future was uncertain.

In times like these, our mental health can suffer.  We don’t always know it’s happening.  You might feel more on edge than usual, angry, helpless or sad.  You might notice that you are more frustrated with others or want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening.  For those of us who already struggle with our mental wellness, we might feel more depressed or less motivated to carry out our daily activities.

It’s important to note that we are not helpless in light of current news events.  We can always choose our response.  If you are struggling, here are some things you can do to take care of your mental health in the face of uncertainty:

  1. Separate what is in your control from what is not. There are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those.  Wash your hands.  Remind others to wash theirs. Take your vitamins. Limit your consumption of news (Do you really need to know what is happening on a cruise ship you aren’t on?).
  2. Do what helps you feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.  It’s ok if you’ve decided what makes you feel safe is to limit attendance of large social events, but make sure you separate when you are isolating based on potential for sickness versus isolating because it’s part of depression.
  3. Get outside in nature–even if you are avoiding crowds. I took a walk yesterday afternoon in my neighborhood with my daughter.  The sun was shining, we got our dose of vitamin D, and it felt good to both get some fresh air and quality time together.   Exercise also helps both your physical and mental health.
  4. Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment.  Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences in your immediate moment and name them. Engaging in mindfulness activities is one way to help stay grounded when things feel beyond your control.
  5. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support.  You don’t have to be alone with your worry and it can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with those trained to help.

We are in this together, and help is always available.  If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/2020

You can also contact FEI at 1-866-274-4723 or complete FEI’s contact form (https://fei.eapintake.com/).

Good-For-You Giggles

Did you know that laughter offers health benefits? We’re not kidding.

GOOD-FOR-YOU GIGGLES
Research shows that laughter may:

  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Enhance your memory

EMBRACING HUMOR IN TOUGH TIMES
We know that belly laughs may not be at the top of your priority list right now. But that may be even more reason to seek out humor.

Studies show that humor and laughter can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your resilience
  • Boost your mood
  • Help you cope with difficult situations

JOIN US FOR A SELF-CARE BOOST CHUCKLE
Well Wisconsin Self-Care BoostThis week, we have something to make you laugh: Kristi Mulcahey talks with Wisconsin native and comedian Charlie Berens. Click here or on the link below to watch the video.

 

WATCH HERE AND LAUGH

Want more giggles? Here are a couple more of Charlie’s videos that hit pretty close to home:

QUESTIONS? Contact the StayWell HelpLine at 800-821-6591 or wellwisconsin@staywell.com.

Source: The StayWell Company, LLC