5 steps to a healthy, happy you
Every business needs to take a keen interest in the health of its employees. Healthy, bright-eyed, bushy tailed team members are happier, more productive, work better in teams as well as with clients, and produce a better quality of work. Working hard to stay healthy is a no-brainer!
Why your health is your principal priority
Sickness can overshadow everything else that is going on in your life. From indigestion to manic depression, repetitive illness symptoms eventually take their toll on your work, home and personal life. Those of us who suffer from a recurring condition will know just how easy it is for it to spiral out of control – not least because of the stress that accompanies any physical symptoms.
Whether your health is generally good, or whether you suffer from regular or repetitive sickness, there is a lot you can do, not only to avoid getting sick, but to ensure you’re running on high intensity fuel and enjoying being the best possible version of you! Getting into healthy habits can pay-off greatly and can make you feel better in everything you do, even if that’s just being you.
- WORK OUT
There’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that regular exercise can boost your immune system. Getting the blood pumping round your body does more than just burn fat, it improves the supply of nutrients into your vital organs and improves your energy levels.
Yes, it can feel a little tricky to incorporate workouts around your busy work life, but if you make your health your number one priority, you may be surprised at the ease with which regular fitness fits around your work and personal life.
Don’t make life hard for yourself. Yes, morning exercise might ‘set you up for the day’ but if you struggle to open your eyelids in the morning, consider making the gym or a run your last port of call after work. Your routines need to be sustainable. Getting healthy is not a short-term goal, so do something you enjoy doing. Exercise can offer all sorts of exciting benefits, from meeting new friends, to fitting into your favourite jeans, to feeling great around the clock.
Getting started tip: Join the gym and start gently. Do you like walking? Why not start with 3kms walks for week 1 whilst listening to an audio book rather than train for the Santiago Trail pilgrimage?
- MANAGE STRESS
“The best established link in terms of how lifestyle impacts the immune system is that stress levels relate to your immune system’s behaviour.” says Professor Daniel Davis (you may need to read that a few times). In essence, what the Prof is saying is that the stress levels in your life directly affect how well, or how unwell, you feel.
When you’re in a stressful situation, being told to avoid stress may sound like being asked to grow wings and fly around the room. However, there comes a time when you need to work out how you’re going to grow those wings. Remember, it’s not stress that kills us, but our reaction to it.
Getting started tip: Make a list of all the things in your life that create stress, from the biggest cause of stress to the smallest. Now, start by addressing the smallest stress point (this might involve talking to a manager, making a lifestyle change etc). Aim to make your smallest stress manageable or obliterate it altogether.
When you’ve worked through your smallest stress item, move to the next, larger one. You may find some larger stresses on your list are already starting to be addressed by the time you reach them.
Chronic long-term stress produces cortisol (no, not the mouthwash), which neutralises immune cells and makes you prone to sickness. Reduce your stress load and give yourself a fighting chance to stay healthy.
Rather than eating healthily in order to lose weight, why not make a commitment to eating a diet that aims to boost your energy and keep your system running smoothly?
What you eat not only impacts your short and long-term health, but can help keep stress at bay. Feeling comfortable in your gut can make you less likely to respond to stressors or react emotionally to testing situations.
Getting started tip: Shop for slow energy release foods that keep you from feeling hungry, particularly while at work – and never multitask while you’re eating, focus on enjoying being nourished.
“Sleep has a massive impact on the immune system,” says Dr Riddell. “It’s under the control of circadian rhythms and disturbing it can throw out your immune system.” Whether you believe in circadian rhythms or prefer drum and bass, advice on improved sleep and relaxation resonates strongly with all of us.
Do yourself a favour and arrange a haven of peaceful sleep every night. Scrimping on good quality of sleep can make you feel fuzzy, reduce how productive you are and leave you open to stress. Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day during lunch, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.
If you can, aim to carve out a full 8 hours sleep, but if you have trouble sleeping, experiment with ways to bring on the zeds. This might be a short pre-bed meditation, lavender oil on your pillow, the sound of breaking waves on a surf (think visualisation) or even a sleep hypnotism CD (Paul McKenna has a few of these on YouTube).
Getting started tip: For a better quality of sleep, avoid any caffeinated drinks after 2pm. Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.
- STAY CONNECTED
Loneliness is a fundamental antagonist of wellbeing and is a huge (and often silent) issue in UK society. Times are gently changing, and we don’t necessarily have the luxury of living close by family or close friends. Age, lifestyle, demographic, accessibility can all play a part in making us feel separated.
Most of us feel lonely some of the time, but many people live with chronic loneliness, which can bring on a range of health consequences, including physical pain.
In your quest for good health, don’t underestimate the power of connection. Learn to connect with yourself (learn to understand your physical and mental needs) and, importantly, connect with others in a way that is meaningful to you. This might be a creative project, a community project or a health or wellbeing related activity.
Getting started tip: It’s hard to feel lonely when you are excited about what you are doing. If connecting is hard for you, why not take a hobby to the next level? Whether that’s computer science or Tango lessons, there’s doubtless something on meetup.com near your work or your home.
Finally, if you’re an employer reading this, think about ways you can promote these initiatives. Not only will it make your team members happier and more productive – but they will love you more knowing that you care.