The start of a new year is usually a time when people think about improving their health and well-being, and this year the pandemic is making those concerns more important than ever. We are living in very stressful and anxious times and many people are using alcohol to help cope with their feelings. You might have started drinking more during this pandemic for various reasons such as boredom, hopelessness, stress, or to calm your anxious feelings. Alcohol use during the pandemic has been made light of with memes about people making “quarantinis” and jokes about drinking before 5 p.m. now that so many work from home. Virtual happy hours are popular and many states now allow restaurants to sell cocktails along with their takeout and delivery food. It’s no surprise that according to studies, alcohol use and sales are higher compared with a year ago.
According to the website, drinkaware.co.uk, alcohol can help some people feel more at ease in certain situations, but these feelings are short-lived. The relaxed feeling you experience when you drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol causes in your brain, as the alcohol starts to suppress activity in part of the brain that is associated with inhibition. However, these effects wear off fast. If you rely on alcohol to mask anxiety, you may find you become reliant on it to relax. A likely side effect is that the more you drink, the greater your tolerance for alcohol will be. This means that over time you would need to drink more alcohol to get the same feeling, which could eventually lead to alcohol dependence.
Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the brain and processes in the central nervous system. Alcohol can interfere with what our brains need to do for good mental health, so in the long-term, it can contribute to negative feelings and make anxiety harder to deal with. Alcohol is known to increase the symptoms of panic and anxiety disorders, depression and other mental disorders, and the risk of family and domestic violence. A new study has revealed that people struggling with anxiety and depression are more likely to increase their alcohol consumption amidst the global pandemic. The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine and carried out by the researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health, stated that while drinking grew the most among younger people, older adults with anxiety and depression saw a sharper increase in their risk for harmful alcohol use.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol use, look for warning signs such as having trouble caring for your children and being present for them; feeling tired, irritable and unmotivated; experiencing headaches and noise sensitivity; being depressed and anxious, having increased conflict in relationships; hiding alcohol use from loved ones; having others express concern about your drinking; and feeling defensive about your drinking. If you’re having periods of time you can’t remember after drinking (blackouts); find yourself being hungover; if you are drinking a few drinks every day or early in the day; increasing the quantity you’re drinking, or find yourself thinking about drinking a lot, it’s likely you have a problem with alcohol.
Try to reduce your drinking by weaning yourself off alcohol and then see if you can go for a longer period of time without drinking. If you can’t stop, it is likely time to seek professional help. If you’re consuming alcohol to pass the time, or because of COVID related stress, take part in other coping activities, such as connecting and interacting safely with family and friends, exercising, getting enough sleep, eating well, and finding new hobbies or learning a new skill.
Talk with your physician, a mental health counselor or your Employee Assistance Program if you are having trouble coping with the ongoing pandemic or feel that your drinking is getting out of control.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended, at least for now, life as we’ve known it. Last year saw the loss of our old routines and the freedoms that came with it, and various emotions have hit most of us hard. Chief among those have been the feelings of grief and loss. Grief is usually associated with death, but it can come with any type of loss – such as financial loss, the loss of family celebrations, social gatherings with friends, and doing such mundane things as going to the hair salon and eating at restaurants. We’ve had to cancel much anticipated trips, postpone weddings and deal with the overwhelming stress of online learning for our kids and their loss of such milestones as graduations.
On top of these losses, and the grief we feel about it, many of us have also lost beloved family and friends, whether to the coronavirus or other causes. Addressing and dealing with the death of a loved one can be especially hard during the pandemic. We are used to grieving with others and leaning on them both physically and mentally for support – something which is difficult or even impossible to do right now with social distancing. Not having these usual traditions to help us cope makes it that much harder to accept and grieve a death.
Here are ways to help you during the grieving process:
Recognizing and acknowledging grief is the first step in dealing with it. Take time to grieve because it is the process by which you heal. There is no deadline for grief, and people heal at different rates. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that accompany your grief which can include shock, numbness, denial, anger, fear, anxiety, panic and guilt. Don’t judge yourself for feeling any of these emotions. Also, allow yourself to feel positive emotions. Don’t think you can never feel joy, or happiness, or that you shouldn’t be laughing.
Find a way to say goodbye. If you’re mourning a death, rituals are very important in the grieving process, especially when you can’t say goodbye in person. You can write a letter to the person you lost, light a candle in their memory, make a special meal they loved or create a photo book of you and your loved one.
Connect with family and friends. People with strong social support tend to cope better after a significant loss. Even if the situation doesn’t allow physical contact, you can call or video chat with your family and friends. Reach out to your religious organization if you have one, or neighbors, co-workers and online support groups.
Take care of yourself. An important part of coping with grief is self-care. Be sure to get enough rest, eat healthy, exercise, and take the time each day to do an activity that you love. Don’t drink or use drugs to numb the pain, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
No matter what type of loss you experience, it is important to remember that your feelings are valid. Some people feel guilty about being so upset over the loss of their normal way of life when they know others are suffering more. But smaller losses are real and valid, as well, and grieving them is important. Give yourself permission to mourn and treat yourself and others with kindness during this difficult time. While the coronavirus has brought uncertainty, disruptive changes, and loss, look for the good it may have brought into our lives, such as closer bonds with family and friends, and the realization of what is truly important in our lives.
Fully Effective Employees’ HR partner, Fully Integrated Team HR, has put together a “Getting Back to Business” guide to help employers during the pandemic. This helpful guide is full of advice and resources to help small businesses with their go-forward strategy during this ever evolving time. You can find the guide here: fullyhr.com/covid-19-resources
By admin|2021-01-28T12:10:53-08:00September 16th, 2020|COVID-19|Comments Off on Getting Back to Business During COVID-19
Suicide rates in the U.S. continue to rise every year, and suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death in our country. The largest number of suicides occur among those in the working age population. The isolation of remote work and the emotional strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a new mental health crisis in the workplace. Following is information on suicide awareness and prevention and important links for both those at risk for suicide and those supporting a family or friend at risk.
According to The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for every person who dies by suicide annually, there are another 280 people who have thought seriously about suicide who don’t kill themselves, and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt. The overwhelming majority of these individuals will go on to live out their lives.
The causes of suicide are complex and determined by multiple combinations of factors, such as mental illness, substance abuse, painful losses, exposure to violence, and social isolation. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a good source for information on mental health conditions, including suicide. Their warning signs that may mean someone is at risk for suicide include:
Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live; talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or feeling isolated; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge and displaying extreme mood swings. The risk is greater if the behavior is new, or has increased, and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
If you believe someone may be thinking about suicide:
Call 911, if danger for self-harm seems imminent.
Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. (This will not put the idea into their head or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.)
Listen without judging and show you care.
Stay with the person (or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person) until you can get further help.
Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Here is a list of important suicide awareness and prevention resources for those in crisis, and for those surviving a loss from suicide:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Calls are routed to the nearest crisis center in a national network, where callers receive crisis counseling and mental health referrals. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Text Line – Text HEAL to 741741. This is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis.
Veterans Crisis Line – Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or Text 838255. Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reachqualified responderswith the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves. This free support is confidential, available every day, 24/7, and services all veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their family members and friends.
Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be a huge asset for employees, especially during these difficult times. Fully Effective Employees provides EAP services to employers of all sizes. Give us a call to learn more at (425) 454-3003, toll-free at (800) 648-5834 or visit us online at www.fee-eap.com.
By admin|2021-01-28T12:11:41-08:00September 2nd, 2020|suicide|Comments Off on Suicide Awareness and Prevention
Social isolation, social distancing and self-quarantine have become the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With little to no face-to-face contact with co-workers, friends and family, you may be feeling lonely, depressed and anxious. It’s normal to feel stress when faced with staying indoors and interacting less with people, especially when that is added to the underlying stress of worrying whether you will catch the virus. Here are some tips to help maintain your well-being and good mental health.
Take care of yourself – Get enough sleep, eat well, drink plenty of water and try to avoid using alcohol or drugs to alleviate your stress. Exercise in your home or outside by taking a walk if possible. Even with stay at home mandates, you can go outside – just be sure to keep a healthy distance from others. Fresh air and exercise help with loneliness and stress, and releases feel-good chemicals in your brain to boost your mood.
Getting light is also important. According to Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of the Northwestern Medicine Sleep Disorders Center, “It’s essential to have plenty of exposure to outdoor light, particularly in the morning, for a strong immune system and positive mood.”
Maintain some kind of routine. Wake up and go to sleep at a consistent, reasonable time. It’s good for your mood and helps you feel less aimless. To keep a sense of structure, try to create a daily routine that consists of work or house projects, mealtimes, workout time, and even downtime.
Limit your news consumption – It’s important to obtain accurate and timely public health information regarding COVID-19, but too much exposure to media coverage of the virus can lead to increased feelings of fear and anxiety. Balance time spent on news and social media with other activities unrelated to quarantine or isolation, and make sure the news you do get is from reputable sources.
Connect with friends and family – Reach out to your circle of support through texts, phone calls and video chatting. Although virtual communication may not feel as satisfying as in-person contact, it’s much better than no contact at all. Video chatting in particular has the advantage of allowing us to see others’ facial expressions. Connecting with others who are in a similar situation can also help you feel that you’re not alone.
If you’re working from home, stay connected to coworkers. Schedule video meetings with co-workers or take intentional breaks from work to interact with others, including those who may be home with you.
Getting “me” time while living with others – Give yourself time “away” from others to relax. Find a quiet place to read a book, watch a favorite TV show, or listen to that podcast you’ve been meaning to get to. Not every minute of every day you spend at home has to be planned. Give yourself some time to relax. Consider trying guided meditation and yoga videos or apps.
Change your mindset – Try to avoid thinking too much about the future or worst-case scenarios which can trigger anxiety. Instead of saying, “I’ll never recover,” tell yourself, “I’ll make it through this.” Remind yourself that at some point we will return to more normal routines.
Get help – If you are suffering from extreme anxiety or depression reach out to your medical provider for a referral to a mental health specialist. Many professional therapists offer online or phone sessions to help you navigate and deal with this unique and unsettling time. You can also contact The Disaster Distress Helpline, which is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Sources: webmd.com, healthline.com, apa.org
By admin|2020-05-05T16:15:08-07:00May 5th, 2020|COVID-19|Comments Off on Coping with Social Isolation
Often employers and employees have questions about what drug and alcohol treatment entails. There are different types of treatment programs depending on the nature of the problem, the recommended treatment, and the insurance coverage. Here are the different types Fully Effective Employees refers to:
Drug and alcohol information class This program consists of a one-day informational session and the employee is provided a certificate at the end of the session. The program is recommended when the employee is not found to have a substance abuse problem, but is at high risk if their use continues.
Self–help groups The most common type is Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Groups meet at all times of the day, as well as evenings and weekends. Groups are free ( or a nominal donation), non-denominational and confidential. Members should meet with a sponsor in addition to attending meetings to help maintain support and sobriety.
Out-patient treatment Usually meets several times per week for a set period of time based on diagnosis and needs. Be aware if an employee tells you that his out-patient treatment takes place every day so he needs time off from the job. This is seldom the case and you may want to verify his schedule with the EAP.
In-patient treatment Usually prescribed when out-patient treatment has not been successful. Can be combined with detox if needed or after detox is completed at a different facility. Can be 10 to 30 days or more. Most out-patient and in-patient treatment programs include education and support for family members affected by the disease of addiction.
Residential treatment Recommended in early recovery, when maintaining post treatment requires additional support. Can be a longer term treatment program or a 24/7 monitored sober living environment, requiring abstinence and random drug testing. One can live there for months as long as they remain sober.
Continuing Care May consist of an out-patient program after in-patient treatment, or a step down to less frequent out-patient treatment, weekly and then monthly support meetings, individual therapy or a combination of the above.
At Fully Effective Employees, an EAP counselor will provide support and assistance during the employee’s treatment, and afterwards for up to two years, to ensure he or she is remaining both clean and sober and successful at work.
For more information about our employee assistance services, please call us at 425-454-3003 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that can have mind-altering effects. Kratom is not currently an illegal substance and has been easy to order on the internet, however, the FDA may be planning to ban the substance in the future. Recently, we have seen a number of people in the workforce suffering from Kratom addiction.
Here is more information about this increasingly popular substance.
How do people use kratom? Most people take kratom as a pill, capsule, or extract. Some people chew kratom leaves or brew the dried or powdered leaves as a tea. Sometimes the leaves are smoked or eaten in food.
How does kratom affect the brain? Kratom can cause effects similar to both opioids and stimulants. Two compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, producing sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain, especially when users consume large amounts of the plant. Mitragynine also interacts with other receptor systems in the brain to produce stimulant effects. When kratom is taken in small amounts, users report increased energy, sociability, and alertness instead of sedation. However, kratom can also cause uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effects.
What are the health effects of kratom? Reported health effects of kratom use include: nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, loss of appetite, seizures and hallucinations. Symptoms of psychosis have been reported in some users.
Can a person overdose on kratom? In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began issuing a series of warnings about kratom and now identifies at least 44 deaths related to its use, with at least one case being investigated as possible use of pure kratom. Most kratom associated deaths appear to have resulted from adulterated products (other drugs mixed in with the kratom) or taking kratom along with other potent substances, including illicit drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, gabapentin, and over-the-counter medications, such as cough syrup. Also, there have been some reports of kratom packaged as dietary supplements or dietary ingredients that were laced with other compounds that caused deaths.
Is kratom addictive? Like other drugs with opioid-like effects, kratom might cause dependence, which means users will feel physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. Some users have reported becoming addicted to kratom. Withdrawal symptoms include: muscle aches, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggression, emotional changes, runny nose and jerky movements.
Does kratom have value as a medicine? In recent years, some people have used kratom as a herbal alternative to medical treatment in attempts to control withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by addiction to opioids or to other addictive substances such as alcohol. There is no scientific evidence that kratom is effective or safe for this purpose; further research is needed.
Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
By admin|2019-11-02T18:00:45-07:00January 9th, 2019|Drugs|Comments Off on Questions and Answers About Kratom
Self-care is all about taking care of your mind and body so you feel less stress and more happiness. Considering the total number of hours we spend at work and the hectic pace we set, most of us could benefit from practicing more self-care. Rather than having self-care be something you just do outside of work, it’s important to also weave it naturally into the course of your workday.
There are many different ways to practice self-care at work and what is helpful for one person may not be helpful for another. However, here are six basic self-care ideas that most everyone can benefit from:
1. Get Enough Sleep First and foremost we need good sleep to do our best work. Finding out the right environment we need for sleep is essential.
2. Eat Healthy When we eat healthy, we sleep better, and have more energy. Lunch tends to get short shrift while at work. Make your midday meal more of an opportunity for nourishment. Pack or order foods you love that offer energizing protein and complex carbs, which can put you in a brighter mood and help you power through the afternoon. Don’t forget about snacking smartly – vending machine runs are convenient, but soda and sweet treats aren’t the best snack choices when you’re racing against a deadline or feeling overwhelmed by a report.
3. Exercise Stretch your arms and legs at your desk, do laps around the office, walk up and down the stairs, or take on some other activity that allows you to move your body. Try to get outside at some point during your workday.
4. Set Up a Healthy Workspace A messy environment can intensify the tension and anxiety you already feel. We don’t always have complete control over our office equipment, but wherever possible try to create a work environment that allows you to be your most productive. Reducing desk clutter can help.
5. Prioritize Throughout a given workday, others frequently ask for our time or resources, distracting us from more important priorities. That’s why it’s important to set aside 15 minutes first thing each morning to jot down the three things you hope to accomplish that day. Then, as requests come in, consider the impact on your priorities before offering a knee-jerk automatic yes. Be sure, however, to make time throughout the work day for intermittent self-care breaks (i.e. lunch or afternoon walk; social time with co-workers; listen to relaxing music).
6. Give Yourself a Break and Acknowledge Your Accomplishments We can often be our own harshest critic. By keeping your internal critic at bay, you can create the right psychological conditions to get through periods of self-doubt more quickly. Also, take stock of what you’ve accomplished on the job once a week or so and congratulate yourself for your efforts. Reminding yourself of your contributions gives you a psychological boost and helps you feel more positive, which is the ultimate goal of self-care.
Stress is a real workplace issue. It can impact your health and job performance and finding ways to de-stress can help you personally and professionally perform at your best.
By admin|2019-11-02T17:45:43-07:00August 30th, 2018|self-care|Comments Off on Tips for Practicing Self-Care at Work
More than 21 million people are struggling with addiction which has a tremendous impact on our society – and our workforce. With so many in recovery, it remains in the best interest of employers to become informed about how to help their employees by creating a recovery friendly workplace.
Employers often have many false beliefs about the recovery community, which may be caused by longstanding misconceptions about addiction. No matter if your business is small or large, it’s important to challenge false beliefs, learn to understand recovery, and adjust your company culture to be supportive, compassionate, and most of all, recovery-friendly.
As a manager, the topic of addiction may have you concerned about theft, missed working days or bad behavior – but it’s important to learn about recovery and how stigma may be playing a role in forming these beliefs. Stigma is one of the top deterrents to people seeking help, and can be a barrier that prevents employees from speaking up about their recovery.
As you challenge misconceptions, here are key things to remember about recovery:
The values of recovery transform a person. Recovery is founded on the principles of honesty, acceptance and continuous growth and humility. When you build a recovery-inclusive culture in the workplace, you allow those in recovery to be proud of their skills. As your people feel more included and proud to be themselves, the values of recovery will become more apparent throughout their work.
Recovery is possible. While it may seem like adopting the “once an addict, always an addict” belief is safer to eliminate potential risk to your business, it’s simply not true. Today, there are more than 23 million people living in active recovery, serving as living proof that second chances and life-changing transformations are possible.
You will learn valuable lessons from a diverse perspective. The recovery community is diverse, and it’s likely that someone who’s been through the throes of addiction has a story to tell and lessons to share. Diversity in the workplace is one of the greatest assets of a good company, and bringing in people with recovery experiences is no different.
To start building a recovery-friendly environment look at your policies and culture. Ask your team, “What policies or benefits do we offer to people struggling with substance use disorder?” and “How do we address substance-related criminal charges in a way that is recovery-friendly?” These questions will not only help shift your thinking, but can help set up important policies and safeguards for addiction and recovery in the workplace. Whether it’s better health benefits for mental health or substance abuse treatment, or a compassionate action-plan if one of your employees gets a DUI and needs support, it’s important to have guiding policies that can serve as the groundwork for effective conversation and honesty.
Also discuss with your coworkers, “How can we promote a culture conducive to recovery and mental health?” You may be surprised by the ideas shared with you. Whether it’s promoting work-life balance, having honest conversations or brown bag lunches to learn more about one another, tap into the perspectives of your people. Crowdsource ideas to make sure mental health, addiction and recovery are talked about honestly. Creating safety around these often vulnerable topics will transform your workplace and will further cultivate trust with your team.
Perhaps one of the most important elements of creating a recovery-friendly workplace is through having bold leaders willing to set an example from the top-down. If you have a leader who’s in active recovery and is willing to tell his/her story, this sets the example and will empower others to start important conversations, supporting one another throughout your company.
Recovery can be a transformative process for those who experience it, and often, these individuals bring a wealth of skills, talents and character to the workplace that has the potential to benefit your entire company culture for the better. Being an employer supportive of the recovery community will not only ensure that those struggling are offered understanding and support, but will help those living in long-term recovery be empowered and able to offer their talents and skills at work without the fear of shame or stigma.
By admin|2019-11-02T17:58:59-07:00July 25th, 2018|Recovery|Comments Off on How to Create a Recovery Friendly Workplace
Suicide has been making headlines with the recent deaths of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Their tragic stories are not rare – suicide rates have been steadily rising in the United States.
This month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report suggesting that America’s suicide rate increased by 25% between 1999 and 2016. Nearly 45,000 Americans took their own lives in 2016, making it the tenth leading cause of death overall in the U.S. While there are many reasons why people choose to end their lives, severe depression is a major one. This article from the New York Times offers expert tips on how to help a friend or family member who is struggling with depression, as well as suggestions on how to take care of yourself while helping others.