Many of us have all the right intentions, but we somehow never manage to put health and wellbeing at the top of our ‘to do’ list and translate it into meaningful action. We’re either too busy, too tired, too focused on something else or simply have too much on our plate. So here are my 4 initiatives to help you improve your health & wellbeing in the workplace.
Health is like money. You never have a true idea of its value until you lose it.
If you have your health, look after it and do whatever you can to keep it. Once it’s gone or been damaged, it can be almost impossible to get it back, certainly to the same level you experienced previously.
If the day comes that you have to start thinking about your health in terms of how to try and get it back, you’ll find that so many avenues are already closed. At that point you’ll wish more than anything you hadn’t made some of your previous lifestyle decisions.
Health and wellbeing initiative #1 – Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the human ability to be fully present. Aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
While mindfulness is innate, it can be cultivated through proven techniques; short pauses you insert into everyday life. When you’re mindful, you reduce stress, enhance performance, and gain insight and awareness through observing your own mind.
Think of stress affecting the brain in a similar way to how simultaneously running too many programmes on your computer can impact it’s performance. Your brain is your computer and can become overloaded!
Simply pausing and taking a few deep breaths focuses you on a short single task to clear your mind. This allows you to refocus, make better decisions and ‘re-boot’ for the day ahead.
Health and wellbeing initiative #2 – Own your fitness
Being physically active is good for your body. FACT.
But isn’t it hard to get motivated to go for that run, or swim, or visit to the gym after a long hard day in the office! Every reason why you shouldn’t go comes to the front of your mind and then it becomes a battle of wills – between you and your inner voice.
Your key to success is to make your fitness programme a fixed part of your lifestyle, not merely an ‘optional extra’ which can be easily swapped or dropped.
Fitness is a lot like most things: consistency and common sense rule the day.
You can go all out for the extremes now and then. Such as training for a super marathon or getting ready for a tournament, but generally, your body will respond optimally if you train consistently, on a regular schedule, with a view to achieving marginal gains that lead to excellent health and wellbeing over time. And once you start to see the benefits your motivation kicks to another level.
However, the challenge is that most of us usually quit or ‘take a break’ before we see the benefits. We never quite experience the tipping point where exercise becomes a ‘must do’ and not a ‘have to’. Don’t fall into this trap.
Health and wellbeing initiative #3 – Make smart nutritional choices
The saying goes you are what you eat.
Fast paced living and a busy day in the office does not equal junk food, eating on the go or missing meals.
If you eat unhealthily, you cannot expect good health to follow. If you eat well however, good health becomes a much more likely outcome.
You have an obligation to yourself to create a healthy and balanced diet which includes a daily mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, a mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
It is so easy to grab the nearest chocolate bar or crisps to fulfil a hunger and/or sugar fix but the satisfaction will be short-lived. Instead, place a fruit bowl on your desk, fill it up with fresh fruit every Monday and your goal is to have eaten it all by Friday.
The discipline is to stick to it until it becomes habitual and the default mode for how you naturally eat and fuel your body.
Health and wellbeing initiative #4 – Relax and rest
One final suggestion to round of your health and wellbeing strategy is make sure you structure some downtime into your life. It’s good to be focused and driven, and to push yourself to excel … but it’s also good to just do nothing.
Being busy all the time is not sustainable.
In fact, it’s a perfect recipe for burnout, and burnout isn’t just a metaphorical thing. If you’ve ever experienced it or witnessed anyone else hit the proverbial brick wall, it’s very real and it’s incredibly difficult to recover from.
To me, there are two ways to unwind: there is rest, and there is relaxation, and the two aren’t entirely the same.
Rest is defined as an instance of resting, where work or movement is ceased in order to sleep, or recover strength. You rest when you are tired and when you go to sleep at night. Sleep and rest refresh your mind and repairs your body.
Most adults require between seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Without sufficient sleep, your bodies suffer a variety of physical and psychological impacts.
Relaxation on the other hand is the act of relaxing, and can be defined as the release of tension and the refreshment of the mind or body. Relaxation differs from rest, in that relaxation is your mind’s way of rejuvenating and ridding itself of stress.
While rest occurs while you are asleep, relaxation occurs while you are awake, and involves you engaging in activities that you enjoy.
Relaxing has been shown to improve our mood and cognitive functions, such as decision-making and memory, and it lowers the risk for depression, anxiety, and other heart-related issues.
Rest and relaxation work hand in hand and it’s important to invest time in both in order to optimise your mental and physical health.
In order to give your best, you have to be at your best.
If you do not look after yourself, whose going to do it for you?