While the holidays are often considered to be a time of joy, many employees can experience increased stressors both at work and at home. Between finalizing projects before year-end deadlines, as well as added financial pressures and familial obligations, the holidays can become quite stressful. For some, the shorter daylight hours and colder weather brought on by the winter months can also have a negative impact on emotional wellbeing, ranging from a case of the winter blues to a more severe form known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). About 14 percent of people living in the U.S. experience the winter blues, while about 6 percent suffer from SAD.
The emotional components of the winter blues and SAD can also be exacerbated in those struggling with fertility issues. The stress of fertility treatment itself, sadness from not being able to conceive, and yearning for the family they want can cause many people to feel down or develop more serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression. In addition, the hormonal medications used in fertility treatment can cause mood swings, heightening the feelings of stress, and sadness.
A survey of female and male employees who have experienced fertility struggles revealed that nine out of ten suffered from anxiety, stress, depression, or a combination of the three. As a result, work performance declined with 63 percent of respondents admitting to being less engaged at work and 56 percent experiencing decreased job satisfaction. However, employers that provide holistic support can have a positive impact employees’ overall wellbeing and prevent dips in work performance by giving them the tools they need to balance a difficult family-building journey amid other stressors at work and at home.
Many of the self-care strategies that employers can promote in the workplace may alleviate mental distress caused by the holidays, winter blues, SAD, and fertility issues. For example, encouraging wellness breaks throughout the day gives employees the chance to recharge and refocus. Specifically, a simple midday stroll can be beneficial in a wide variety of ways, serving as a gentle form of exercise that can support fertility-related health, alleviate seasonal depression symptoms, and reduce overall stress. Whether it’s a walk outside or a brief meditation session, actively incorporating wellness practices into the workday can give all employees a chance to overcome stress and improve their mental wellbeing.
For companies that have cafeterias or in-house catering, offering healthy snacks and meals can be one of the easiest ways to promote employee wellness. If it’s convenient and inexpensive for employees to eat well, many will choose to do so. As a bonus, certain nutrients have demonstrated abilities in potentially improving both mood and fertility, such as omega 3’s, which can be found in lean proteins, flax seeds, and certain nuts. In fact, you can spread some healthy holiday cheer by sharing our festive fertility-friendly recipes, including omega 3 packed cinnamon honey roasted walnuts that can be a delicious and nutritious addition to any holiday table. Ultimately, encouraging mindful nutrition practices can be another great way for employers to promote self-care in the workplace, helping employees feel better year-round.
Providing Expert Behavioral Health Support
Some employees may need more support to address their mental health needs, especially when multiple stressors begin to overlap. Having convenient access to expert behavioral health support can not only make a positive difference in an employee’s wellbeing, but it can prevent declines in performance before it even begins. WIN’s Behavioral Health Care Managers are experienced in reproductive behavioral health and become your employees’ personal advocates to help guide them through the emotional challenges and stressors that may arise throughout their family-building journey. Alyssa B., a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and one of our Behavioral Health Care Managers, offers this piece of advice to anyone experiencing fertility issues during the holidays:
“The holidays can be a stressful time for those going through infertility. Taking care of yourself should be at the top of your priority list. Nurture yourself, have compassion for yourself—just as you would for a friend going through an emotionally challenging time. Trying to think of ways to make this holiday season a bit more manageable—even enjoyable—is likely worth the effort.”
WIN’s evidence-based techniques and compassionate guidance decrease stress and improve overall wellbeing by giving employees coping strategies tailored to their specific, ever-changing needs. Alyssa reminds her patients to think of these copings strategies as tools in a toolbox that they can use at any time:
“When we’re facing a stressful event it can be a good time to take an inventory of your ‘tools’ to help you get through it. What are some of your coping mechanisms that help you get through stressful periods of time? Different things will work for different people, but taking an inventory on what tools you have can be empowering.”
Ultimately, those who are struggling with fertility issues on top of holiday stress, seasonal depression, or other stressors require holistic support in order to appropriately address this confluence of factors. By providing employees with resources to improve their mental wellbeing, employers can expect to see better performance and increased loyalty.
Click here to learn more about WIN’s Reproductive Behavioral Health Solutions.