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Nearly 60% Of Workers Are ‘Neglecting Their Health’ Right Now: How Can We Break The Pattern If We’re Stuck In A Rut?

Feeling on top of things with your health and work-life balance right now? Or, is it all a bit off kilter?

Nearly six in 10 (58%) UK workers feel they’ve been ‘neglecting their physical health’ due to being too busy with work, according to a survey by Aviva.

It’s perhaps no surprise that alongside this, the proportion of people who feel completely satisfied with life has dropped from 67% in February 2020 to 57% this March, and the number reporting day-to-day anxiety has gone up.

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Between the ongoing stress and adjustments of the pandemic, and lingering undercurrent of uncertainty, it’s pretty likely we might not be feeling our sparkly best. Fixing this isn’t simple, and a huge chunk of responsibility lies with employers to create healthy frameworks.

Reassuringly, Aviva found 61% of employees now agree their employer is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing, compared with 57% before lockdowns started.

So, why are we still struggling?

Permission to look after you

Psychologist, author and coach Suzy Reading says she’s seeing a growing emphasis on workplace wellbeing, with companies increasingly offering workshops and strategies. That doesn’t mean putting them into practice is easy, though.

“People are still struggling with this idea of needing to be present, proving they’re loyal and hard-working, even when there’s a message from the organisation that it’s OK to step away,” says Reading.

What’s really getting in the way?

Of course, your employer may be piling on the pressure (in which case, that needs to be addressed). But could we have an honest look at what’s going on within ourselves? Are you reluctant to speak up? To admit you’re tired?

Where does that need to be constantly striving and productive come from? Would the world end if you weren’t always going the extra mile?

“There is definitely a conflation with self-worth and productivity. You can give people 100 different practical tips, but until they feel it’s OK for them to do it, they’re not going to do any,” says Reading.

Reframe rest and self-care

This often ties into “the idea that rest is lazy and indulgent”, says Reading. “But just like a car needs fuel, you need fuel to get through your day.”

How about shifting our focus onto the positive – and vital – aspects of taking care of our health? Reading suggests thinking of it as “energy management”. So, if you tend to think rest is something you ‘earn’ only after that impossible to-do list is complete, switch it up and see it as something that’s vital for keeping you going, and enabling you to feel well and satisfied.

Expand your toolkit

We all know the key basics: food, hydration, sleep, movement. Reading suggests it’s helpful to “broaden the toolkit” of what we think of as nourishing and health-promoting practices too, so we can value and embrace them. “Sometimes it’s going to be rest, sometimes it’s going to be sitting in the sunshine, sometimes it’s going to be picking up the phone and having a conversation with a friend or colleague. That’s just as valid as having lunch,” she says.

Start the day right

“If there’s one fundamental tip that keeps me on an even keel, it’s going for a walk in the morning,” says Reading. “Movement, daylight, nature, and a chance to switch off my brain and not look at my phone.” Our mornings set the tone for the day.

Even if a few minutes is all we can manage, we’ll reap the benefits, says Reading: “Blow off the cobwebs; you’ll be more productive, creative and resourceful when you get back.”

Dose up on daylight

As well as the instant boost and refresh, soaking up daylight can have knock-on effects for our general health. “Not getting enough daylight has an impact on circadian rhythms,” explains Reading. “Then sleep goes out the window, and then everything gets knocked off centre. You can’t think straight, it changes the food you crave, your appetite. It’s really fundamental.”

Don’t overlook the power of small changes

That weekly double session in the gym and long weekend walks are great, but tiny day-to-day habits make a huge difference to our general health and sense of motivation and satisfaction. So, cherish those screen breaks for a cup of tea, quick stretch, stroll or breather.

Make it daily

“Even if it’s just five or 10 minutes, when it comes to habit formation, do it daily,” says Reading. “That’s how we form habits and that is literally how we transform our lives – one habit at a time.”

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