Managing Stress with Benefit Accounts

stress relief

A lot of people I talk to are dealing with stress. Long-term stress is unhealthy, of course, and thinking about that may stress you even more – but never fear, the Captain’s here! Let’s discuss stress management and how your benefit accounts can help.

What is stress?

Cleveland Clinic defines stress as a normal human reaction consisting of physical and mental responses to changes or challenges. These responses help us stay positive, alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger.

Still, when they are always “on,” without relief or relaxation, these natural protections can lead to physical and mental health issues like:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach/digestive issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks

How can I address work stress?

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report shares that employee stress is higher than ever. Employees are demanding more mental health support, and employers are responding with more creative benefits. But changing your work habits is the first place to start. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports the following tips:

  • Mentally detach from work – Disconnect from “work mode” before you start your personal activities.
  • Be mindful of workday breaks – Set alarms to remind you to step away, especially if you work from your home.
  • Focus on your environment – A Cornell University study found that as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting helped college students lessen the effects of both physical and mental stress.

How can I prevent stress?

While stressors are inevitable, you can help minimize your response. For example, taking good care of yourself, learning to say no to new responsibilities, and stress-releasing activities are all helpful. However, when prevention efforts fail, more help may be needed.

How can my benefit accounts help?

In addition to the work-specific suggestions above, here are some ways to relieve stress from the Mayo Clinic – many of which can be paid for with your benefit accounts.

  • Be active – Physical activity is a known stress reliever, from taking up a walking routine to joining a gym. If you have a Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) through work, it may include gym memberships or fitness apparel among the eligible expenses. Check with your HR or benefits administrator.
  • Get enough sleep – Stress can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, and poor sleep quality can lead to chronic diseases and conditions. Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) supplements may help manage both issues. These are usually eligible for purchase with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
  • Listen to music – Did you know that music can help relieve stress by providing a mental distraction, reducing muscle tension, and decreasing stress hormones? Even better, if you have an LSA, the subscription to a music streaming service may be an eligible expense!

If you’ve tried different strategies but need more help, therapy may be an effective next step. Your company may offer an Employee Assistance Program covering short-term assistance, or your group health plan may provide benefits for professional counseling. Whether or not these plans offer assistance with therapy expenses, any amounts they don’t cover are likely eligible for FSA and HSA funds,.

Be good to yourself – mind and body – and learn about the ways in which your benefit accounts can help you do just that.