Could You Do More To Protect Your Employees?

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Employee wellbeing is a subject of great interest at the moment, and many business owners are implementing additional measures to look after their teams. If you run a company or an organization, and you’re keen to protect your employees as best you can, here are some tips to consider.

Health and safety

Every employer assumes responsibility for their employees when offering contracts and encouraging teams to go out and tackle tasks. If you own or rent premises, or you operate remote teams, you have a duty to make sure that workplaces are safe and that your team has access to the relevant safety equipment. Provide training, check equipment frequently and carry out regular risk assessments. Ensure that you follow rules and regulations, and make sure that you record every incident and respond to complaints or reports of issues. 

Mental health and wellbeing

Stress is more common than ever. As an employer, it’s not possible to prevent every illness or mental health disorder, but it is beneficial to try and be proactive in protecting your workforce. There are steps business owners can take to try and lower risks and create a healthy working environment for staff. Encourage employees to manage their schedules to allow for downtime and breaks, avoid putting too much pressure on your team, include wellbeing perks in employee benefits packages and communicate openly with your employees. Try to be flexible to enable your team to enjoy a healthy work-life balance and consider measures, such as condensing hours or investing in technology, to increase efficiency and productivity. 

Abuse and violence

Reports of abuse in the workplace have become more commonplace, especially in sectors such as healthcare, the emergency services and retail. There are several ways you can try to enhance protection, including providing physical barriers to deter people from coming too close in stores or practices and clinics, providing training for staff to help them resolve conflicts and using technology such as Motorola police car radios. Cameras can record footage that is useful for professional purposes, as well as for pursuing action if employees sustain injuries or suffer verbal abuse. It is also beneficial to invest in security and to use signs and posters to alert customers to zero-tolerance policies. 

Making mistakes

Making mistakes is human nature, but the implications for employees can be devastating. Employers cannot always prevent errors, but it is possible to reduce risks. Ensure that your employees have the relevant training to attempt tasks or enter scenarios that may be challenging, and use technology to simplify jobs and minimize the risk of human error and record calls, footage and camera images. It is also essential to make sure that you have comprehensive business insurance. If there is an incident involving a customer, for example, review the footage and listen to accounts from both parties before you decide what action to take. It’s important to support your team as best you can.

Employers have a duty to protect their staff and comply with regulations and legislation that are designed to reduce risks in the workplace. Ensure that your business is fully compliant, prioritize health and wellbeing, take action to prevent employee abuse and be proactive in trying to eliminate mistakes.

The Power Of Branded Merch & Why it Matters

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A brand needs to be seen to exist. Yet, when you are competing for attention against thousands of other brands, you need to be creative to get noticed. Ultimately, the more memorably you make your brand, the easier it is to attract new customers. There’s a reason why highly visible marketing activities such as banners or vehicle wraps remain a favorite. They boost visibility, brand awareness and drive acquisition forward. They also give a new dimension to the brand by placing the logo onto a tangible and physical platform. 

We are do-ers. We naturally remember things better when we go through the motion of physical and tangible activity. Every student trying to learn new skills knows that the best way of improving their knowledge is through doing rather than reading. The same principle applies to brand memory. Giving your audience something they can touch enhances brand memory. Here are 5 branded merch ideas that nail it.

Health and mental health audience

If your audience has a strong health interest, it is something you can support through smart merch. Interestingly enough, there are two ways to merch health products. You can partner with a health product provider to create a unique preroll packaging design, for example, for both recreational and medicinal cannabis users. This could be a great way of getting your brand out there if the design is relevant to your audience group. 

You could also create your branded add-on, such as a fitness tracker wristband that would fit Fitbit or an Apple Watch devices. 

Lifestyle audience

Lifestyle and fashion audiences will appreciate wearable merch that is comfy and practical. A branded tee could be a no-go as most of us have a huge collection of t-shirts. Yet, a cozy and warm hoodie with your brand’s motto can make sure your brand will gain more visibility.

Gourmet and foodie audience

You can’t use mugs as merch items. Every kitchen cupboard is overflowing with mugs. Instead, opt for something your foodie audience might appreciate, such as beer glasses, coaster, or even a set of snack bowls. Ideally, gourmet merch is best suited to food businesses, but it’s a conversation starter in the fitness, nutrition, and leisure industries. 

Children audience

If your products are aimed at kids or families, you can turn your merch strategy into a family assistant. Quality coloring books, for instance, will keep little ones occupied when parents are busy. Soft and safe toys, such as inflatable beach balls or squishy balls, are a great option too. Parents are also going to be grateful for everyday accessories such as sunglasses or socks. Kids are prone to accessories on the playground, so it’s always great to have replacement items! 

Pet lover audience

If your brand focuses on pet lovers, such as dog-friendly hotels or pet food, you could use your merch to broader your reach. Branded pet collars or leads, for instance, will get you noticed in a dogs’ park. A branded food bowl,  especially if it can be engraved for VIP customers, is also guaranteed to drive interest. 

Merch items are designed to be seen. They need to integrate smoothly into the lifestyle of your audience groups, so you can be sure they will use them. The more use your free merch gets, the more likely existing customers are to turn into advocates. Who should get merch products? As a priority, VIP customers, winners of promotional events or competitions, and overspenders should be the first to receive your unique merch items.

Teens and the Impact of Sleep on Mental Health

2 out of 3 high school students maintain only sleep for 7 hours or less during school nights. What does that mean for their mental health?

For millions of adolescents across the world, sleep deprivation has become a far too common lifestyle. Our team created a guide to discuss the mental health ramifications of sleep loss in teens, and the factors that make it so hard for them to unwind at bedtime.

The Teen Insomnia Epidemic

Although everyone has experienced the inability to sleep at some point, occasionally, transient insomnia can last for a night or two and may be caused by such factors as stress or changes in sleeping habits. For those of us where these sleep symptoms persist, chronic insomnia may last for months or even years and can have a profound impact on your quality of life. Teens are at risk for both transient and chronic insomnia – here’s what parents need to know.

How Much Sleep Do Teens Need?

You may be surprised to learn how common it is for teens to survive on less sleep than they actually need. While every child is unique, and some require less sleep than others, researchers have identified some tell-tale trends. Studies conducted in the United States show that:

  • On average, teens need approximately nine hours of sleep on a nightly basis.
  • 60% of middle school students (grades 6-8) do not get adequate sleep on school nights.
  • More than 70% of high school students (grades 9-12) do not get the recommended hours of sleep each night.
  • A whopping 2/3 of high school students report seven hours or less of sleep on school nights.
  • Close to 17% of teens clinically classified as insomnia sufferers, meaning that they are unable to fall or stay asleep at least two nights per week for a period of a month or longer.

Below are some possible factors to take into consideration when helping your teen get a more quality sleep.

Scheduling Conflicts

School schedules generally conflict with the natural bodily rhythms of most growing teenagers. During and after puberty, kids naturally fall asleep later than younger children and older adults. Sending teens to bed early doesn’t usually turn out as expected, as they will lie awake until midnight or later, despite their best efforts at sleep. Considering that most schools in the United States rarely start later than 8 a.m., it’s easy to see how the pubescent years be the first to usher in insomnia symptoms for youngsters.

Approximately 17% of school districts have begun to get the message, moving their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later for middle school and high school students. Experts note that these experiments have been successful, leading to more sleep, fewer car accidents, and even better graduation rates.

Stress Levels

Stress is also powerfully linked with insomnia, and most teens are under a large variety of academic and social pressures. Research indicates that 27% of teens report high-stress levels. The most commonly reported source of teen stress is school, at 83%, while 69% of teens are stressed out about getting into college or choosing a life path after high school.

Puberty and gender

Puberty takes its toll on the mind and body, and sleep cycles are a common target during these times of change. In fact, the entire sleep-wake pattern tends to reorient itself, delaying the natural sleep onset and rising times, and shortening the length of time spent in deep sleep. This leads to sleepiness during the day, as well as irregular sleep patterns in which kids may attempt to “catch up” on sleep during the weekend.

Also, the growth spurts associated with puberty can cause “growing pains”, which tend to worsen around bedtime. In extreme cases, some teens may even wake up in the middle of the night from the discomfort. Although they are not dangerous, these pains can contribute to poor sleep quality.

Gender may also play in role in teen sleep deprivation. Girls are more likely than boys to report short sleep duration. This could be due, in part, to sexually unique biological and social factors during puberty. For example, girls tend to have higher overall stress levels and greater reactivity to stress.

Other neurodevelopmental disorders

Research shows that teens with neurodevelopmental disorders may be at increased risk for sleep problems. Disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and even fetal alcohol syndrome can increase anxiety and make it more difficult for kids to settle into sleep. They can also make it more difficult to maintain sleep throughout the night.

A note on COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the mental health of citizens across the globe, and teens are no exception. According to a June 2020 Harris Poll, approximately 70% of teens report that the crisis has negatively impacted their mental health. Stress, anxiety and depression, combined with a shift in daily school routines and an associated increase in screen time, make matters worse for teens. Parents need to carve out quality non-screen time with kids, as well as to help them craft unique routines.

The Effect of Insomnia on Teens

Missing an occasional night’s sleep rarely has serious consequences, but chronic insomnia can have a major impact on both physical and mental health in teenagers. Physically, researchers have found that poor sleep can increase teens’ risk for diabetes, obesity and even injuries.

Psychologically, even sleep-deprived kids who do not meet any clinical definitions for mental health problems are likely to suffer from behavior problems and reduced academic performance. They are also at risk for anxiety, depression and feelings of hopelessness. They are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors like drinking and driving, not using seatbelts, and unprotected sex.

Adolescents are at higher risk of experiencing negative symptoms from poor sleep quality due to the profound developmental changes that occur during this time. They may have struggle with learning and retaining new information, successfully completing tests and assignments, and moderating their emotions in times of heightened stress during the day.

Even younger children who are sleep deprived tend to show large performance gaps when compared to their peers. Losing even one hour of sleep per night can reduce a teen’s school performance to that of a fully rested child two grades below.

Executive function is the ability to process and organize incoming data, focus the mind and filter out extraneous thoughts to prioritize and accomplish tasks. It is an essential skill for success in all aspects of life. Executive functioning begins to develop in early childhood, and it becomes more sophisticated throughout the adolescent years. Unfortunately, sleep problems can interfere with this developmental process, potentially priming kids for difficulties in their future careers or relationships.

Negative mental health outcomes associated with poor sleep

Although you might assume that a minor reduction in sleep carries minimal risks, this is not necessarily true. Even a single hour of lost sleep can have a major impact on kids, and as sleep problems worsen, so do the risks. Every hour of lost sleep raises the likelihood of feeling sad or hopeless by 38%. It also increases the risk of substance abuse by 23%, suicidal thoughts by 42% and suicide attempts by 58%.

Even after researchers accounted for demographics, substance abuse, suicidal ideation and symptoms of depression at the beginning, those who suffered from sleep problems for a year were 20% more likely to have thoughts of suicide, as well as more likely to actually make a suicide attempt.

Of course, not everyone who is sleep deprived becomes suicidal. But in tandem with all the changes of puberty and the intense pressures that many teens feel, a lack of sleep could be enough to heavily offset the balance in teenagers.

Insomnia and depression: a special case

Insomnia and depression are often linked in complicated ways. Here is what you need to know about these linked disorders.

Insomnia and depression comorbidity

Comorbidity the combination of having two or more disorders which occur at the same time. Depression is one of the most common mental health issues among teenagers, and the link between depression and sleep problems are often associated. Studies indicate that more than 70% of children and teens diagnosed with depression also have insomnia or another sleep disorder. For these kids, the cycle of negatively-reinforcing symptoms tend to leave children more severely depressed than those without sleep difficulties.

Insomnia and risk for depression

Additionally, insomnia seems to be a risk factor for developing depression. Kids with chronic trouble sleeping are more likely than their peers who sleep normally to report symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Interestingly, depression does not seem to be a risk factor for insomnia. Kids who report trouble sleeping are more likely to develop depression and even attempt suicide in the future, but thankfully, those with depression are not more likely to develop future insomnia.

Insomnia interferes with depression treatment

Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, is an extremely popular and highly effective treatment for many forms of depression. The idea behind it is that our thoughts create our reality, and distorted thought patterns are responsible for our moods. Cognitive behavior therapy focuses on changing both thoughts and behaviors, replacing them with healthier responses to the stresses of daily life.

Unfortunately, insomnia can make CBT less effective, possibly due to the impact of sleep disorders on logical thinking and executive function, as previously mentioned. Kids with chronic trouble sleeping are more likely than those who sleep normally to have their depression recur after completing treatment.

If your teenager has been diagnosed with depression, let their therapist know about any symptoms of insomnia. Mental health professionals are used to dealing with comorbid disorders and may be able to tweak the course of treatment to address both the depression and insomnia simultaneously. This can increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Risk-taking behavior

Sleep loss can take its toll on even the most logical and thoughtful teenagers. Kids reporting seven hours of sleep or less on school nights are also more likely to report carrying weapons, using marijuana or tobacco, binge drinking, drunk driving, fighting or a myriad of other potentially dangerous behaviors.

The reverse is also true for school districts that have shifted to later morning start times. Students tend to sleep more, have better rates of enrollment and attendance, are less likely to fall asleep in class, show fewer symptoms of depression, and have fewer car accidents. A well-rested teenager is a much more effective, productive and thoughtful human.

Parents are the key

Even in adolescence, parents can still help their children unwind for bed. Everyone is different, but sleep recommendations for the majority of middle school students state they should be sleeping at least nine hours per night, while high school students need a minimum of eight. Setting a bedtime for a high school student may be difficult, but the CDC reports that “adolescents whose parents set bedtimes are more likely to get enough sleep,” suggesting that parents can have an impact on their child’s sleep by lightly enforcing it. 

Even if unsuccessfully able to implement a strict bedtime routine, you can still help your child wind down in the evenings by setting a good example. By reducing noise and lowering lights as the evening progresses, avoiding late-night battles over homework or chores, and instead promoting a relaxed environment, parents can find indirect ways to support their child’s healthy sleep hygiene.

Childhood sleep problems into adulthood

It’s never too early to start promoting good sleep habits. Many kids develop chronic sleep problems early in childhood, which may continue throughout life. In fact, early childhood sleep issues may indicate more risk-taking behavior in adolescence, including early use of marijuana, which can in turn lead to insomnia as an adult. Likewise, adolescent sleep issues are linked with a higher risk of depression in adulthood.

There is a bit of a chicken and egg conundrum in the research. Are some people genetically predisposed to sleep problems, depression and substance use? Or does one lead to another? The answers are not so cut and dry. However, the links between these three issues are strong, and the message is clear: Parents should intervene early to help children overcome sleep problems as soon as they’re recognized.

Help your teen cope with stress

Stress reactivity is a response pattern in which a person has a low threshold for stress, notably in situations perceived as threatening. High stress reactivity patterns can produce a strong stress reaction to any perceived discomfort. It makes it harder to think clearly, and switches the brain to self-preservation rather than higher-order emotions such as compassion or empathy. Stress reactivity can develop after traumatic events, but many kids show a natural predisposition to it early on.

We now know that stress reactivity is highly correlated with insomnia, and some experts suggest having younger children assessed for these patterns, if persistent. Theoretically, both stress and insomnia become more pervasive in adolescence, so identifying and intervening early with stress reactive kids could be the first step in preventing sleep disorders into adulthood.

Even in teens without high stress reactivity, worrying right before falling asleep can impact the quality and quantity of sleep. Therefore, parents should try to help kids learn to process stress and worry in healthier ways early in life. Work with them to name their feelings and develop assertive, proactive responses. Encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities. Help them break large tasks into smaller chunks and teach them to reframe negative thoughts. Promote downtime and help them practice for intimidating events such as public speaking.

Create the right environment for sleep

While some people are blessed with the ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, the vast majority do better in an environment intentionally designed to support healthy sleep. You generally won’t need to invest in costly room modification, just work with your teenager to make some intelligent tweaks to their routines.

Practice and preach “good sleep hygiene”

Good sleep hygiene is a collection of healthy habits that encourage sleep. Kids are incredibly well-versed as mimicking their parents’ behaviors, so be sure to model these behaviors rather than just telling your teenager what to do. Examples of good sleep hygiene include:

  • Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
  • Eat a healthy diet, but limit late-night eating to a light snack.
  • Lower fluid intake right before bed
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends and vacations.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine such as a hot shower or 30 minutes of reading for pleasure.
  • If you don’t fall asleep right away, get out of bed after 20 minutes and do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and dark.

Create a comfortable, stress-free space for your child

Help your child create a comfortable and relaxing bedroom space. This can be done in limitless ways, from calming paint colors to soothing essential oils. The internet is filled with easy and inexpensive bedroom ideas — see our 101 Tips for Better Sleep for more ideas. One of the most important investments you can make, though, is a good mattress. Research shows that sleeping on a new, high-quality mattress can reduce nighttime pain, decrease stress and promote better sleep. Mattresses are available in a vast array of types and firmness levels, and comfort is highly subjective, so let your teen choose the mattress that feels right to her.

Get serious about screen time

Screen time is an inevitable part of life in the modern era. Unbelievably, 72% of teens use a cell phone before bed, 64% use an electronic music device, 60% use a laptop and 23% play video games. And 18% report being awakened several nights per week by their cell phone. It’s evident that teens are operating in a highly technological world with new normals, and these nighttime temptations do no favors for teens and adults, alike.

It’s vital to set limits on blue light exposure and screen each evening, as nighttime screen usage can make it more difficult to sleep for several reasons. Exposure to the blue light emitted by these devices hinders the production of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. Tablets, phones, game consoles and other interactive devices tend to increase arousal as well, making it difficult to quiet the mind and drift off into sleep. The short sleep-wake cycles caused by incoming calls or messages can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, even in kids who otherwise have no natural issues sleeping.

It can’t be overstated: model responsible screen-related behavior by turning off your electronic devices before going to bed, and encourage your kids to follow along and prioritize their rest and health. Analog activities such as reading a book or drawing are much more conducive to falling asleep, without the blue light or hormonal interference.

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Restoring Normality In Your Life Following An Upset

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You never know what is around the next corner in life. You might well feel as though you have it figured out and you know exactly where you are going, but a major event may take place that sets you off course. 

Stressful situations emerge in life on the back of bouts of ill health, motor vehicle accidents, relationship problems, difficulties in the workplace, a lack of money, or the death of someone that you are close to. When major problems such as these occur, it can cast a wide shadow over your whole life, which may have a knock-on effect. 

At the time, when tragedy strikes, it may feel as though there is nothing that you can do, that all hope is lost, and that life will never improve. And, while things may feel as though they are always sliding out your control, there are ways of making your life that little bit more manageable. 

Here are some great ways of restoring normality in your life following an upset. 

Talk To Friends, Relatives, And Partners

Stressful situations can be hard to face on your own. It is often our human instinct to try to take ourselves away from others when we need them the most. This is counterproductive to your situation though. Isolating yourself during your time of need will only add to the emotional pain that you are feeling. 

During the worst times in your life, it is important to surround yourself with people who care about you. Reach out to them and talk to them about what you are going through. Sometimes this can be hard because you may find the situation embarrassing or difficult to talk about. But it will get easier if you know that you have the help and support of people that want the very best for you.  

Reach Out And Get Help 

Getting help for problems in your life is not a sign of weakness. In fact, far from it, there is a great strength that can be drawn from admitting your own limitations and knowing when you need the help and support of others. 

There are, of course, countless professional organizations that can help you to deal with the situation that you may currently find yourself in. For example, a truck accident lawyer would be able to help you following a crash. You will need medical bills paying, and your lost earnings recouping. The compensation they can claim for you will be able to help you to rebuild your life. 

If you are struggling with financial problems, speak with a financial advisor or better still, a debt charity. Getting your finances on track will need the experience of someone who can help you to make sense of your situation and who knows all of the options which are available to you. 

Taking Better Care Of Yourself

When you are dealing with a stressful time in life, self care is something that becomes ever more important. It can be very easy to start to neglect the things that are important in our lives. Our health is one of these things. Make sure that you are eating, sleeping, and exercising.

The right diet is important. When you are stressed, you will be more inclined to want to binge eat or to eat food that is high in fats and sugars. Comfort eating may help you to feel better in the short term, however, the great feeling that it gives will only last for a few minutes. This easy solution to the way that you feel will ultimately add to your longterm problems. 

Get plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet and try and eat some home-cooked meals. Make sure you are keeping to regular meal times and are not skipping any meals. 

Exercise is something that your body needs in order to stay healthy. But it also has a profound effect on your mental health. Make sure that you are trying to stay as physically active as possible. Go out and take a walk. If you are able to, run. Get your lungs filling up with air and get your blood pumping. All of this will help you to naturally feel better about yourself. Exercise creates feel-good endorphins which are great for lifting your mood. 

Sleep is essential in the fight against stress. If you are not getting enough sleep, then you will struggle to stop yourself from feeling stressed or anxious. Try and get eight hours of sleep. If you can’t unwind before you sleep, try a guided meditation to help you to relax before you go to sleep. 

Read Self-Help Guides

The self-help industry is massive. There are books and videos and a wealth of resources out there that can help you to deal with any stressful situation in life. Of course, they are not all going to be suitable for you, but you should look for self-help guides that will be relevant and helpful to you. The only way of finding out if something is going to be helpful to you is by reading them. 

There are plenty of resources online including blogs and forums around all kinds of topics. Find support wherever you can and try and look for good advice. 

Don’t Be Hard On Yourself

When we hit bumps in the road, it can be very easy to be hard on ourselves. We might beat ourselves up about the way that we feel or the way that we have handled a certain situation. It can be very easy to blame ourselves for the way that things have turned out. 

But regardless of what has actually happened, the past is not something that you can change. Dwelling on mistakes means that we cannot be present right now and we find it hard to look towards a better future. 

Learn to treat yourself with kindness and remember that you deserve to be happy and to be able to move past this point in your life.

Give Employees Outlets To Improve Their Mood

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All too often we push our employees more than they can handle. Indeed sometimes it’s good because we push them beyond what they think they can handle, but they find out they are much stronger than they gave themselves credit for. But other times we push them away from us and they begin to slowly drift. This can be in the form of the employee no longer showing loyalty to you. This could be merely showing indifference. Employees that simply do as they are told all the time are not good employees. If they don’t give some kind of back push or question your motives, this means they aren’t showing their passion for getting it right or understanding. You want people to ask you questions and get answers, rather than silently nodding or becoming a bunch of yes men. But as small business owners, we can often find ourselves not wanting to hear their problems. We’re already highly strung and sometimes we just need people who will follow us no matter what. But if you give them outlets to voice their concerns, their mood can drastically improve.

Complaints about coworkers

Before fights and arguments occur in your business, allow employees to let off some steam about each other. Many employees will keep their resentment of other workers bottled up because of a few reasons. They know that the HR department will get involved and make a big thing about it with paperwork. They will fallout with someone who they admire but don’t really like. They might ruin their chances of getting ahead in the industry and business. Therefore, things can build and build until two coworkers end up having a giant dispute or fracas. You should allow your employees to make complaints about each other in private to your managers and heads of departments. Insure them that it won’t be taken to HR if they don’t want it to and that the seniors will handle the situation instead. This gives everyone a chance to make low level or concerning complaints without having to make it official i.e. on their record.

Talking always shines a light

One thing in the modern world that all businesses are now concerned about is the mental health of their workers. There should always be a professional outlet for workers to talk about this issue. Take for examples the services of telehealth where they work with companies and allow employees to take to medical professionals online and in a one on one video chat. Here your employees can let off some steam and talk about things that are really frustrating them. It’s better to have this outlet than wait until someone finally snaps and does something horrible to themselves or other people. On the surface we never know if things are truly okay with somebody so don’t think someone who is always smiling is actually content.

When employees have a chance to thrust out their opinions on each other and even make complaints, they don’t feel trapped. There will be less of the fake camaraderie and more open talk. Mental health is a serious issue that employers need to get a grip on and provide an outlet for their workers so they can deal with modern professional lifestyles better.