Reducing 4 Stressors to Protect Your Heart
by Virgin Pulse on February 10, 2021
It’s no wonder why February is American Heart Month. Globally, heart disease is one of the leading causes of mortality (source), taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined (source). However, research indicates that making lifestyle changes around smoking, nutrition, physical activity and sleep can reduce risk for heart disease by 50% (source). Additionally, the American Heart Association (AHA) confirmed the connection between mental health and heart health in a recent study published in the medical journal, Circulation (source). The AHA cites a growing body of evidence indicating that psychological health plays a significant role in heart health and “may be causally linked to biological processes and behaviors that contribute to and cause cardiovascular disease”.
Our Live Services team applies a whole person approach, which best positions them to guide members from all walks of life in addressing the primary physical, as well as, psychological factors influencing heart health and everything in between. To help bring this to life, here’s an in-depth look at how coaches help individuals better navigate and cope with various forms of stress to reduce the toll on the heart (source).
Workplace Stress with Shelby
Coach Lead, RD, NBC-HWC
I ask questions to help members identify (if possible) the source or cause of stress related to work. It might be workload, long hours, specific projects or individuals, environment, general lack of support or feeling under-valued or internal pressure they place on themselves. Sometimes it’s everything and other times it’s hard to pinpoint.
I also ask questions to get an understanding of the member’s day-to-day. I empower the individual to seek out social support, manager or supervisor support, set boundaries, delegate and/or adjust their expectations of themselves or others. I also explore the strengths the member feels they possess and utilize within their role. What do they do well? When do they experience a sense of accomplishment and joy? What is their “I got this” moment? We then move to: How can they experience these feelings more often? Who could they add to their corner? What could be delegated? What reasonable boundaries could be put into place? What could be changed or added in the work environment to support their work style?
Additionally, self-care and self-compassion are of utmost importance during times of high work stress and workload. This looks different for every individual and can take several sessions to explore and uncover. It might look like breathing exercises before a meeting, using Whil or other meditation apps or techniques before the start of the day or during a break, introducing grounding or centering to colleagues, being sure to get adequate sleep and rest at bedtime, having healthy snacks on hand, setting realistic boundaries around working hours, or connecting with EAP to find a therapist or other external support.
Financial Stress with Charice
Coach Lead, NBC-HWC
First, I start by having the member identify what is actually causing them stress. What component of their finances is it? Most people know what to do, it can be hard to build consistency and start small enough to build success. I also like to find out if there is any area of their financial wellbeing they feel strong in.
Often, people have very specific feelings when they think about the word “finances” or “money.” I have them identify what feelings come to mind for them. Shame and having a lack of control are the most common things I hear. So I’ll ask them to think about what feelings they WANT to have when they think about their finances. Peace, excitement, and security are all common feelings people want to have. I ask people to really hold onto those feelings they want to have and to use them as a checkpoint when starting to challenge their financial habits and thoughts. “Will this bring me more peace? Will I feel more secure with spending this on upgrading my television, or will I feel more secure knowing I have money set aside for an emergency?” Their vision of actually feeling peace and security serves as a motivating goal reminder when things do get more challenging.
Of course, taking some sort of action instills confidence. I’ll ask, “What would be one very small step you could start taking, that if you did it consistently, would start to lead you on the path of feeling really (secure, at peace, etc.) when it comes to your finances?”
Finally, we explore social support. From a behavioral science perspective, we know that people often have similar habits to those they spend the most time with, and it is imperative to have a plan to either get their people on board with these habit changes, or at the very least, not get in the way.
Before we end our conversation, I ask, “If you could only take away one thing from our conversation today, what would it be?” I am always surprised at how often people will say things like, “I feel hopeful that I can change things,” or “I’m going to start at the smallest place and when I start to get overwhelmed and want to give up, I’m going to think about what I want to feel like when I sit down to do my bills. I want to look forward to looking at my account, and excited that I’m doing a great job.”
Caregiver Stress with Sonja
Live Services Training Lead, NBC-HWC, RYT
For caregivers, stress is constant, ever-changing, and sometimes all-consuming. When addressing caregiver stress, I empower members to focus on two main themes: 1) How they want to show up while they provide care, and 2) Who they are outside of their identity as a caregiver?
I help people focus on building mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises, grounding practices, and self-compassion into their routines as caregivers. These practices ensure that caregivers provide care from a calm, mindful, and compassionate space, and can alleviate some of the stress that comes along with the difficult job of being a caregiver.
I also help people stay connected to who they are outside of their caregiving identity. It’s important to remember that taking care of yourself must come before taking care of others; you can’t pour from an empty cup. I love to help people connect to their hobbies, passions, interests, etc. to ensure that they continue to nurture the things that make them who they are.
These practices help mitigate the physiological stress response that is often initiated by caregiving and can help people stay focused on the growth that comes from these challenging situations. As a caregiver for my 92-year-old grandmother, I can not only relate but also attest to the fact that it’s hard work, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons I’ve learned or the time we’ve spent together for anything.
Disaster-Related Stress with Michelle
Coaching Operations Manager, BSW, NBC-HWC
As a Health Coach I have the opportunity to support many members going through disaster-related stress. This past year has been no exception with many members having direct impacts from COVID-19 and natural disasters like hurricanes and forest fires. Helping members focus on caring for their immediate needs like sleep, regular eating and even creating a gratitude practice can be so helpful. In addition, as a coach I am often providing referrals to the member's Employee Assistance Program and local resources like 211 or the American Red Cross.
Learn More About VP Live
VP Live Coaching features a whole person approach that blends lifestyle optimization with specialization in an industry-leading 22 conditions, providing total population health management that helps the healthy stay healthy, improves clinical outcomes, and reduces costs associated with chronic conditions. Members access coaching resources directly through their app and once paired with a coach, identify their goals for a thriving life and work together to progress toward their vision and achieve their targeted outcomes. To learn more about VP Live, reach out to your Client Success team.
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