Wellness is one of the popular buzzwords at the moment. When it comes to the detail, however, there seems to be a wide range of philosophies and opinions that just don’t concur.
In order to make sense of the wellness topic, let me share my evidence-based view. I conducted a research with a team of people in 2014 to gain a deeper understanding of this issue. The results clearly stated that there is a mismatch between how we are designed to operate versus how we try to work. As a result, very few of us are operating near our full capacity.
The good news is that the evidence also highlights that if we want to be at our best both in and out of the office, then we need to focus on six very clear areas that have been outlined below. Give yourself a score out of 10 on each of these six areas based on your own routine and you will have your very own wellness profile.
Having a diet or nutrition plan in place is just a guess without a thorough and accurate diagnosis of what your body needs right now. The smart thing to do is to get a complete blood work done with a nutritional expert. This way you can make sure you are fuelling your body with what it specifically needs.
Your brain needs blood flow to operate at a consistently high level. The good news is that 30 minutes of low intensity activity (such as walking) will suffice. Humans are not designed to be sedentary for longer than 45 minutes at a time, so it is important that you get up, stretch and get the blood moving regularly throughout the day. If you are managing a facility, you will probably not have much difficulty in getting sufficient activity, but make sure you remind yourself to get moving in order to operate at your peak performance level.
We can’t fight our body clock (circadian rhythms), but we can work with them to reboot and refresh. One common mistake is choosing to take technology to bed as this will stimulate the brain when the body is on the down cycle toward restorative sleep. The result is a disturbed sleep pattern and not nearly enough quality restoration. This can result in ‘sleep debt’ that is equivalent to being above 0.05 blood alcohol. Therefore, regular patterns and a good old-fashioned alarm clock is a great investment in quality and restorative sleep.
4) Social connections
Regardless of personality, we are a social species and our brain chemistry benefits from connecting regularly with positive people. Social withdrawal, however, is an early warning signal that pressure is having an impact. If you notice that you are becoming more withdrawn or isolated, make a commitment to step out and arrange a catch up with your friends and family.
5) Time out
Almost everyone I come across who is struggling with their wellness feels that they are too busy to take a break. Make time out a priority, as it’s a sustainability measure that just happens to be pleasurable as well. Whether it is a family holiday or just a weekend away, book it in now.
Your outlet is simply any activity, which engages your mind and body to the extent that you lose track of time. Yoga and surfing are good examples, as are gardening, golf and walking the dog. The neurological importance of unplugging from the everyday allows the brain to get back to a neutral state. We are not built to run from one adrenaline fuelled situation to the next and to attempt this results in an ‘illusion of effectiveness’ that’s not sustainable. If you don’t have an activity in mind, then finding one to do individually or with friends is important.
Now look at your scorecard and think of something practical that you will do differently to improve your low scores. Our research proved that by making small changes in the above categories, people were able to reduce stress by up to eight percent and workload pressure by up to 16 percent in six weeks.
We can respond to pressure in a healthy way simply by boosting these six factors. Unfortunately, in reality the opposite happens: we make poor food choices, become a slave to the desk, work longer hours, sleep less, avoid our friends, fail to take a break and rarely switch off. So to be at your best, you need to be selfish and look after your own wellness. In doing so, you’ll be more effective and successful over the short- and long-term.
Christopher Paterson is the managing director of ALCHEMY Career Management, a firm that supports individuals to transition their career, assists companies adapting to organisational change and delivers its trademark Wellness@Work programs for any organisation wanting to help staff be at their best.