Why Manage What You Can Prevent?

03/04/2014 03:23 pm ET Updated May 03, 2014

When did leaders in workplace wellness become hoodwinked and duped into thinking managing something is better than preventing it? I guess they believe buying ambulances, paying for emergency room services, expensive tests, medications, and aftercare trumps a fence.

I'll explain with a story about a little village in Switzerland. This town claimed bragging rights to the finest ski slopes in the region, a little known fact amongst many international tourists. When the word got out on social media, of course everyone and anyone with a pair of skis showed up to challenge the expert slopes. This included beginners who ignored simple warning signs and continued jumping off a dangerous ledge on the slope that led to broken bones...and worse.

The village leaders gathered and after many meetings, presentations from healthcare businesses, discussions with bankers and financial lending institutions, hospital personnel and Big Pharma, they came to the intelligent decision to place a high-tech, super advanced, very expensive ambulance and well-paid crew at the bottom of the slope. They contracted with the hospital and emergency room, local pharmacy, surgeons and nurses to be fully ready to go into healing action as soon as a victim of the ledge on the slope was brought to the hospital.

Everyone was thrilled, except for one local carpenter. You see, he was never heard at the town council meetings, though he, too, had a proposal. His recommendation was to spend $575 for him to put up a rock solid fence and prevent folks from taking the dangerous leap off the ledge that so many did.
Is this what you are doing with stress? Managing it when you can prevent it?

In the workplace, so many have "stress-management training," that's essentially the ambulance and crew at the bottom of the hill. It's a big, costly problem according to WELCOA, the Wellness Council of America:

• More than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress.

• Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of U.S. adults cite work as a significant source of stress.

• 60 percent of all absenteeism at work is due to stress.

• Stress costs American industry $60 billion a year.

• Health care costs are 50 percent higher for workers who report high levels of stress.

Stress prevention involves, first, not creating stress in the first place. How? By thinking about outside events and people in ways that are true, helpful, inspirational, necessary and kind. Check out that acronym. THINK.

Less demanding, more realistic and flexible beliefs, for example, that reduce concern about what others think and are more self-, other- and life-accepting, lead to healthy emotions and helpful behaviors, and less self-created stress. It's the ultimate fence.

In addition, harvesting the healthy physiological and psychological benefits of moderate to vigorous consistent exercise and a proper nutritional plan, along with engaging in enjoyable activities, creating inspiring relationships, finding meaning in the larger picture of life, focusing on what goes right in daily life, and accomplishing things one can feel pride in, are all the "fences" that prevent stress.

Manage and treat disease, that's where the money is. Sure there are times when treatment, ambulances, emergency room teams and Big Pharma are all necessary. Prevent illness, focus on promoting optimal health before the need for all of that, that's what The Yellow Emperor in 2600 B.C., referred to:

To administer medicines to diseases which have already developed and to suppress revolts which have already developed is comparable to the behavior of those persons who dig a well after they have become thirsty, and of those who begin to cast weapons after they are already engaged in battle.

Listen to the carpenter in your life. His quiet, inexpensive, proposal doesn't carry a whole lot of glitz, but it saves money... and more importantly, lives.