Nine self-care habits for better physical and mental wellbeing
Julie Stephens provides nine habits that can help relieve stress and promote physical and mental wellbeing.
Now more than ever employers are recognising the importance of prioritising employee health and wellbeing. With this in mind, Bupa developed Personal Energy. This is a programme to help their colleagues understand what they need to focus on to feel both physically and mentally well.
The programme has recently been updated to better suit frontline workers. For example, teams working in dental practices, with training delivered in shorter, more frequent sessions. This fits with the demands of their busy roles.
Bupa’s Personal Energy programme is designed to help people become aware of how they’re feeling. To recognise when they’re becoming overwhelmed and learn habits which support their wellbeing. It encourages them to think about small and sustainable changes they can make in their daily lives to benefit their health.
Bupa’s global director of wellbeing, health and safety, Julie Stephens, explains: ‘The way we live our lives has undergone constant change over the last two years. Many people are feeling the pressure – both at home and at work. Our dental colleagues worked tirelessly during the pandemic to keep their patients and teams safe, but the impact of this period on our mental and physical wellbeing shouldn’t be underestimated.
‘It’s important that everyone feels like they have access to support and coping strategies to help them be efficient and effective at work, as well as feeling positive and in control. And the good news is that there are steps we can all take to help achieve this on a daily basis.’
Here, Julie shares important habits we can all adopt to support our physical and mental wellbeing.
For the body and mind to function properly and to prevent long term conditions such as obesity, hypertension, cognitive decline and lowered immune response, we all need a decent night 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.
Aim for seven to nine 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 help improve your memory and your attention and healthy fats, such as those found in avocado, nuts and oily fish can boost your brain function.
Aim for five 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.
Including five to 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.
Excessive demands, both internal and external can cause us stress.This poses a serious health risk for us physically and mentally. There are many proven relaxation techniques. However, you need to think about what works best for you and what you can commit to regularly.
If you can, get outside or have some kind of a nice view in front of you. Pause and allow your mind to empty and just breathe. Even just two minutes will help!
Make sure you plan in some relaxing time and form a routine around it. This makes it less likely for day-to-day obligations or fatigue to stop you from relaxing.
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.
We’re all social creatures to a certain degree. Having a good social support network reduces the risk of mental health problems.
Talking to friends can provide useful feedback on our behaviours, thoughts and emotions. It can help us accept or challenge them. If we feel we’re being listened to and supported by someone else, it’s also good for our self-esteem.
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. 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. The combined impact is really positive.
Reframing is about being able to look at things from a different perspective. It’s an important skill which is fundamental to protecting our mental health. It’s about interpreting the situation in which you find yourself in a different way. You can appreciate another point of view, and find a better solution to problems.
Acknowledge when you are being too critical of yourself or someone else and go through the exercise of imagining 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. Allowing your mind to jump between tasks wastes time and drains energy. When we focus on one thing at a time, our subconscious helps us finish the tasks quicker and more easily.
Choose one or two priority tasks for each day 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.
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: take responsibility for your own self-care by thinking about how you can you free up more 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.
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