How to protect your mental and physical health.

Looking after our own well being and that of the team could help us through the dark and cold months of autumn and winter!

Why is that important?  Exercise gives our mood and mental well being a lift due to the release of serotonin and this may well help all of us to cope with the pressures and strains that we are all feeling due to the current circumstances.  Movement will be a welcome change from the time spent sat in front of a screen and sedentary at a desk, to help move our joints, muscles and ligaments to help prevent injury, pain and stiffness.  It will also provide a shift away from performance to find time and space to active recovery and relaxation.  This is important for us all to be able to perform professionally and personally and to be better able to combat the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

How do we get started? Some of us may have a well established exercise routine and some may not.  It is about finding some activity that you enjoy and have fun – that could be dancing, Zumba, boot camp, running, walking, yoga – the first step is to find something that you enjoy, either on your own or taught.  A guided class can give encouragement, ensure good technique and support from others.  It will be different for all of us – more than ever classes are available online live and recorded, so that you can follow your chosen activity from the safety of your own home.  Even if you are a very active person the opportunity to relax and have the permission to slow down, stretch and experience some mindfulness can bring additional and different benefits.

Usually there is a trigger point, start of the new year, after a celebration or holiday when you are feeling the effects of over indulging or partying – that pushes you to make a change in your lifestyle to make you feel better and better about yourself.

How do we get others started?  It needs to be packaged and set out to be enticing and accessible to encourage people to get involved; it needs inspirational people or stories to get it off the ground and more impetus to keep it going.  Above all it is about selling the benefits of getting together to take part in a group activity; to move a little more, to take in fresh air and nature (outside event) and benefit from the daylight and melatonin which will help us to sleep better.  Find the features and sell the benefits!

Is it all about physical exercise?  There are other elements to the well being story.  Guided breathing and relaxation are great for instilling peace and stillness in as little as 60 seconds which can create a helpful break from the constant activity and business in our lives.  Improving our diet and eating habits can make a huge difference in our well being – our stomachs are like a second brain and the bacteria living there will send messages to our brain and influence our mood.  So we need to encourage good bacteria in our gut to improve our overall well being.

What can we learn from other cultures?  In countries where there are  long cold and dark winters, they celebrate the dark with festivals, light, winter sports – they embrace the weather and approach with a different mindset.  In Scandinavian countries they have shorted working hours, more flexibility and actively take the time to get out doors in the day light and there society is designed holistically to embrace these measures.

What might we need to change?  We might need to

  • stagger start and finish times to allow people to go outside at the start of the day to get a blast of fresh air, natural light and nature
  • allow more flexible working hours to allow people to gain access to chosen physical activity
  • ask, listen and act upon feedback – ask your teams what support they would benefit from
  • think about diversity and the range of needs in your team – how could you provide some thing that will be accessible for different levels of activity and fitness
  • keep it fresh – have a range of strategies that you can mix up with
  • Keep it inspirational – have a speaker to a lunch and learn to inspire with new ideas – new recipes – guided meditation sessions

As a business leader, it starts with us to make this priority for ourselves and others, to lead the way by example, to ask and listen and then put together some initiatives with appropriate messaging.  Seek some help from those who are expert in this – it is not just about exercise, mindfulness and diet are just as important.  Hope these helpful ideas will give you a  kick start to changing the way that we view winter and help to build some resilience and well being capacity.