In the New Year, at work, I will be running sessions on Wellbeing with a colleague from HR. The intention is that they will be voluntary to attend, since we’re not telling people how to live their lives we’re simply putting forward suggestions, based on nationally accepted sound advice, which may help.
The irony is that, at present, I’m not taking my own advice. I have a list of ailments as long as my arm which could probably be relieved if I took a little more care, or challenged the medication. Ah! The human condition – we’re born and we die and there’s this thing called ‘Life’ in between. And we may question the meaning of life. We may strive for a sense of purpose, and some of us may find an element of purpose in the work that we do, in being part of an organisation, sharing its goals, its values.
I may not be speaking just for myself, if I say that I rarely take the time to think of my health in the round. Many of us fail to consider the impact of things that we do, or don’t do, on our health – our chosen lifestyle.
And we rarely question what makes up our reality, or the nature of existence, how our brains make sense of the world around and within us (although there are examples of these questions in places like the New Scientist).
Of course, health is not just physical health but the whole of you, including mental health – your thoughts and feelings, how you interpret the world. And things that are good for the body, (like a balanced diet and exercise) are also good for the brain. What is ‘good for you’ is good for the whole of you, body AND mind. But we can’t expect to be happy all the time – it wouldn’t be human!
Our state of health affects who we are and how we may appear to others. But we may only think about our health when faced with our own mortality, for example, following an accident, or when someone close to us dies (Mum being an influence here).
These life experiences can be a source of stress. An old friend, both doctor and professor, often described the causes of stress in terms of six categories which you can count on the fingers of your hand, the palm being the sixth central factor – health. Poor health can be very stressful!
The other five factors are:
- Personality, and
How we respond to, and manage, these sources of stress can have a big impact on our mental health. Similarly, our state of mental health, as already mentioned, can affect the way we deal with stress. The government’s Labour Force Survey has shown that there are nearly half a million people (488,000) who say that that they have experienced stress, anxiety or depression, which has either been caused or made worse by their work.
And how can we control stress? Remember this 5 point advice from the 2008 Foresight Project by the New Economics Foundation:
- Connect – truly connect with other people, social networks, good friends
- Be active – take moderate to vigorous exercise (walk, run, dance, cycle or do the gardening) at least 150 mins a week
- Keep learning – look for something new every day; take a course in a new subject, a new recipe, learn to play an instrument, any challenge that you will enjoy achieving
- Take notice – be aware of the world around you: be curious, catch sight of the beautiful, remark on the unusual – poet
- Give – be generous, with your time, or simply offer to help, thanking someone or smiling is a form of giving
If you are in need of help. Do not be afraid to ask. If you don’t think it’s something you can share with your immediate friends or social network, then ask for help, either through talking therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy or confidential counselling services, or a charity like Mind or The Samaritans.
And then there’s salt. What’s the problem with salt? Too much raises blood pressure through water retention, harming kidneys with the pressure damaging the fine tube filters and the pressure also producing thicker arteries which can affect the heart and the brain (vascular dementia). Sources of salt are particularly high in many processed foods.
Advice from the NHS: to keep track of your salt intake, get into the habit of reading the nutritional information on food labels, where you will find the salt content for a 100g serving. Try to eat those foods that are high in salt less often, or in smaller amounts. As a rough guide:
- a high amount of salt is more than 1.5g per 100g
- a low amount of salt is 0.3g per 100g
And then there’s alcohol! Go easy on the wine…! I hesitate to list the side-effects of alcohol, so frequently used as a form of self-medication.
So for New Year’s Resolutions…because the world is so much more than surface…
Yes, I will write
of those precious
moments of naked love,
celebrate skin on skin
breath to breath
body on body.
Asking ‘how are you?’ can make all the difference.
See Mental Health First Aid’s Line Manager’s Resource