Connecting Mind & Body- a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP
Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.
As we head further into 2021, I’ve been thinking about ways in which we can take control over areas of our lives and how this increases resilience and overall health. In particular, the connection of mind and body, looking at where Eastern and Western understandings of health can both give guidance.
Finding ways in which we can regain a sense of control in our personal lives despite what is happening all around us can help us with managing our feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. What are things we can do in terms of looking after our physical health? And what are the flow-on effects in terms of our mental health? In the West, we used to look at the mind and body as related but separate systems and illness as a faulty body part. While your sore wrist may be RSI from using a mouse, one way of treating it would be painkillers and maybe a steroid injection. A holistic response looks at your posture, how much time you spend on a computer, what forms of exercise you are engaging in. The Eastern understanding of the body would look at is as a connected system that includes diet, social connections, spiritual engagement – the totality of your life away from work.
A simple way to bring all of our systems together is to have awareness of what we eat and how we move. Both of these activities impact the body and mind. We know the relationship between exercise and mood. There is now a growing understanding of how food impacts our mental clarity and emotional wellbeing: what we eat and how we move influences how we feel, how we sleep – and how we think and work.
Problem-solving capacity increases after exercising – so the idea of clearing your head by going for a walk is an easy starting point; it also increases endorphins, thereby lifting mood. The previous image of the dedicated employee who only eats lunch at the desk has been replaced by a workforce – led by compassionate leaders who lead by example – think walking meetings! At Newport & Wildman, we know how quickly time passes, so our Wellbeing Champions work with our employees to implement initiatives to remind everyone to take mindful and active breaks. As a leader, role-modelling good habits is essential. Recharging your batteries increases satisfaction and productivity and minimises burnout. Getting away from the workplace, whether on a break from your workspace or around your neighbourhood and enjoying the season – the shade of a tree in summer or bracing wind while rugged up in winter – activates a range of our senses, a key aspect of mindfulness. If you haven’t exercised much, start with a walk, and increase the time and the intensity. No matter what your current level of fitness is, working towards a physical goal promotes mastery and self-esteem.
High sugar/high-fat foods give a short term lift which is often followed by a sugar slump or binge-regrets. I’m certainly tempted by the array of quick and easy local café options but the majority of what I eat I try to be mindful about. The gut and the brain are intimately linked – what you eat affects the production of neurotransmitters. Serotonin is produced in the gut, and so good gut health has a significant impact. Looking after the gut means a high-fibre diet, low in processed food and sugars – which includes regulating your alcohol intake. As with exercise – make changes gradually, so you don’t set yourself up to fail. You may also notice that regular exercise and mindful eating will impact the quality of your sleep. You can get the benefits of small changes as well as a sense of control in a year which still feels unusual.
The benefit to organisations that promote healthy food and exercise patterns are a healthier, more productive workforce. Over 2020, we prioritised health at Newport & Wildman with employees joining in online yoga, setting walking challenges and ensuring we made time for mindful activities. In the absence of a shared lunchroom for much of 2020, shared food became online shared recipes.
In changing times, flexibility is a necessary strategy to succeed, so keeping your employees informed and engaged about their health and your journey, as well as the business direction, will help to carry all of us through.
Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP
Cover Article Image- Pexels image by Trang Doan