Professionals place greater emphasis on self-care

Experts say wellness plans vital for workers

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-LeAnn Bjerken
Emily Toles, shown here near Spokane’s City Hall, operates a mobile yoga studio, Lilac Lotus Yoga, to save her clients travel time.

A growing number of working professionals are looking to budget time and finances toward both physical activity and self-care to prevent burnout – physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or over stress – wellness experts here say.

Kathy Worden, CEO of Spokane-based employee health management and biometric health screening company WorkWell Consultants LLC, says making sure employees take time to evaluate and improve their physical, mental, and emotional health is paramount.

“We believe it’s one of the most essential things you need to do,” she says. “If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not at your best, whether at work or spending time with friends and family.”

Because people spend the majority of their daytime hours at work, it’s the most likely place to try to incorporate healthier habits, Worden contends.

While employers offer many different styles of wellness programs, Worden says WorkWell has noticed recently more employers are interested in adding financial wellness and mental health components.

“Human connections are a big part of wellness that’s often overlooked,” she says. “The good news is that both WorkWell and the providers we work with are seeing more employers than ever before looking to add those resources to their wellness offerings.”

She adds, “We’ve also noted that employers who do more to incentivize things like community service, team sports, financial wellness, and mental health seem to foster more trust from their employees.”

KayCee Murray, senior vice president of information technology for Spokane Valley-based Numerica Credit Union, says the organization’s annual health fair is often a wake-up call for employees.

“It’s easier to see when you have the statistics in front of you,” she says. “But I’d say anytime you’re feeling overworked or stressed is an ideal time to consider making some changes.”

In addition to her busy professional life, Murray, an avid runner and mother of two, says she initially struggled to find a healthy work-life balance.

“It used to be I could easily work 60 to 70 hours a week, which left my family frustrated and really wore me out,” she says. “I spoke with a life coach who helped me realize that wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted to model for my kids or my coworkers, or what I wanted for myself.”

Murray says she worked to change her behaviors and habits to eliminate the need to bring work home and to allow for more time for family and herself. She also started keeping healthy snacks and a water bottle in her office and added simple habits into her workday, such as taking the stairs more often and getting up from her desk regularly.

“A few years ago, I also started a running group with my coworkers,” she says. “It helps to have a meet-up scheduled in the calendar, so you’re accountable, motivated, and also getting some socializing in.”

Elizabeth Giles, content marketing strategist for Numerica, says the credit union sees a link between an individual’s financial, physical, and mental health.

“There’s a strong correlation between being in debt and the risk for developing anxiety and depression,” says Giles. “That’s why, as a company, continually being able to care for both our members’ and our employees’ financial wellbeing is our top priority.”

In addition to hosting its annual health fair, Numerica offers comprehensive employee benefits like free-to-call mental health phone lines, an on-site gym as well as fitness club discounts and incentives, a weekly newsletter with health tips, and various life seminars on financial, mental, physical, and emotional health topics.

Murray agrees with Numerica’s view that planning for financial well-being and physical health go hand-in-hand.

“People understand that they need to save more money than they spend, in the same way they understand that eating right and working out leads to better physical health,” she says. “The thing to remember is there are many tools and resources to help you get to both types of goals.”

Emily Toles, owner of Spokane-based mobile yoga studio Lilac Lotus Yoga, says budgeting time and money toward wellness and self-care is the first thing she talks about with her clients.

“We talk about lifestyle and exercise, but also about taking time for yourself, whether it’s meditating, a bubble bath, or your favorite dessert,” Toles says. “Budgeting for anything is hard, but wellness tends to fall toward the wayside. The good news is walk-in yoga classes at most studios are about $10 each, and even once a week can make a difference in how you feel.”

Toles offers yoga sessions that run between 30 and 60 minutes, for which she brings all of the equipment needed to a client’s home, office, or workplace. She says that saves students’ time otherwise spent getting to class and allows them to work out in a convenient and comfortable space.

“I chose this style of business because, for so many people, especially working professionals, time is the hardest thing to budget,” she says.

Toles says most of her students range in age from 30 to 50 years old, although she also offers some group classes for beginners and seniors in space she rents at Fitness Northwest, at 1020 W. Francis.

“Many of my students are moms with kids, so it’s great for them to be able to exercise at home,” she says. “The group classes help people who might be more comfortable starting in a less individual setting.”

Like Worden, Toles says she believes that making time for wellness and self-care is vital to individual health and happiness.

“How can you fill someone else’s cup if yours is only half full?” she asks. “It doesn’t have to be yoga, but you should be working to honor yourself and do what makes you feel happy and fulfilled.”

For Murray, running helps relieve stress and provides a time to organize thoughts and calm her mind.

“When life starts to feel more stressful or like I’m falling behind, that’s when I know I should go back to running and working out,” she says. “I don’t meditate, but I do practice breathing exercises when I’m feeling stressed or having trouble sleeping, which help me to focus and take things one at a time.”

One additional piece of advice Murray has for working professionals is not to get caught up in comparing their wellness goals to pictures they see on social media.

“Social media often portrays the end result, but not the work it took (financially or physically) to afford that vacation or finish that big race,” she says.

Overall, Worden says the most important things for professionals to remember is that no amount of time is insignificant, and even small changes can have a big impact.

“It can be as simple as hosting a walking meeting or cutting back on soda,” she says. “These are things that take little to no time and effort but can be the first step to kick-start better health.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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