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It's mental health week in Canada May 5-11. Take the pulse of your state of mind with our depression survey, which is at the end of our Your Life at Work Survey. Find out whether you're coping with the demands from your work and life.

Sally is an average employee in a middle management role, struggling to cope with the demands of her employer and employees. She often leaves work feeling exhausted and mentally drained. She feels depressed most days as well.

To deal with stress, Sally seeks comfort in food. Caught in the cycle of work-stress-coping-with-food, within a few years Sally put 40 pounds onto her once 110-pound, 5-foot,1-inch frame. She is so sapped of energy at the end of the day that her activity and fitness level are low and at 48 years of age she's a walking health risk.

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Already, Sally has developed diabetes. During a recent medical exam, her doctor found her blood pressure was high and prescribed medication. When she told him that she has also been struggling with stress and depression, he gave her some recommendations and suggested that if nothing improved in a couple of weeks they would explore medication for her depression.

Sally's food-coping mechanism not only leads to obesity but makes her three times more likely to develop diabetes.

Her case is typical and happens to many people. They don't realize how their lack of coping skills and resulting behaviours directly affect their quality of life.

Employees are influenced by the way they choose to cope with the demands of their job and life. Stress happens, but its effects depends on how people deal with it.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that about 2.5 million Canadians were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010. It estimated that 90 to 95 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization suggests that 80 per cent of all diabetes cases could be avoided by ensuring people had healthier lifestyles. In addition, employees with diabetes can cost employers two to three times that of a healthy employee in drug costs alone.

The Canadian Diabetes Association says the economic burden of diabetes in Canada is expected to rise from about $12.2-billion in 2010 to $17-billion by 2020.

Sally's lifestyle choices are a factor in her developing diabetes. And like many diabetics, she has comorbidity, which means having one or more health disorders at the same time.

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Employers cannot control their employees think, but every employee has a role to ensure their own health and happiness. However, improving experiences at work requires the commitment of both employers and employees.

What employees think influences what they do. Our findings so far from the Howatt HR Consulting and The Globe and Mail's Your Life at Work Survey found that coping skills are a lead indicator for predicting employee productivity, engagement and health. Our study has found that workers with strong coping skills are more productive, more engaged in their work and healthier.

Employees like Sally benefit from learning how to cope with the stress of life and work so they can change their habits and eat healthy, be active and exercise, stop smoking, lose weight and reduce their reliance on medication.

For Sally's employer, the cost of doing nothing to help Sally is not only the burden of health expenses. Since she has multiple health issues she is more at risk for short-term illness claims, long-term disability claims, absenteeism, and presenteeism – being at work but not performing to her potential.

Leaders should ask the tough questions and dig into the tangible and intangible costs of doing nothing to help their employees cope with stress. (See our Cost of Doing Nothing Calculator.)

Health starts with self-awareness, education and choices. Take our survey today and determine your stress level and ability to cope, as this will influence both your health and your job satisfaction.

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