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Beat the Winter Blues-Decrease Healthcare Costs

In the previous blog we discussed some ways individuals can cut down healthcare costs. From understanding the benefit plan to just plain old washing hands, we identified 10 ways to keep ourselves physically and financially healthier.

As an employer, you may help your employees stay healthy by hosting flu shot clinics or having your benefits account manager come in for yearly benefit reviews. Maybe you’ve started a wellness campaign or even gifted gym memberships. All of these are great ways to get the body and your wallet healthier.

One of the things we neglected to discuss was mental health. In 2014 nearly 43.6 million adults (18 or older) were diagnosed with Any Mental Illness (AMI). ^ A prevalent mental illness is depression. While depression may go undiagnosed it is an illness that can physically affect an individual.

Although seasonal, between 10%-20% of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)+. SAD is also known as “the winter blues”. The lack of sunlight from shortened winter days alters the amount of Vitamin D, melatonin and serotonin in the body. Melatonin is associated with sleep and serotonin with being awake.  Therefore, with the lack of light, the body thinks it is time for sleep (melatonin) and it sees a decrease in the feeling of being awake (serotonin).

Mental health isn’t just a “head problem”. It is something that can affect your entire body. Like other types of depression SAD can cause fatigue, overeating, and sleep problems.

As an employer, SAD may affect your company because employees who have SAD may miss more work or can be underproductive. So we’ve complied 5 ways to help combat SAD in the office.

  1. Make the Office Brighter. Open office blinds/curtains. Add more lights. Use bright colors in the office décor.
  2. Company Walks Outside. Yes it may be cold but a quick 5 minute walk in the winter sun can elevate mood, increase focus, lower stress and increase productivity in your employees. Encourage employees to get up and go outside for 5-10 minutes, two times a day.
  3. Turn up the Tunes. Music is a great stress reducer. Upbeat, fast tempo, energetic music quickly increases mood.
  4. Build a Sleep Room. Even though over sleeping can cause depression, quick cat naps (20-30 minutes) re-energizes the body thus your employees feel more energized and productive.
  5. Create Social Opportunities. Winter, the cold, short days tend to isolate individuals. Create ways for your employees to engage with each other. Maybe it is a company-wide potluck lunch once a week or a team building event or even an afterhours event like ice skating at a local rink. People need socialization. As the old saying goes, Laughter is contagious!

 

^http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-us-adults.shtml

+ https://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/studentlife/counselingcenter/infosheets/winterblues.html

Stephanie Rosenberger

Stephanie has been a client advisor at KIG for more than 5 years, specializing in employee benefits and HR solutions. She loves cats and dogs, Yuengling (see picture to left), and spending time outdoors with her husband and 3 kids. She also volunteers at the Indiana County Child & Youth Services as a foster care advocate.

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