Canadians & Mental Health (Webinar Recap)

Optimity recently hosted a webinar on May 29 in honour of Mental Health Awareness Month. Our very own, Mira Levine and Brett MacDonald, who serve as Client Success Advisor and Wellness Coordinator respectively, were joined by Katie Worndl from MindBeacon Group to discuss the physical, financial, and economic impact of mental illness on Canada. We have provided the key takeaway points below but if you would like to watch the full webinar, click here.

The Big Picture

Mental health is classified as the psychological and emotional well-being of a person and affects individuals of all ages, ethnicities, and genders. According to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in five Canadians will experience the disorder in their lifetime, making it the leading form of disability in the country. However, this figure jumps to 80% when accounting for those who are indirectly affected by a loved one with mental illness. To put it simply, mental health affects everyone in some shape or form.

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Factors & Symptoms

Although not everyone will develop mental illness after a traumatic incident, some factors that are known to increase the likelihood of mental illness include physical health status, family breakup/loss, and childhood abuse. Despite the severity of the aforementioned factors, the strength of one’s mental resilience and support group are the two things that for the most part, determine the end result.

Mental illness can be incredibly hard to spot, especially during its early stages. When looking for any possible signs, pay extra attention to any changes in eating and physical activity habits, a substantial change in energy levels, social isolation, delusion, alcohol or drug abuse, or even suicidal remarks.

Canadians & Mental Health

A form of mental illness or disorder exists throughout Canadians and its recognition has gained valuable traction. For the majority of the patients, mental illness affects relatively young individuals as research has shown that one in two Canadians will experience the disease before turning 40. Currently, 63% of the millennial population is deemed at “high risk” for mental health issues, a 10% increase from last year. For older generations who may be affected by mental health, the stigmatization that surrounds this topic may be a blocker for expression of their issues. The most alarming statistic states that two out of three Canadians suffering from mental health concerns do not seek treatment. This sufferance in silence has resulted in 4000 Canadians committing suicide, equivalent to 11 deaths per day.

Amongst the homeless, mental health has had a tremendous impact. In Canadian cities, 23-67% of the homeless population suffers from a mental illness. The inaccessibility to support is an example of a factor that amplifies this negative impact.

Financial & Physical Burden

The financial impact of mental illness on the economy is estimated at an astounding $51 billion. This translates to 500,000 employed Canadians having to take time off each week, which not only causes a loss in productivity but is also very expensive to treat. Treating a mental health condition is around 30% more expensive than other disorders.

Mental health is not only a problem that is evident in developed countries. The World Health Organization estimates that one in four people in the world will suffer from the disorder, but over 66% of countries currently spend less than 1% of their GDP on mental illness treatment. These countries still rely on large mental institutions which have been proven to be extremely ineffective. The poor in particular are at the greatest risk of developing mental illness, and in these cases, have no choice but to attend these institutions.

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Mental Health in the Workplace

In the workplace, mental health plays a vital role. The state of mind of a person will determine their productivity and their overall behaviour to be content in the workplace. Absenteeism and presenteeism are the ideal examples of this topic. In many situations, these two terms can apply to those that suffer from a mental health illness and they both directly result in $6.3 billion in lost productivity per year. Another common factor that affects mental health in the workplace is the competition and monthly benchmarks. The build-up of high anxiety and stress from the requirement to complete work can have a negative pressure on anyone. In turn, Canadian businesses are realizing that 30% of disability claims are due to mental health problems & 70% of disability costs are attributed to mental health issues.

As an economy as a whole, research by the conference board of Canada found that improved treatment for depression could boost the economy by $32.3 billion a year, as well as an increase to $17.3 billion a year for improved anxiety treatment.

Solutions

Improving mental health is never a sprint, it should be approached like a marathon. For improvements to be made, a person should take everything one step at a time. There is no perfect answer to resolve it directly, but there are a few ways to ensure that there are positive changes being made.

  • Seek help – are you trying to find support?
  • Nutrition – are you eating properly?
  • Exercise – are you staying active?
  • Workplace Strategies – 13 PSRs
  • Digital solution – Optimity & Beacon

Beacon provides digital therapy for guidance in overcoming mental health-related issues. This platform specializes in iCBT or internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to digitally provide access to a skills-building approach to therapy. Similar to CBT, you are able to grasp new skills to better manage your mental health concerns through modules, exercises and activities.   

Here at Optimity, we focus on prevention and early detection of mental health issues. We recognize that improving mental health is never a sprint, but a marathon. Getting rid of bad habits and replacing them with positive ones from your daily lifestyle is never an easy task. That is why our wellness platform is focused on making the whole process fun and rewarding! Our library is filled with thousands of micro-activities, ranging from mindful breathing to stretching exercises, that aim to increase self-esteem and overall mental health.

Eat Well to Live Well: Celebrating Nutrition Month (Webinar Recap)

Five friends cooking

Written by Brett MacDonald

We had a great webinar in March, in honour of Nutrition Month. I sat down with Optimity’s Client Success Advisor, Mira Levine, to talk about how cooking at home is good for not only your body, but also your wallet. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:

Understanding the big picture and how the world wide physical burden is influenced by our dietary choices:


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  • Report made by The Guardian summarizing Global Burden of Disease Study showed that 20% of deaths world wide are attributable to poor diet
  • The biggest concern from these poor nutrition eating habits is a diet high in sodium

Not only does poor nutritional eating habits cost us physically, but there is also a financial burden associated:

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  • In Canada, the economic burden attributable to poor nutrition is estimated to be over CAD$13.8 billion/year
  • In America:
    • Medical cost associated with obesity is estimated to be US$147 billion/year
    • Medical cost associated with diagnosed diabetes is estimated to be US$254 billion/year
  • It’s important to note the difference in these monetary values, as America has a larger population and a different healthcare system compared to Canada which influences these values. However, it’s clear that regardless of this there is still a financial burden associated to poor nutrition

 

It’s essential to understand that poor nutrition costs us both physically and financially. See what can you do to ameliorate your eating habits and what the benefits of home cooking are:

Harvard School of Public Health Healthy Eating Plate

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This is an excellent guide to help you understand what a healthy eating plate looks like and how you can adopt these practices when preparing your own meals.

 

Top 5 Benefits of Home Cooking

  1. Saves Money
  2. Saves Time
  3. Healthier Ingredients
  4. Portion Control
  5. Social Impact

 

What to Look for When Grocery Shopping

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Optimity’s Zero Restaurants Challenge

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Optimity has a large library of activities and challenges related to nutrition such as our Zero Restaurants Challenge, where individuals try cut down their eating and spending at restaurants to zero for 30 days. We had a client from Linedrive join us during our webinar to talk about his positive experience with the challenge.

 

Establishing new healthy eating habits can be difficult at first. However, much like we learned from our January webinar on habits, small micro-changes to your diet and lifestyle will have the biggest impact on your health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

Employee Engagement: Are Your Benefits Addressing the Main Issue?

Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya 

We had a great webinar in June to talk about employee engagement. I sat down with Optimity’s CEO, Jane Wang, to talk through how to engage employees in the workplace. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar.

What do your benefits look like? If it’s like most traditional benefits programs, it probably includes the usual retirement or pension plan, some health care coverage and paid time off. These are great, but it’s really only useful when you’re trying to attract employees to your organization and less so when it comes to retaining employees. In a study conducted by Mercer, “Inside Employee’s Mind,” survey results from over 4000 employees identified key aspects of a company that are valued by employees from the following choices: pay, benefits, careers, engagement, leadership, performance, and culture. The results showed that over 40% of employees are currently thinking about leaving their jobs, even though they offer benefits. What does that tell us? Well it just means that benefits packages aren’t strong enough to keep employees from leaving their jobs. Oddly enough, there are no real concrete studies that can testify that traditional benefits alone can retain and engage employees with their work. However, there is an abundance of evidence that support the value of workplace wellness programs. To be clear, benefits and wellness programs aren’t interchangeable as they provide two different purposes; however, you can easily incorporate wellness programs with your benefit programs.

With the recent trends, an increasing number of companies are working with digital wellness programs to maximize the money employers are investing into the health and wellness of their employees. To put it blankly, benefits are essential for attracting but do little for retaining –wellness programs are where the real benefits comes from!

Champion Employee Success

So now you may be wondering: If benefits aren’t enough, what should I be doing to keep my employees healthy, happy and engaged with their work? You simply need to provide an effective workplace wellness program that engages your employees. When your employees are engaged, they have a strong sense of pride in their work and an innate desire to go beyond their regular duties and do more for the organization. Unfortunately, only 29% of employees are engaged in their work, 45% are not engaged, and the remaining 26% are actively disengaged. The following are 3 tips on getting the rest of your employees more engaged in their work.

1. Health and Wellness


Encourage your employees to live a healthy lifestyle, which means that employees are getting the recommended amounts of exercise, sleep and nutrition in their life. A healthy employee is more productive, energetic, resilient, and less stressed. Wellness is not longer simply about the employees physical health. Help your employees build a habit of practicing holistic health topics they care about such as financial wellness and community involvement.

2. Learning and Development


Give your employees the opportunity to learn and develop new skills that are outside of their typical job function. Only 24% of employees feel that they have access to the learning and development skills that they need. Providing employees with the opportunity to learn and grow will help retain talent because you’ve engaged your employees by providing them with the ability to build their muscle for learning.

3. Empower your Employees


The best way to empower your employees is by providing leadership opportunities. This allow them to explore their capabilities without micromanagement, which often leads to employees disengaging due to a lack of trust and value their ability to make independent decisions. So as an employer it’s about time you give your employees roles that let them them have more responsibility and influence in their organization.

Employee engagement is a crucial pain point for many organizations, so you are not alone on this mission. However, we’ve seen many organization successfully increase their employee engagement levels by turning to technology. With a digital wellness program, scheduling time for in-person events and neglecting your shift workers or remote workers are no longer problems. Participation with traditional in person events is significantly lower, and tracking your initiatives become tedious. However, with a digital approach, employees are provided with a personalized coaching tool that allows them choose which aspects of their health they want to focus on and when they want to do so. You get to include all segments of your population and increase social communication between coworkers. Technology allows for the gamification of wellness habits as well as simple tracking of progress and participation.

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With technology, you make the wellness experience smoother for both the employees and employers! Want to learn more on how to implement a successful wellness program that engages all your employees? Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com if you want to bring your average 30% engagement levels to over 70%.

Or sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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Wellbeing in the Workplace: Why Employee Engagement Matters (Optimity Webinar Recap)

Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya 


We had a great webinar in May, in honour of Global Employee Health and Fitness month. I sat down with Optimity’s CEO, Jane Wang, to talk about how to promote best practice tips in the workplace to promote employee engagement. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:  

Employee engagement is the number one problem to solve; with absenteeism and productivity as the second top concern for HR leaders.

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We took a quick poll at the start of the webinar to see what some of the leading issues were in the workplace, and it turns out employee engagement was a huge concern for 77% of our attendees, so our webinar topic clearly hit home with a lot of people.

With growing focus on employee health, corporate wellness programs are increasingly becoming the order of the day. Research shows, that those individuals who exercise frequently, stayed home from work on an average 2.11 days fewer annually and had 31% lower health care costs than individuals who didn’t exercise regularly. These numbers alone stress the importance of setting up corporate wellness programs.

Almost 50% of medical costs are incurred due to illnesses that can be avoided with small lifestyle changes. Corporations have begun to realize the importance of healthy employees and are working to encourage employees to lead increasingly healthier lifestyles.

One of the studies we discussed in the webinar by Aon Hewitt, established that successful employers make employee engagement a business priority. When employers care about their employees, the employees respond with a better rational and motivation. This leads to 20% increase in engaged employees. When putting this number into context, it means if an organization has 30,000 employees, then there are 6000 employees who are going above and beyond with their jobs to serve their customers and drive efficiency. The graph below reflects these stats, where there is roughly a 20% gap between “best employers” and others (employers who don’t prioritize employee engagement), and we can see the difference in how much more successful the organization is when employee engagement is at the top of the employers agenda.  

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Organizations know that wellness programs are key to addressing employee issues, which is why more than half the organizations already have wellness programs.

wb chart-2With the second poll that we took, it clearly supported the new industry norm of wellness programs being a prominent addition in majority of workplaces, with 77% stating they already incorporate a wellness program in their organization.

 

Wellness programs don’t just benefit employers, it also supports the needs of the employees, some of which are:

●  Improving their physical strength, stamina, and general well being
●  Improving their focus at work
●  Increasing job satisfaction and fostering a positive outlook on life
●  Bettering relations with co-workers and supervisors  

An effective workplace wellness programs is the backbone to improving engagement in the workplace. Gallup’s most recent global research finds only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, and according to the latest State of the American Workplace report, just 33% of employed residents in the United States are engaged at work.

Here are two important facts that came about a study done by The Corporate Leadership Council on employees performance and retention:

  • Engaged companies grow profits as much as 3X faster than their competitors.
  • Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organization.

Other key findings were that:

  • A disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary.
  • Disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year due to lost productivity.

All these key findings suggest that if companies want to boost productivity and profitability, customer loyalty, and bring down attrition and disengagement losses, they need to start engaging employees.

So you may be wondering, what’s the solution, especially if more than half of organizations have already incorporated a wellness program, why is engagement so low? Well the problem and the solution lie in the approach to wellness. A lot of the organizations are still relying on traditional approach to wellness programs, and that’s not to say they’re not good, they’re just not as effective in getting high participation and and sustainability. What successful organizations are doing is going digital.

Non-traditional approaches to wellness are still the most common route used by many organizations. 

wb chart-3The last poll we did during this webinar was to see how our attendees faired with using a digital wellness tool. Although a few have had the chance to implement it, more than half do not, and this just shows why only a handful of organizations have such great engagement rates, they’re implementing wellness programs the right way, the digital way.

One of the main reason’s why a digital wellness program is so effective is with their use of a dynamic and innovative health risk assessment (HRA).

An effective HRA allows the wellness program to understand the nuances of an individual’s statistical situation by collecting their key biometric data and health information. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) we’ve now been able to integrate a wellness system to take information from the HRA and use it to automatically create a tailored program for the individual. This approach customizes, and tailors the program to the individuals needs which is a huge leap forward from traditional approaches that focuses solely on fitness and nutrition, and requires on site attendance for wellness programs. The digital approach gives the individual the power to create true and meaningful change. 

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To learn more about implementing a successful wellness program that increases engagement, be sure to check out our webinar, where we also go over our top 3 best practice tips that you can implement in your workplace, even if you don’t (yet) have Optimity.  

A comprehensive corporate wellness programs have proven to be beneficial and cost effective to the employer as well as the employee in the long run. If you’d like more information on implementing a successful wellness program, please reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com.  

Or sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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How to Improve Productivity in the Workplace by Decreasing Stress (Webinar Recap)

Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya 

We had a great webinar in April, in honour of stress awareness month. I sat down with Optimity’s CEO, Jane Wang, to talk about how to decrease stress in the workplace. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:  

Why it’s important for employers to focus on an upstream approach to preventing stress in the workplace: 

  • Stress is costing companies on average $300 billion dollar a year on stress-related absenteeism, turnover, lowered productivity, and direct medical, legal and insurance costs.
  • High stress organizations experience:
    • Increased or excessive absenteeism
    • High or increased accident rates
    • Poor interpersonal relations in the workplace
    • Poor or reduced work output and performance
    • Increased staff turnover


Stress is the harmful physical and emotional response that occurs when there is a poor match between job demands and the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Common stress reactions include tension, irritability, inability to concentrate, and a variety of physical symptoms that include headache and a fast heartbeat. It’s almost impossible to live without some stress. And most of us wouldn’t want to, because it gives life some spice and excitement. But if stress gets out of control, it may harm your health, your relationships, and your enjoyment of life. The following are my top 3 principles that are essential for living a healthy and stress free life!  

1. Get Support

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Stress just doesn’t happen to you, for all we know the person next to you might be suffering from a form of stress as well. One way to combat your stress is through social support. Seek help out help, you don’t always have to make hard decisions on your own, find someone to talk to. Just one or two of your co-workers can become the pillar you need to tackle the stressful situations in your life.

2. Limit the Sugar Binge

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Interestingly, the stress hormone cortisol increases your appetite because of your body’s need for energy. Essentially how this works is,during a stress reaction, Cortisol increases your blood pressure and together with Adrenaline helps accelerate your heartbeat and breathing. This sends glucose to the blood to help free up enough energy for the muscles and the brain. As a result, a fuel shortage arises, and the sugar in our body provides the quick fix, as a result making us crave sweet foods.

To avoid consuming excessive amounts of sugar, be cognizant of what you’re eating. Making healthy food choices using Canada’s Food Guide ensures your body has the nutrients it needs to meet the challenges of your day.

3. Exercise

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My third principle, and perhaps my favorite, is exercise. Studies have proven that exercises helps cope with stress, especially aerobic exercise. It can improve your mood, help you sleep better, improve your focus and mental alertness, and make you feel fitter and more confident. Have a busy work schedule? No problem, check out this blog to get tips on how to incorporate exercise into your busy schedule.

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It’s smart and also more cost-effective to prevent stress. Simple lifestyle changes can have the biggest positive impact, financially for business and for the overall health of the individual. If you want to learn more about implementing an engaging and successful wellness program that maintains a healthy work environment and reduces employee stress, reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

Or sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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Don’t miss out on next months webinar on Employee Health & Wellness on May 3, click here to register.

 

 

How to Help Women Flourish in the Workplace (Webinar Recap)

We had a great webinar on March 8, in honour of international women’s day. International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world – in many countries, it is a national holiday. It has grown to become a global day of recognition of women’s achievements and a call to action to support women’s rights and advance gender equality.

I sat down with Optimity’s CEO, Jane Wang, to talk about how to promote women’s health in the workplace. You can watch the full webinar here. Note, due to some technical difficulties, the slides have been uploaded separately. To view the slides, please click here. The following are a few key takeaway points from the webinar.

We’ve come a long way to see women grow socially, economically, culturally and politically. Achievements of women can even be seen even in the workforce. With more than 50% of the working force being women, it’s important for employers to promote women’s health in the workplace.

While life expectancy is higher for women than men in most countries, a number of health and social factors combine to create a lower quality of life for women. Many of the health issues that arise, can easily be prevented if addressed early, which is why worksite can also be a good source of solutions to existing health problems and the place for promoting healthy activities.

 

The top 3 health issues for women that was mentioned in this webinar are:

 

Cardiovascular Health

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Most people believe that CVD is more common in men that women. But in reality heart attack and strokes kill more women than men. Women are more likely than men to die within a few weeks of a heart attack. 8.6 million women worldwide die from heart disease each year. Of those who have heart attacks, 42% die within a year. Leading a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of heart disease, whether you’re male or female. To learn more about a healthy heart, check out last months webinar on “Healthy Lifestyle Choices for a Healthy Heart”.

Cancer

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Cancer is the second leading cause of death in women. Contrary to most beliefs, breast cancer is not the leading cause of cancer death in women. Lung cancer kills more women than male. This is due to the increasing number of women who use smoking as a coping mechanism for stress. One in four women in the United States smoke. Stopping smoking and reducing exposure to environmental tobacco smoke can reduce the risk of chronic lung problems. Check out our webinar on mindfulness and  meditation in the workplace to get tips on reducing stress and finding healthier coping mechanisms.

Mental Health

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Mental health is another major health issue for women. Although death by suicide is higher for men, attempted suicide rates are higher for women. Job stress among women is widespread; 42% of women have said they were bothered by stress from their jobs. Helping educate women on mental health issues, and giving them the confidence to seek assistance and speak to their doctor, is vital. One way to promote mental health is through nutrition. Studies show that a healthy diet is a proactive approach to optimal health, and that an unhealthy diet is actually a huge risk factor for depression and anxiety. Watch our past webinar to learn more about nutrition and mindful eating in the workplace.
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These top 3 health issues are present in both men and women, however more women die from these chronic illnesses than men. Fortunately, genetics plays a minor role when it comes to susceptibility. With a healthier lifestyle with more physical activity, healthy diet and less stress, one can help prevent almost all chronic illnesses.

If you need more help on promoting women’s health in the workplace, reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com.

Or sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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How to Promote Healthy Heart Lifestyle Choices at your Company (Webinar Recap)

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Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya

We had a great webinar in February, in honour of heart awareness month. I sat down with Optimity’s CEO, Jane Wang to talk through how to promote a healthy heart in the workplace. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:

Why it’s important for employers to focus on an upstream approach to a healthy heart

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 2.43.45 PM.pngHeart disease is costing companies billions of dollars in loss of productivity and absenteeism.

Workplace wellness program can help prevent heart disease for their employees and in return bring down cost.

It’s essential to understand that heart disease can easily be prevented by making small behaviour changes.

See what can you do to prevent heart disease:
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Physical Activity

  • Physical activity elevates your heart rate, which is essential for keeping your heart in shape.
  • Something as simple as taking the stairs, does wonders for your heart. To read more on helpful tips on how to get physically active, especially in the colder months, check out our blog post here on exercise.

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Nutrition

  • Nutrition is key to a healthy life.
  • Some helpful tips in eating healthy is avoiding the foods that are big contributors to heart disease. Processed foods are high in sugar, fat, and sodium, so these should be kept to a minimum.
  • Cook your own food, it allows you to eat as clean as possible when using raw ingredients to make your meal.
  • Eating with others makes you more mindful of what you’re eating, and how much you’re eating. For more information on healthy eating for employees, check out one of our popular webinars on nutrition and mindful eating the workplace for more insightful tips.

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Stress Less

  • Identify your stressors in order to avoid them or create coping mechanisms that work for you.
  • Physical behaviours such as stretching and yoga can help relieve stress.
  • Change your thinking: see if your stressor is actually rational or if you’re just blowing it out of proportion. Try to make your thinking more positive.
  • Meditation is a great technique that can be done just about anywhere, and is proven to reduce stress. Here is another great webinar we’ve done on mindfulness and meditation in the workplace.

 

It’s cheaper to prevent heart disease than to treat it! Simple lifestyle changes can have the biggest positive impact financially and on the individuals health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

Or sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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