Julie Stephens, Global Director of Wellbeing Health & Safety, Bupa
The way we live our lives and the pressures we have to cope with at work or at home are constantly changing. We all want to be efficient and effective, feel positive and in control but in reality, how can we actually achieve this on a daily basis? In this article, Julie Stephens, Global Director of Wellbeing, Health & Safety at Bupa, shares important habits we can all adopt to support our physical and mental wellbeing.
Now more than ever employers are recognising the importance of prioritising employee health and wellbeing. At Bupa, we want all our people to thrive and with this in mind, we developed Personal Energy – a programme designed to help colleagues understand what they need to focus on to stay physically and mentally well, fulfilled and happy in their work and personal life.
The programme is available to Bupa colleagues across the world and has recently been updated with our care home staff in mind.
It’s designed to help our people become aware of how they’re feeling, recognise when they’re becoming overwhelmed, learn habits which support their wellbeing, and think about small and sustainable changes they can make in their daily lives to benefit their health.
Good mental wellbeing is important for everyone. Here are some self-care habits we can all think about to help find positive ways to navigate our response to the demands we face in life:
For the body and mind to function properly we all need a decent night’s sleep. Sleeping well helps us to absorb knowledge, regulate hormone levels and relieve stress. It’s also fundamental for repairing the body and mind, and helping with energy, attention and creativity.
Top tip: Aim for 7 – 9 hours’ sleep a night, and make sure your bedroom is reserved for sleeping – eliminate all noise, bright lights, and stop using screens well before bedtime.
Our mental capacity is influenced by what we eat, for example eating foods with a low glycaemic (GI) index can help improve memory and attention. While healthy fats, such as those found in avocado, nuts and oily fish can boost brain function.
Top tip: Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, reduce your sugar consumption and ensure you stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water can also help you feel full, so you are less likely to reach for that unhealthy snack – often we feel hungry when we are actually thirsty!
Studies suggest adopting a regular and well-balanced physical exercise routine has a positive influence on our mood, productivity and satisfaction at work. Although we all know how important exercise is, long working days can prevent us from achieving the amount of exercise we’d like.
Top tip: Including 5 -10 minutes of physical exercise a day during working hours can help develop positive habits which we can build on when time is easier to manage. Try getting off the bus one stop earlier or taking a walk whilst you have your break – even just a small change can make a big difference to how you feel.
There are many proven relaxation techniques, but you need to think about what works best for you and what you can commit to regularly.
Top tip: Take regular breaks during the working day and focus your attention elsewhere so at the end of the day you can leave work without ruminating over the day’s events. If you can, get outside or have some kind of a nice view in front of you, pause, allow your mind to empty and just breathe, even just 2 minutes will help!
We’re all social creatures and having a good social support network reduces the risk of mental health problems. If we feel we’re being listened to and supported by someone else, it’s good for our self-esteem.
Top tip: Technology is great, but it’s no substitute for physical contact. Think about the people in your life who give you energy and you enjoy spending time with and meet up with them in person. Often combining habits can make them more likely to happen, for example exercising with friends gives you social contact AND exercise, and the combined impact is really positive.
Reframing is about being able to look at things from a different perspective and is an important skill which is fundamental to protecting our mental health.
Top tip: Acknowledge when you are being too critical of yourself or someone else and instead imagine what you would say to a friend if they were in your situation. We can be so self-critical, be kinder to yourself.
Your mind can only fully focus on one thing at a time. Jumping between tasks can drain energy. When we focus on one thing at a time, our subconscious helps us finish tasks quicker and more easily.
Top tip: Try to focus on one task at a time even when you’re busy and have regular breaks to clear your mind, quality not quantity is the key outcome
Regularly reflecting on the things and people we are grateful for can help us feel happier and more satisfied.
Top tip: Finish your day by thinking about three things you’ve genuinely appreciated about your day, no matter how small, and write them down.
Do you give yourself permission to look after yourself, or do you overcommit to other priorities at the expense of your own energy and wellbeing?
Top tip: Think about how you can free up time in your busy schedule. Can you stop any bad habits that waste your energy or even just change your routine to make things work better for you? Put yourself first more than you currently do.