National Stress Awareness Day 2022 - Helping your workforce handle stress

Koa Health
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Following years of mounting challenges for people worldwide—a global pandemic and political, social and economic unrest—helping people recognize and handle stress can seem like the least of our worries. But stress matters, impacting the wellbeing of individuals and organizations.

Celebrated the first Wednesday of November in the U.S. and the U.K., National Stress Awareness Day was founded by Carole Spiers to increase public awareness of the impact of stress on people’s health and wellbeing. Intended to help people identify, manage and reduce that stress in both their personal and professional lives, National Stress Awareness Day falls on November 2, 2022.

At Koa Health, mental health for all is our mission. Our team, together with our partners, is working towards a future where mental wellbeing and mental health care are accessible to people everywhere, and guiding people towards effective and evidence-based ways to handle stress is key to that mission.

Stress in the workplace

Work-related stress, when it becomes too intense or goes on for too long, can lead to burnout and negatively impact health. Long-term and chronic stress is linked to everything from diminished cardiac health to lower immune function to difficulties switching off and getting sufficient rest (Mind UK, 2022). When it comes to our working lives, research draws a strong connection between stress and stress-related mental and physical health issues, as well as decreased productivity and engagement and increases in absenteeism, presenteeism and labor turnover, costing organizations around the world billions each year (The American Institute of Stress, 2022).

When we talk about work-related stress relief, we often zoom out to the big picture, focusing on concerns such as balancing demands and resources, work-life integration and sleep hygiene. While these are issues that warrant greater attention in most workplaces, they’re changes that need to happen over time; they can’t help resolve stress quickly in a tense moment.

However, the strategies we’re about to discuss can be a more immediate source of support in the interim as you work towards making larger-scale changes around how you handle stress and mental health at your organization.

1. Relax your body first

Sometimes it’s easier to relax your body first and let your mind follow suit. When your mind is on high alert, there are several techniques you can use to relax your body, including (but not limited to) deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and, the simplest of them all, just moving your body. Taking slow, long diaphragmatic breaths (i.e. deep breathing) encourages the vagus nerve to inform your brain it’s time to relax (Nature, 2021).

A few minutes of movement, in nearly any form, can help you shift your focus back to your body and away from whatever the source of your stress is. When we’re active, our brains produce feel-good chemicals called endorphins that can boost our mood in the moment and reduce the adverse effects of stress (The Mayo Clinic, 2022).

2. Shift your focus outward

In stressful moments, it can be helpful to move our focus from inner thoughts to what’s happening outside the mind and body. One way to do this is by heading outdoors. Time outdoors or even just observing nature scenes or sounds can lower stress and boost feelings of wellbeing, reducing tension, blood pressure, heart rate and the production of stress hormones (University of Minnesota, 2016).

Another quick way to shift your attention (and potentially your mood) is by listening to music. According to the American Psychological Association, listening to music lowers levels of the stress hormone in the body. Music has shown even wider benefits in clinical settings, boosting the immune system and soothing anxiety and pain.

3. Lean into digital support

While tech can be distracting and become a source of stress, it can also enable people to care for their wellbeing on their own terms. Research from McKinsey indicates that people across age ranges, sectors and locations are open to digital care, with many preferring it to traditional, in-person options. Digital resources make it easy for people to get immediate support at the time and place that works best for them.

Science-based apps, such as Koa Health’s flagship mental wellbeing solution Koa Foundations (proven to improve mental wellbeing in just two weeks of use), offer employees the support they need with guided activities. Clinically validated techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), positive psychology and mindfulness become easier to access in this format and can be used to relax in the moment and build resilience to stress over time.

Stress and how we handle it is integral to our mental health. But most of the mental health care available addresses only the far ends of the mental health continuum, offering care that only covers small subsets of the population at either extreme. This creates a broad swathe of people that belong to a “missing middle,” made up of people who need accessible, inclusive mental wellbeing support. They need resources and guidance to help them deal with stress as it arises before it becomes a long-term or chronic issue. The employees that belong to this group (likely the majority at most organizations) are most likely to benefit from self-guided tools grounded in science to help them learn better coping skills.

There’s no debating it. Some level of workplace pressure is unavoidable. But thankfully, when stress happens (as it does), it can often be dealt with quickly and effectively with strategies like those mentioned above. Longer-term, it’s essential to cultivate psychological safety in your workplace in addition to enabling healthy coping skills with resources and practical tools. In a safe space where people feel they can be open and honest about their opinions and feelings, work is less stressful and managing stress when it does happen is more straightforward, as people are less likely to work to hide it (Accenture, 2021).

Want to find out more about stress, and how to handle the risk it presents to your business? Download our free report, The science of stress.

To learn more about how Koa Health can support your employee and member populations, contact us at, or schedule a call with one of our experts, here.

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Koa Health

The Team @ Koa Health

Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.