We look at the top ten health and wellbeing issues Kiwi workers are concerned about right now. And offer up some solutions to help you build resilience and ease those everyday stresses and strains.
The last few years have been a bumpy ride for many of us, to say the least.
From COVID to adverse weather events to steady price rises in the shops, it seems our working lives have been constantly hampered and overshadowed by a series of social, natural and economic challenges way beyond our control.
So with the pandemic dust (hopefully) beginning to settle, now seems like a good time to take stock and address just what we’re still worrying about today.
Our Top 10 health and wellbeing concerns
The Southern Cross Healthy Futures Report Business Edition 2023 asked New Zealanders about their biggest health and wellbeing concerns right now.
And while there were slightly differing perspectives from office and non-office workers, the general trends were pretty all-encompassing. Let’s take a look at the top ten list:
#1 The cost of living
Work or not, there were few surprises about the main culprit, with concerns about the cost of living rising significantly this year. In fact, another recent study found that Kiwis spend around 13 hours a month worrying about money.1 That’s not good news for employees, or the businesses they work for.
#2 Economic impact of Covid-19
A biggie for business owners and office workers – especially with rumours of a global recession looming.
#3 Violence in society
Hard times have led to an increase in crime, even here in New Zealand. For example, retail crime alone has reportedly gone up by 39% in the last year.2
#4 Mental health
Stress and anxiety continue to cause major issues for our overall mental health, so much so that the World Health Organisation describes stress as “the global health epidemic of the 21st century.”
#5 Affordable housing
Not even in the top 10 in 2020, affordable housing is becoming a real concern for everyday Kiwis – and especially so for non office-based workers.
#6 Suicide rates
Always a concern for loved ones, New Zealand’s youth suicide rate is the second worst in the developed world.3
#7 Impact of Covid-19 on long term health
Long Covid is an issue for many Kiwis, with symptoms ranging from a persistent cough or difficulty breathing to headaches, sore throat or a continuing loss of taste or smell.
#8 Obesity and its health impacts
Being overweight can be closely linked to a range of health conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.
#9 Not having access to good affordable healthcare
Having seen cracks appear worldwide during the pandemic, many of us are worried about the sustainability of our healthcare system.
#10 Not having access to cancer treatment services
Approximately 25,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in New Zealand4, and with an ageing population that figure is likely to grow.
Tips to boost your resilience
So what can we do to alleviate these very real concerns? Well, while we can’t control the bigger picture of what happens in the world, we can exact some form of control over our immediate surroundings - how we react to failures, how we interact with the people around us, and the way we go about our working lives.
You could say it’s really a case of empowering ourselves to become more resilient, no matter what life throws at us. With this in mind, here are some potentially useful tips for boosting your resilience against the stresses and strains of the working world, and beyond:
1) Be authentic
Don’t follow the crowd, believe in yourself and follow your own compass. Keeping true to the values and beliefs you hold – such as honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and loyalty – can help to keep you grounded. In other words, you’ll be better equipped to deal with challenging situations when you’re being authentically you, as opposed to someone you think others would want you to be.
2) Reframe threats as challenges
We all experience ups and downs in our day – it’s what makes life interesting – and sometimes during the downs it can be difficult to maintain a positive mindset. But by maintaining perspective and focusing on solutions rather than problems, we can manage those negative thoughts and create a career where pressure motivates us and failure isn’t failure, but a valuable means of learning
3) Focus on one thing a time
Our brains are constantly bombarded with information, and in a work scenario it can be often be difficult to discern what’s important and know which challenge to tackle next. Multi-tasking may be a talent, but it’s far from the ideal. So instead of allowing yourself to be swamped by multiple demands, try to focus on one type of task at a time – emailing, say, or writing up a report - just like you’d dedicate time at the gym. It could help you become more productive, and thus reduce your general stress levels.
4) Take breaks
A working day can last a long time, and not even the keenest of us can keep our energy levels up constantly. In fact experts suggest that the maximum period we can sustain mental focus and clarity is around 90-120 minutes. So be sure to take breaks and step away from what you’re doing throughout your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. It’ll help you reframe, refresh, and prevent you from burning out.
5) Be compassionate
Perhaps one of the most underrated skills in becoming more resilient is the practice of showing compassion, both to others and yourself. It’s a no brainer really. Being compassionate with your colleagues creates more positive work relationships, which in turn promotes the possibility of co-operation and collaboration. Which is more likely to make you happier at work - not to mention more productive.
We get it, there’s plenty to worry about in the world right now. But try not to fret about the big things you can’t change, and focus on the small ones you can. And for more help in dealing with stress and other mental health issues, make sure you talk to your GP or another qualified health professional – sooner rather than later.