August 13, 2018
It’s really hard to know how you’re going with your health goals if we think beyond the typical weight loss measures of kilos on the scale or centimetres on the tape measure. Tracking your progress is one of the best ways to keep you accountable, plus provides a good motivator for smaller goals that are achieved along the way.
We often find with our clients that the scales and weight loss may not be shifting, despite consistent exercise and clean balanced eating. Unfortunately, health is not as simple as calories in and calories out, with elements like sleep, stress, a sense of purpose, confidence, and of course happiness all playing a part in contributing to our health.
The figures from the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) tell a clear story, with the Centre establishing that human wellbeing is the single most important issue for our population, economy and way of life. In other words, we can’t afford to leave wellbeing to the individual only anymore if we are to create a thriving society and country. Mental illness alone costs the Australian economy $190 billion each year, or 12% of GDP! This is the equivalent of nine million days of work every year.
High performing workplaces have been found to have significant competitive advantages compared to their peers such as:
Up to three times more profitable
25% more innovative
23% better at retraining new employees
12% more productive
The research shows that if an organisation is not looking at wellbeing, then you won’t have great productivity, will lack innovation, and you won’t be an employer of choice.
Corporations are starting to acknowledge the role that they play on employees’ health, and overall there is a move towards dealing with our health proactively rather than reactively. Employee wellbeing has previously been seen by many as too subjective and obscure to have any tangible ROI or measurable way to demonstrate the effectiveness of programs targeting this.
Introducing an index which measures key elements of overall employee experience, which can be benchmarked to other industries and tracked over time, not only allows workforces to be better equipped to have effective wellness initiatives, but also empowers employees to take personal responsibility with their health, supported by their employer.
At EBM, we created a new index for measuring overall wellbeing in the corporate space. The creation of this index went through a rigorous research process (we won’t bore you with the details!) but allows you to compare your individual scores, industry scores, and compared to the broader corporate Australia rating. All in a quick 5 minute survey! You can see our model that includes four sub-indexes for the key categories.
If you’re interested in getting your own score or getting your organisation involved, email us to find out more!
For the month of June we’re going to check in with your health. Our innate connection to nature extends to the cycles that it experiences every season. Winter is a time for rest, recharge and internalisation. If we try to keep at pace throughout this time without taking the due rest, the body overrides and forces us to do so by making us sick.
So this week’s mind blog is all about doing an overall health check. The World Health Organisation describes good mental health as: ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’. Here at EBM, we don’t think it’s good enough to just coast through life feeling lethargic and overwhelmed. We want you to be feeling 100% as much of the time as possible!
Below we explore some of the ways to assess the state of your health, and how to allow self-reflection during this time.
Whenever we run corporate wellness workshops, the question of “who is stressed?” never fails to raise a majority of hands. Stress is now more than ever a daily part of life, and it is causing all sorts of havoc in our bodies (read more HERE).
Testing your level of stress can be important for beginning to understand the triggers of your stress and thus ways to mitigate it. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. It helps to determine what degree certain situations are considered to be stressful for each person.
Some example questions include:
“In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?”
“In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?”
“In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?”
Being open and honest with your answers not only allows you to identify your own pain-points, but carves the path to a solution much more clearly.
If you’re interested in learning more about your levels of stress, you can take the short survey HERE.
We talk about sleep a lot, only because it’s so important to how we feel overall. Research tells us that we all need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night (yes even if you’re superman/woman).
So the first part of the sleep test is to identify how many nights on an average week you would achieve those 7-9 hours. If it is more than 4, that is classified as a passing. If it is less, then techniques can be applied to help you achieve this.
But we also want the QUALITY of the sleep to be as good as the quantity. The second part of the test is how many times you wake up during the night. If it’s more than zero (yes that’s right!) then it’s important to look at what is triggering these wakeups and work on reducing them.
We’ve spoken on the importance of hydration before, but this test is also two pronged. The first part is to take stock of the amount of water that you’re drinking everyday, and get that number up to 2L a day (to learn techniques on HOW click here).
The second part is to identify the number of alcoholic beverages per week. Research says 1-2 per day is ok, but many people often mistaken this to mean you can cumulate them and use all of your numbers on the weekend. It’s also good to have some alcohol free days as well. Alcohol also affects your hydration levels, so even one drink means you need to up your water intake significantly.
Solution: Mindfulness and Meditation
Having a health check is a great way to gain a snapshot into your current health situation, but where to from there? Many health coaches do health checks, only to then leave clients high and dry for the solutions to the problems that have been identified.
As this month is focusing on the mind, the solution we are focusing on is practising mindfulness and meditation. With Winter signalling a time for turning inwards, this is one of the BEST times to learn or deepen your meditation practice (you can learn HOW to here).
Doing daily check-ins with yourself to see what has stressed you and turn that around by focusing on what you’re grateful for will cumulate into positive changes to your daily mindset. A great mindfulness exercise is to spend a few minutes at the end of each day writing down three things you are grateful for. Even the smallest things can make the day worthwhile when focusing on them.
In next week’s body blog we’ll be talking about a fitness assessment, so tune in to see how you stack up!
To wrap up the month of May we have Dr Peter Romero giving us the insights on all things health, turning vegan, and alternative medicine. It’s very interesting to hear from a doctor who is very progressive and and open to preventative and holistic health. We wish all doctors could think this way! In any case, let’s jump straight into this interview and hear about how the Western Medicine side are thinking.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you decided to get into medicine?
I was born in Coffs Harbour in 1958 and lived on a small farm in Bonville growing up. I attended a local 3 teacher primary school and then public high school. I had appendicitis aged11 and that and a wish to do something to help others and have an interesting job made me decide to be a doctor at age 12. I started medicine before my 18th birthday and graduated from Sydney University before my 23 birthday. I spent 4 years residency at Westmead Hospital where I decided that rural general practice was what I wanted to do. I am now in my 32nd year of private practice in Nelson Bay.
Western Medicine has obviously come a long way in accepting the more alternative and Eastern forms of medicine, but where do you think the future of Western Medicine will go?
That may be an assumption from talking to me. I am not sure that it has become all that more accepting overall. Western medicine on the face of it tries to adopt the “Scientific Approach” for treatment. Unfortunately it is all about the treatment of disease and not about health promotion. In general we treat a society that believes that we can cure a lot more than we can, and believes there must be a pill for everything. For example, many smokers with emphysema can’t believe there is no cure.
Yes it seems the difference between Western and Eastern medicine is treating symptoms versus finding the cause respectively! There’s definitely room to grow in Western medicine for looking to be more preventative rather than reactive.
Do you think there’s a place for doctors to be suggesting these more alternative methods of healing to patients such as certain dietary changes or mindfulness and meditation exercises to help with anxiety and depression?
YES. 70% of the disease we treat is caused by lifestyle. Poor diet ( despite everyone believing the contrary), lack of exercise, being overweight (2/3 of the population), plus stress, poor rest and sleep, are all lifestyle factors contributing to 70% of diseases. Most people do not realize that diet, lack of exercise and stress are responsible for much of the depression and anxiety that we experience. Type 2 Diabetes and Ischaemic Heart Disease are increasing exponentially and are totally preventable with lifestyle changes. We can be doing this work as doctors to work to heal this rather than just give another pill.
70% is such a big number! It almost seems like we’re trying to make ourselves sick with all those areas you mentioned! What relationship do you see doctors having with holistic health coaches in the future? I.e. is it congruous and work in unison or is it more at odds with each other?
Many fail to appreciate there is a continuum from optimal health through to only fair health before the onset of disease. I am frustrated that so many settle for mediocre instead of aiming for abundant health. Many wait for a crisis before valuing their health. Society needs re-education. Doctors can help but so few listen from my experience. I am hoping for more prevention. I value holistic health coaches but too few in society do. Doctors will go on treating disease much of which could have been prevented. Health coaches can provide information and motivation in that preventive health sphere.
It’s definitely something that I think many health coaches can relate to in that frustration of settling for mediocre health. That’s a great way to put the relationship between doctors and health coaches – one of complimenting each other but there is a long way to go before Western medicine as a whole accepts the role that health coaches play! They’re not all as forward thinking and prevention focused as you.
We understand that you’re a vegan going on almost four years now? What made you decide to make that change and what differences have you seen in your health from it?
Prior to switching to an almost completely “Plants as grown” diet almost 4 years ago I was semi- vegetarian (remember that beer and chips is vegan but not healthy!). I then read “The China Study” and watched the DVD “Forks over Knives” and then became involved in the CHIP- Complete Health Improvement Program. I lost 5 kg without limiting food volume and got a whole lot more energy and felt younger with less aches and pains.
There is so much information out there now on what the benefits are of cutting out animal protein and you just listed some great sources there. It’s all well and good to read something or watch a documentary on WHY we should do it, but it’s HOW to make the switch that often trips people up. What would be your top tips for someone trying to start a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle? How do you make the change sustainably?
There are 2 ways; see which works for you. The easiest seems to be “Double the Good and Halve the Bad” and just keep taking steps in the right direction. The other is just “Jump in the Deep End”. Although this seems more radical it takes 21 days for our taste buds to change. Get a coach or attend a program. Involve a friend, keep a diary. Involve exercise and meditation at the same time so you are making changes on the whole rather than just your diet.
Ok so finally, what is your most important advice to your patients who are looking to improve their overall health?
Lots of fruit and vegetables; 5 serves may not be enough.
Move; the more the better. Find something you can enjoy.
Sorry that’s 2 but they are both so important!
There’s been a lot of chat in the past couple of months about Millennial’s, and various ‘experts’ coming forward to say why they aren’t able to afford a house, or keep a job, or prosper in life. The most famous is this one from Steven Sinek on Millennial’s in the workplace.
There’s been a range of ideas put forward as to how we can save for what we’ve been wishing for, from cutting down on a daily coffee to eliminating our beauty regimes, and stopping overseas travel. While it seems ludicrous to our grandparents that we would do all these things when trying to save for a house, are they now considered essentials in our daily life or can we afford to cut them out?
One area that seems to be costing anyone who works a corporate job, which these days consists of much more than just the traditional 9-5pm, is food. On average if you spend $10 on takeaway lunch everyday, that’s $50 a week and $2,400 for a 48-week year. Compounding this is dinners out, with an average spent of $40 3 times a week, that’s $120. Per year that equates to $6,240 and this doesn’t take into account expensive weekend meals or holiday feasts.
As we start to put financial and other goals on our list as we get older, saving starts to become that much more important. With compounded interest on that saving of $8,640 (lunches and three dinners out) per year that’s the equivalent to $47,741 over 5 years and $108,573 over 10 years. Throw your daily coffee into the mix and that’s quite a nice little savings jar!
So how can we save $8,640 a year to do this? One answer to this: meal preparation. You do not have to be a body builder to nail meal prep, and you do not have to think of meal prep as just chicken and broccoli. The health benefits of meal preparation go beyond the financial savings that you’ll make. When you know what is going into your food you are in control of exactly what you’re eating, and there’s no secret sauces or hidden ingredients that are hindering your health goals.
If you can just dedicate a few hours on the weekends to your meal prep the “I don’t have time or the energy” argument becomes a mute point. So how do you do it?
1. Find 20 Recipes.
20 may not seem like a lot, but as you get into meal prepping you only use about 10-20 recipes for the whole year. You’ll find ones that are your favourite and that you have down pat and are easy to prepare. Focus on recipes that are quick and easy and require little preparation time. They should integrate your three key macros: protein, carbohydrates and fats in the correct proportions.
2. Take a Cooking Class.
It seems that knowing how to cook delicious and wholesome food has become a bit of a mystery. While many will argue that great cooking is an art, unlike other creative endeavours ANYONE can create good food. Learning from the pros is not only a fun way to experiment with food, but it also provides you with some great fundamental skills and will add to your recipe base.
3. Experiment with Herbs and Spices.
If you want to make your food go from good to great, you need to get comfortable with using different flavours. Herbs and spices are the easiest and healthiest way to add depth and taste to your meals. You’ll start to learn what you like combining together and which flavours you prefer. If you want to really go above and beyond, you can start your own herb garden on your balcony. Having the fundamentals like basil, rosemary and thyme can give you an endless supply of herbs at your fingertips!
4. Dedicate 3 Hours a Week.
When we cook throughout the week it can get tiring, messy and blowout into hours of preparation, cooking, and cleaning. If instead you set aside 3 hours on the weekend to do all of this, you cut down the time that you need to spend overall and particularly during the week when you arrive home from work. Set yourself up with your breakfast, lunch and dinner containers with everything cut up, cooked if possible, and ready to just be reheated or thrown in the oven. Our favourite tip is having glass jars with all your vegetables already chopped up so when you get home you just need to switch on the oven, throw them on a tray, and cook!
5. Rinse and Repeat.
Fortunately in this domain practice makes perfect. As you start to find the 10-15 recipes that you like each week, you’ll become more efficient and quicker at preparing those foods. Make it a ritual that you dedicate the time to yourself on the weekends to be fuelling your body for the week with nutritious and healthy foods.
Saving money is a great way to motivate yourself to eat healthy. Create a list of goals that you want to achieve with specific timeframes and see the dollars you are saving from meal preparation going towards helping you make them!
Founder of E|B|M Angela has a birthday coming up this week, so in celebration of this we’re talking all things related to milestones.
You’ll commonly see lists like “30 by 30” or “50 by 50” that people set themselves as goals to achieve by a certain timeline. Not only do these lists help to set plans and timelines in place, but they are a fun way to put together a bucket list to do by yourself, with your friends, or with your significant other.
Today we’re putting together a top 10 list that you may find some inspiration for your own list no matter what age you are! The important thing with lists like this is that you only put elements on there that personally relate to you and that you consider important! Find yourself a comfortable space in the sunshine or rugged up on your lounge and get creative.
NOTE this is not a typical “achievement list”; this is looking through the lens of ENERGY|BODY|MIND of creating a healthier and happier YOU.
#1 Set a five and ten year plan: if the word ‘plan’ makes you run in the opposite direction then this one is DEFINITELY for you. As we get older the years seem to absolutely fly by. Before you know it, Christmas is here again and another year is over, but you can’t seem to think about what you’ve achieved in that last 12 months. Having a longer term plan can help time to slow down, with smaller milestones set along the way to achieve the bigger plan. It also means that your decisions become geared towards this goal on a daily basis, and instead of floating through each day, week, month or year, you can depend on your life goals to guide you. You may even put some of these things from the list in it.
#2 Find your significant other: You don’t need to have an engagement or marriage on your list (although if that is important to you then you definitely can!) but finding your significant other is an honourable quest. Finding that one person that you want to spend a majority of your life with and who has similar goals and values to you can make life just that little bit sweeter. However, a huge realisation is that this significant other cannot fulfil ALL your desires from another human. They cannot act as your best friend, confident, lover, philosophical dreamer, lifelong partner, or whatever is on that never ending list. Your significant other is the person you want to share a life with and follow your dreams simultaneously with. They will inherently understand you, respect you, and want the same life goals as you. You’re going to need a whole tribe for everything which takes us to #3.
#3 Create your tribe: They say it takes a community to raise a child so we believe it takes a tribe to raise an adult. You are the result of the top 5 people you spend the most time with, and with time being so precious, choosing those people is crucial to your overall mental and physical health. We talked about finding your tribe but for your list it’s great to seek out people who are in a similar position to you, or ones that are where you are striving to be as an inspiration. Having people in your life that push you and support you will help make this life much more fun.
#4 Fire up those neurons: The neurons are like trees that have beautiful leafy branches stemming off them when we are young. Unfortunately as we get older, these branches start to wilt and some even die and fall off UNLESS we use them. The best way to fire them up and stimulate new growth is to learn a musical instrument or learn a language. It’s a difficult concept for our brain and the effort required is what fires up those trees to be sustainable and grow. Plus it gives you a great excuse to travel!
#5 Travel somewhere you find a little uncomfortable: We’d all like to spend time on a European holiday relaxing in the sunshine with not a care in the world. While those holidays are great, it’s also good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try a holiday that makes you a little bit uncomfortable. It can be somewhere with a different culture, a different language, or maybe just a different timezone but in any case, it’s somewhere that will help you to develop a cultural awareness and give you personal growth. Ideas include spending time meditating in India, or volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! We’re not saying find somewhere unsafe, just something that pushes you a little outside your comfort zone; that’s where the magic happens.
#6 Start saving and pay off your debt: In the day and age of credit cards it seems all too easy to just buy things that you can’t afford “right now” in the hope/anticipation that you will get the money in the future. Some of the most successful people have cut up their credit cards and live ONLY off what they have in the bank. Having debt on a credit card not only puts you behind the eight ball for future savings but it acts like a constant dark cloud of any spending. Work out a 1 month, 6 month, 12 month plan of paying off the debt and then start to put away savings each week for something in your longer term plans. It’s amazing what just a little bit now adds up to.
#7 Find an interesting hobby: Do you have a hobby at the moment? You’d be one of the few. It’s amazing to talk to people who HAVE a hobby compared to those who don’t. The passion and flow of conversation that a hobby can create is contagious and extremely attractive. It could be something extravagant like sailing, or something simple like cooking. In either case, it’s something that inspires you and drives you to learn.
#8 Learn how to cook: You don’t have to be on Masterchef but learning how to cook can change your life. Not only will your finances be much better off if you’re not having weeknight dinners out and brunches every Saturday but you’ll know what’s going into the foods you’re eating and be in a greater position to meet your health goals. Plus, doing a cooking class or course is a fun outing to do with friends!
#9 Complete a sporting event: This doesn’t have to just be for the fitness fanatics out there! There are LOTS of sporting events available for any level from a 5km fun run to an ironman triathlon. Participating in a sporting event gives you a goal to work towards and also provides a great personal sense of achievement when you complete it. Once you start, it often creates the momentum for bigger and better ones in the future and you can introduce some fun competition with others to get involved.
#10 Give your time: Purpose and passion are two of the greatest traits that we are all in search of. While it’s not possible for us all to have our dream job that means we wake up looking forward to Monday’s, we can however determine what happens during our own time. Volunteering your time for a cause near and dear to you will heighten your own sense of worth but also provide an invaluable asset to those in need. Even better, make it a regular occurrence; do it once a week, a month, or even a year.
This list goes fundamentally to your self development to help you to be a better person not only for others, but also for yourself. If we stop growing, we die, both in the physical and the mental sense. So keep striving for better.
Wrapping up the month on synchronicity and listening to your intuition, we’ve secured yogi Nicole Belliveau from the Byron Yoga Centre to take us through her little tips and tricks. Nicole started yoga at a young age now is a host and teacher at the Byron Yoga Centre. She also trained as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is passionate about all things health and wellness.
So let’s get into the interview!
Nicole can you tell us a little about your background and how you wound up at the Byron Yoga Centre?
I am a Canadian who grew up with an active lifestyle but poor quality food. Somewhere in the transition from mcnuggets to quinoa, I took a leap and studied Holistic Nutrition. While learning about food science and the healing benefits of whole foods, real transformation happened. Now as a Holistic Nutritionist, I have a much healthier relationship with food and nourish myself with an organic plant-based diet.
I started practicing yoga at a young age almost 10 years ago. It started off as another form of physical exercise but slowly I started to feel the benefits on deeper levels. On my mat was the first time I truly connected with myself. It is where a lot of my healing and self-love happens.
In January 2016, I arrived at the Byron Yoga Centre to study and become a yoga teacher. After the course finished, I asked to volunteer for a few weeks to soak in all the knowledge I gained and the beauty of the centre. Over a year later, I still haven’t left! I now have the privilege to be one of the Retreat Hosts; I teach some yoga classes and wellness workshops, ensure the retreats run smoothly and most importantly that the guests are happy and relaxed. I feel blessed every day to be in a position that allows me to grow in a healthy environment surrounded by like-minded people.
Wow what a journey to end up there permanently. It’s funny how life takes us to the places we need. How do you keep balanced and centred with so much going on? What’s your secret tip?
I don’t have one specific tip but rather a combination of habits that make up a healthy lifestyle that invites vitality and clarity to take the best step forward. I make an effort to eat nutrient-dense living foods, practice meditation and yoga, ensure adequate sleep, spend time in nature and fill my mind with content that inspires me to be and live better. Some days I slip off the health wagon but i’ve learned to accept this and not be too hard on myself. Reminding myself what I am grateful for, to breathe deeply and be present helps me stay positive and get back on track.
It’s nice to know that even yogi’s can fall off the bandwagon – makes us mere mortals feel a little better! We’re talking a lot about synchronicity and intuition this month. That can include things like finding your own tribe with similar interests, listening to what your body needs for nutrition, choosing the movement exercises that work for you, and finding time for yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have tapped into your intuition?
For me, tapping into our intuition is connecting to our true self, in the present and using it to guide our thoughts and actions. When we are aligned with this inner wisdom, it is easier to recognize what will serve our highest good and purpose. Our intuition always speaks to us but sometimes there are distractions that get in the way.
When I feel disconnected, I make an effort to get out of my head to reduce the noise it creates and get more into my heart. Often this takes place with eyes closed, breathing deeply, focusing on my heart space on my mat, immersed in nature or reading with a lit candle and herbal tea. Books such as Rebecca Campbell’s Light is the New Black and Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit, have helped me see the world in a whole new light and tap into parts of myself I didn’t know existed.
Getting out of the “should” mentality and more into exploring how I truly want to feel, helps to gain clarity and be in the flow of life. I also find that when I let myself write organically in my journal, I connect to what I need to be reminded of. To stay true to my authenticity, I will add that I am still working on all of this. The more I practice these rituals, the more I spend time in connection with my intuition and synchronicity happens.
It seems like continuing to learn and grow is so important for all of us. So from a yogi’s point of view, what are the best ways to being open to and listening to your own intuition?
Patanjali’s Yoga sutras teach us to apply the principles of Ashtanga (8 limbs). Included in these steps are how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, compassion for self and others, self-discipline, mindfulness, pranayama (breath exercises), meditation, asana and eventually for some, enlightenment. His teachings are very in depth but some key points are mindfulness, deep breathing, reflecting before reacting, and moving the body to eliminate stagnant energy. When the limbs are practiced, openness and intuition can flow with ease.
That point you made about the “should” mentality is a trap many of us fall into! We need to really disassociate ourselves with that and focus on what we really want. So finally Nicole what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to align themselves with their future goals and vision?
1. CLARITY: For true alignment to happen, the goals need to be in sync with our true desires. Once we get clear on how we want to feel, we can use this as our compass rather than what we “should” be going for. Having clarity on HOW to reach the vision is also essential to achieving the goals. There is something powerful about writing on paper our goals and the actions step necessary to make them happen. Being realistic, taking it one step at a time and writing a date to have them accomplished by will help the transition towards the end goals.
2. PERSONAL GROWTH: “To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are” –Jim Rohn. By investing in ourselves with books, podcasts, documentaries and people that stimulate us to grow and change our mindsets, our lives change radically. Happiness is an inside gig – Our perceptions, thoughts and beliefs are what shape our lives. By changing our internal world, the outside world becomes aligned with our energy and the grass gets greener.
3. SELF-LOVE: To remind ourselves that we are GOOD ENOUGH. To have compassion and kindness towards ourselves along the journey. Even if the process doesn’t go as planned or we make mistakes, all is well. Underlying the actions, there needs to be love and trust. Self-love also includes taking time for ourselves and resting (which is very different to laziness). In our busy go-go-go lives, we need to create balance by slowing down and recharging ourselves. Learning to receive, saying no to the things that do not serve us and putting ourselves first are also part of this loving process.
All points that I need to remind myself of!
Thanks so much for your time Nicole it’s been a pleasure.
Photo credit: Simon Hunter simonhunterphotography.com
If you’re in Australia (and particularly Sydney), you would’ve felt the sudden change in temperate that signals Summer is over and Winter is fast approaching (bar maybe this beautiful Easter weekend we had!). There is a briskness in the morning air, the afternoon light fades much too quickly, and the nights require some form of blanket as opposed to a thin sheet.
While Autumn brings with it a beautiful time of year, it is also a reminder of the colds and flus that are on their way. However, there are both preventable and reactionary measures that can be taken in response to this seasonal change.
But firstly, what’s the difference between a cold and the flu? A cold can be either viral or bacterial, and (brace yourself) the difference is understood by the colour of the mucus that is produced. If it’s clear, then it’s a viral cold and will pass on its own. If the mucus is coloured and has lasted for more than 7 days, the cold has turned bacterial and it’s probably best you speak to your doctor about a course of antibiotics.
The actual ‘flu’ is caused by the influenza virus and can cause serious to severe complications. The flu can lead to other conditions, like pneumonia, and takes a lot longer to recover from than a typical cold. Unfortunately, because the flu is caused by a virus (and not bacteria) antibiotics will not do you any good and it comes down to the old fashioned methods of recovery.
So what are the best ways to PREVENT getting sick this winter?
1. Take a daily probiotic. Gut health is extremely important to your overall health, with 80% of your immune system in your digestive system. Throw your gut health out of whack and you open up the body’s virtual door to any virus or bacteria that want to come in.
Probiotics provide good bacteria that is needed for a healthy digestive system. Taking a probiotic every morning BEFORE breakfast will help improve your general wellbeing, your digestive health, and most importantly for this time of year, your immunity.
2. Hit your sleep targets. With the first quarter of the year already done and dusted, work often ramps up at this time of year with KPI’s and targets a constant stress.
Surviving the Winter period will mean putting sleep down as one of your own personal KPI’s as it is the primary source of restoration and recovery for the body. Aim to get between 7-9 hours every night, and of high quality (i.e. no disruptions) in order to get the most benefit.
3. Take your vitamins. Vitamin C is one of the most UNDERATED vitamins on the market. Vitamin C not only promotes the production of healthy white blood cells to fight off infections, but also helps the body to develop healthy lungs and respiratory tissue. Vitamin C is so high in antioxidants that it repels infective organisms in the airways to stop them taking over. Adding to this, Zinc and Echinacea are also wonder vitamins and herbal remedies that work both preventatively and during an infection.
Take Vitamin C preventatively in powder form (Melrose does a great range of the powders) with a quarter to half a teaspoon a day. You can also take Armaforce, which is a tablet combining all of the above.
4. Get the flu shot. For the actual flu, the only way to avoid it is the injection. While it doesn’t cover EVERY strain, it covers the main ones. It won’t stop you from getting colds but it will stop you from being knocked out and bedridden for two weeks.
Your local chemist now does flu injections where they usually have set visiting hours for walk-ins, or you can make an appointment with your local doctor.
5. Listen to your body. This month we’re talking about listening to your intuition and your body. This applies to how you’re feeling physically as well. One of the worst things we see are clients who feel the initial stages of a cold coming on and push themselves to keep going – working, exercising, going out. This will DOUBLE the time that it takes to recover.
If however you stop yourself early on at the first sign of symptoms and rest, recover, and take some time out, the cold will be gone significantly faster than if you had tried to push through. It’s also best to stay at home and not pass it around the office so that everyone experiences what you are!
Ok so that’s the prevention. What about if the virus does get through all these barriers? Because some just manage to slip through the cracks no matter how hard you try. Well, it takes double the effort (sometimes literally) and we’ll cover that in next week’s blog!
For the month of March, we’re talking about stress, and the ways that we can manage it. Stress is something that we can’t avoid, but if we learn the tools and techniques to control it, then we can go a long way to creating a healthier and happier life.
It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but exercise can be one of the best measures to immediately and sustainably reduce stress. After all, exercise is known to increase cortisol – the stress hormone – so how can it also manage it?
On the one hand, stress weakens the brain, particularly the part responsible for your memory. Conversely, exercise promotes the production of neuro-hormones that are responsible for learning, and improved cognitive function. So we now know that just by increasing your heart rate through exercise, you can start to immediately reduce the impacts of stress. There are a few other positives that you can get from exercise that relate to reducing stress:
1. It creates a sense of calm. Stress can really take control of your life. When you think about your never-ending ‘to-do list’ in both your work and personal life, everything can feel somewhat overwhelming and cause the body to try and shut down. Regular exercise can provide structure to your otherwise chaotic life. It is a great way to train the body to get into a rhythm, and as human beings we crave this.
2. It gives you a hit of the ‘feel good’ hormone. When we’re stressed, our self-confidence often takes a hit. Exercise helps to boost the production of endorphins, so that ‘high’ that you get after you exercise (and often for hours after) is not imagined. It improves your confidence and your decision making abilities to keep you switched on for the whole day.
3. It helps with your breathing. Ancient wisdom used to count a persons life by the number of breaths they took, so learning techniques to slow down the breathing were highly regarded. When we exercise, it forces the body to learn how to take deeper and more controlled breaths and be more efficient with oxygen. The more efficient your body becomes with regular exercise, the better your breathing. When we have calm and controlled breathing, we feel physically and mentally calmer and in control.
4. It helps your heart. Heart issues are one of the biggest killers in Australia. While exercise is a great way to get over a broken heart, it also helps with your physical heart health. Linked to #3, when you start to breathe diaphragmatic (nice deep breaths into the belly), the diaphragm gives the heart a gentle massage. This massage keeps the heart beating in a controlled and consistent manner and is also a sign to the body to switch on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) where our body focuses on digesting and resting.
5. It will improve your sleep. This one is all but guaranteed. Not only does the research tell us that exercise helps us to sleep, but I’ve SEEN it in all of my clients. I had clients who were previously on multiple sleeping pills and potions be able to wean themselves off them all just from taking up exercise. The benefits of getting a good nights sleep are second to none!
So if you’re feeling stressed, try to get moving. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous gym class or bootcamp (though they are great). Something as simple as walking regularly is shown to have access to all of the above benefits. A walk around the block before an important meeting can be a great way to calm the nerves, or a run after work can be one of the best ways to de-stress after a busy day. Exercise is one of the BEST remedies you can implement to manage your stress – and it’s FREE!
Research has recently come to light that if you live in a neighbourhood surrounded by trees, shrubs, and chirping birds, then there is less chance for you to suffer from anxiety or stress.
According to researchers, lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. But can it really be that simple?
People are increasingly spending time indoors, and with the majority of the day for most spent inside at a computer, it’s no wonder that we’re starting to see the health detriments to society.
The link between the role of nature for our mental well-being has long been established, yet many still fail to get their daily dose of the outside world.
There are several ways that you can try to up the dose of nature in your daily life:
1. Exercise outdoors. Gym memberships can be an astronomical cost, with some gyms demanding up to $100 a week from some of their members. Exercise doesn’t have to be such a costly exercise, AND doing it outdoors gives you a considerable chunk of your day connecting with nature. Go for a walk / jog / run, complete a circuit in your local park, join an outdoor bootcamp at lunchtime; the options are out there!
2. Take a break. I actually think smokers have this one down pat the best. While I don’t advocate for smoking in any way, the one thing that they do best is take breaks regularly outside! Back in my corporate life, I used to get the smokers of the office to come and take me on their ‘smoko breaks’ as a reminder to get outside. As long as I stood upwind, it was a great chance for me to get a few extra minutes outside with nature and re-centre before heading back into the office. A great way to boost your productivity as well!
3. Implement outdoor meetings. I’ve spoken about this before, but on top of having walking meetings (or if that’s not possible), get your meetings outside. Technology has meant that we can be very mobile and portable with our ideas, so take the meeting to a café with an outdoor area, or meet in a bigger space that has access to sunshine and all the elements. It’s amazing how refreshed you’ll feel afterwards compared to being stuck in an air-conditioned building.
4. Convert your commute. We often become so stuck in our ways that we forget the various options we have for commuting. You can walk/jog/run all or part of the way, ride a bike, ride a skateboard/scooter, get creative! Getting up that little bit earlier or getting home just that little bit later will be worth it for your mental and physical health.
5. Bring nature to you. While working outside or out of an office is not a reality for all of us, we can try and bring some of the elements from the outside in. Invest in a plant or succulent that you can have in the office and encourage others to ‘green up’ the space. Research has shown that just looking at nature can help you to feel more relaxed, so when that deadline is becoming overwhelming, or you’ve received a passive aggressive email from a colleague, or your boss is breathing down your neck, you just need a few minutes staring at something green and natural to calm the mind.
So while the headline grab of ‘birds improve mental health’ may be a little simplified, this study does uncover the role primary components of nature contribute toward our mental health. Integrating nature into our daily lives highlights the benefits of preventative healthcare and encourages us as a society to make our cities a healthier place to live.
How was your sleep last night? Did you get a solid, uninterrupted 8 hours of bliss? If you’re like most people, last night probably looked more like dragging yourself to bed once you’d reached complete exhaustion, tossing and turning, waking up randomly at 3am and feeling wide awake, then being rudely awoken by your alarm. Sound familiar?
There’s a spectrum of the quality of sleep between the complete bliss and the complete nightmare, and if you’re sitting closer to the latter then it’s time for a reset.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything from pills and potions to plants and night-lights, a new study from the University of Colorado has shown that there may be a much simpler way and it comes from the great outdoors.
Think about the way that our ancestors used to live, they’d rise with the sun and go to sleep with the sun. Their circadian rhythm was very much dependent on natural light which kept the body clock in check.
Fast forward to the way we live and we are not only deprived of natural light, spending hours under artificial lighting in office blocks, but we’re also forcing this artificial light into our lives late into the night. This is causing chaos with our circadian rhythm, and is a significant contributor to the lack of quality sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone that is released that helps us go off to sleep. It is well known that light destroys melatonin in our bodies. Going to bed late not only contributes to tiredness and productivity throughout the day, but is also now linked with obesity, diabetes and mood disorders.
So how do you hit the ‘reset’ button? A recent study has shown that just a couple of nights in the great outdoors are enough to retune the body’s internal clock. This not only allows you to fall asleep more easily, but it allows the body to move through the five stages of sleep more rhythmically.
So say you’ve done your weekend reset, how do you keep it up? Here are the top five ways to bring the traditional outdoors elements back in with you:
1. Embrace the darkness. The natural environment has one key element that we seem to be missing in our modern world – complete darkness. I love when staying at hotel rooms they have those blackout blinds. I could be sleeping in the middle of the day and think it’s the dead of night because it’s so DARK! At home, do your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Remove all sources of artificial light – even a TV light is enough to keep you wired. Invest in some good blackout blinds (or get creative with your own DIY version). Even using an eye mask can really help to take your body into full darkness.
2. Turn off the tech. This is often the hardest one for a lot of people. When you go camping (and you do it right) there is no technology. Phones, ipads, ipods, all i-things are off. While it is not realistic in the modern world to throw away your phone, try weaning yourself off before bedtime. Start with switching it off (or to flight mode) 5 minutes before bed. Then extend that to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, up to 2 hours before bed. Not having contact with a screen before bed REALLY helps to unwind the mind and help you switch off before going to sleep. All those thoughts that come racing in as soon as your head hits the pillow will have time to digest BEFORE bed if you allow them.
3. Lessen the lights. Unlike in camping where you have to follow the sun for the hours you can be awake and active, I’m not going to tell you to go to bed with the sun (particularly hard in winter when the sun goes to bed so early!). Instead, try and dim lighting in your house, or keep it to a minimum for 30 minutes before bed. Use low lighting lamps, candles, lights that aren’t so aggressive and prone to destroying that much needed melatonin release!
4. Set your bedtime meeting. My clients who have the best nights sleep treat their bedtime like an important meeting. Some of them even have an alarm when it’s time to go to bed! Getting into a routine of a set bed time that’s at a reasonable hour not only helps keep that circadian rhythm happy but also makes waking up on the other end much easier!
5. Target is 7-9. That’s hours of sleep. It’s sometimes easier to work backwards, figuring out what time you need to get up with what time you need to go to bed. Research shows that it’s the hours BEFORE midnight that are the best quality, so try and make at least two of those hours before midnight.
Sleeping has such a huge impact on how we feel; our energy levels, food cravings, our ability to exercise and move. It is one of the biggest problems that clients come to me with, and one of the best solutions to so many other (seemingly unrelated) problems! Start working on your sleep routine today and see how it transforms your life.