One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.
Improving one's health and wellbeing is not easy. As individuals embark on a journey of positive change, they soon learn how all areas of their lives are interconnected. It becomes apparent, if not overwhelming, how total wellbeing means working through several life challenges in a neverending process of positive change.
The best way employers can help employees overcome the headwinds of change is by minimizing the effort needed. It's not enough to offer a solution; employers must choose a solution that is easy for employees to start but even easier for them to keep going as they progress through their unique challenges.
Energy is our body's most precious resource, so our brains seek to minimize efforts and conserve energy whenever possible. One way is by automating our lives with habits to avoid unnecessary thinking. However, changing requires us to go against our brain's desire to automate and conserve energy. Instead of allowing our autopilot to guide us, we must pay attention to our situations and consider which new choice to make.
Employers support their employees best with a solution that leverages consistency and repeatability to deliver a more "energy-conscious" approach. Regardless of the challenge, employees should be able to lean on the familiar as they progress along the road to "better." Thus, simplicity and reusability are the ultimate benchmarks for solutions promoting total-wellbeing. How does the solution and approach reduce the energy employees must expend to transition between challenges to maximize the return on the employee's wellness efforts?
All change comes with fear as our brain deals with the uncertainty of new and unfamiliar. For example, promoting an employee weight loss program may seem like an easy win. In reality, however, our brains see all change through a complex web of considerations involving our dopaminergic system, frontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and other areas as we contemplate rewards and probability. We have a far more difficult time considering possible future gains of weight loss or reducing healthcare spend than what a change means for us right here and now.
But that's not all. Change (even the thought of change) is simply another way to say "stress" because of the disruption to homeostasis (balance), which excites our limbic system ("fight or flight") and shortcuts our prefrontal cortex, and makes us "preservative" (more habitual or running on automatic).
A well-designed solution considers these realities and offsets these risks through slow, incremental steps that progressively guide the employee forward at a manageable pace. Through a consistent and repeatable strategy of incremental steps, the program minimizes the stresses associated with change while also helping the employee build confidence and resiliency. Moreover, frequent, incremental steps lead to healthier dopaminergic engagement and support the development of delayed gratification.
Research shows how stress increases excitability in the amygdala (fight or flight) and increases glucocorticoids, which reduces activity in the prefrontal cortex, impairing our executive function and working memory. Moreover, glucocorticoids enhance norepinephrine signaling, which impairs our ability to shift attention between tasks. Finally, these lead to enhanced excitability to social triggers resulting in less empathetic and prosocial behaviors.
While not all stress is bad, or even avoidable, clearly one can see how the rationale for minimizing added stress is unmistakable. It's a win for employees and equally beneficial to the employer. When evaluating a new or existing health and wellbeing solution, consider:
1) Opting for a consistent and repeatable approach across health and wellness topics to minimize change efforts and promotes continued and sustained progress.
2) Creating a culture of health and wellness based on a progression of manageable steps over time to lower-stress and reinforces critical life skills like persistence, determination, self-confidence, and problem-solving.
To learn more about WellVisor's science-based approach to integrated health and wellness, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.