Here, we look back and remind ourselves of some of the invaluable takeaways the series gave us.
The vitals of wellbeing well told
Face coverings, #wfh, self-isolation, lockdown, furlough. Few of these terms were at the front of anyone’s mind this time last year but now look: they’re central to our everyday conversations.
Twenty-twenty completely changed the way we work and interact and affected us personally as well as professionally. With successive lockdowns, restrictions on our social lives and the anxiety that came with the spread of Covid-19, an impact on our wellbeing – mental and physical – was inevitable.
So, when we put wellbeing on the agenda for our webinar programme, who better to reach out to than Eric Ho?
Eric has over 20 years’ experience as a lawyer. He worked at a City law firm and later as Anglo American plc’s Group Head of Legal – Marketing, leading a global team of lawyers within the group’s commodities trading business.
Eric knows about the personal downsides of success. He also knows how to deal with them. Because he’s also a US Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), an ADAPT-Certified Functional Health Coach and the founder of Bumblebee Wellbeing.
Throughout October, November and December 2020, Eric presented Re-set - five webinars for CLL, in conjunction with RPC. Each of the hour-long sessions explored a key area of personal wellbeing.
1 Re-think: adapting to extraordinary change with a positive frame of mind
In his first webinar, Eric’s key message was that ‘the unconventional is becoming conventional’ so we need to adjust our mindset. To help us make this shift, Eric explained how we can:
- Turn towards our emotions. Our feelings tell us how well needs such as safety, connection, respect, recognition and trust are being met. If we can look beyond the symptoms, we can identify root causes and unmet needs;
- Define our desired state. Whether it’s leading a team or raising a family, look at how your desired state aligns with your core values. This will help you create a path and make the decisions that will take you there;
- Create success. To quote Theodore Roosevelt: ‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there.’ Celebrate your successes, however small you think they are. Do the same with your colleagues to build a feelgood factor in your teams. This will become a virtuous circle;
- Check in on feelings. Acknowledge feelings and give them a name. If you’re worrying about a problem, say to yourself “worry, worry, worry”. Refer to the feeling in the third person (“worry” rather than “I worry”). This will help short-circuit unhelpful emotions and distance yourself from negativity;
- Express gratitude. Studies show that expressing gratitude has a powerful effect on mental health. Among other things, it crowds out negative thoughts. Give it a go! and;
- API. We’re communicating electronically more than ever now and not every message comes across as it’s intended. Before taking offence at how an email / WhatsApp / text is worded – or at how someone comes across in a personal interaction, Assume Positive Intent and look for the good in what’s being put to you.
2 Re-fuel: food for your mood and your healthy brain and body
What we eat tells our body what to do. Messages range from switch off genes to nod off during the afternoon. As such, says Eric, ‘food is information for the body’.
Few people are aware of the problems that some food choices are storing up for the future – or how others can reverse degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Eric went on to discuss:
- The Ketogenic diet. This uses the body’s own fats for energy instead of glucose in foods. The Keto diet is generally high in fats and low in carbohydrates. It’s helped people with ADHD boost their capacity to learn;
- Gut health. Leaks in the lining of the gut wall let toxins enter the blood stream. Once there, they can reach almost any organ, including the brain. Nutritional psychology is a growing part of treatments for mental illness;
- Foundations for food. Eric suggests eating anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense whole foods and avoiding:
- Anything in a box or comprising five ingredients or more;
- Refined flours;
- Refined sugars; and
- Industrial seed oils
- The Paleo template. A great way to reverse a range of chronic diseases is to try a Paleo reset diet for 30 days. It replicates the diet of the Paleolithic period (your grocery store’s stocks permitting), eliminating anything touched by modern farming or production processes.
3 Re-store: sleep for a healthy brain and body
Eric admitted he’d regularly stay up late at night, believing he’d make up lost sleep at a later date.
It never happened, he said, because ‘what happens when you’re not sleeping affects what happens when you are.’ Eric was referring to choices and behaviours around:
- Food and drink. Assess the impact of alcohol, caffeine and processed foods on your sleep patterns by eliminating each one separately and noting any improvement. If sleep problems return when you reintroduce the food or drink item, you can set your balance between indulgence and relaxation;
- Light and dark. A great way to sleep better at night is to get outside in daylight in the morning for 30 minutes. This will help you align with the day/night light/dark cycle. Also, steer clear of electronics such as computers and mobile phones for two hours before going to bed;
- Movement and exercise. Physical exercise and regular movement contribute to a good night’s sleep. We weren’t meant to sit at desks all day. We were designed to hunt and gather food, make fires, build dwellings and protect our loved ones. Sitting down for extended periods is bad for your health; and
- The 4-7-8 breathing technique. If you wake up at 3.00am with your mind racing, this powerful exercise could help. All you have to do is:
- 4: count to four as you breathe in through your nose;
- 7: hold that breath for a count of seven; then
- 8: exhale through your mouth while counting to eight.
4 Re-charge: staying healthy when you’re stuck at your desk
Sitting slows down our metabolic rate. That can lead to weight gain, sluggishness and mental underperformance. Pulling no punches about the seriousness of a sedentary lifestyle, Eric warns, ‘we are sitting at our desks more and more and it’s slowly killing us.’
The antidote he recommends is SWaP (Stand, Walk and Push):
- Stand up. Aim to spend half your day standing up. Try working at a standing desk and using a balance disk and/or a yoga ball. You could also use a break reminder app to schedule micro breaks and time-outs into your working day;
- Walk. The often-quoted 10,000 steps a day (around five miles) is a good target. Walking to the shops, gardening, housework, taking stairs instead of lifts or escalators and jogging on the spot all contribute; and
- Push. Each week, aim to complete at least one, or a combination, of:
- 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as jogging or yoga (50-70%*);
- 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running or competitive sport (70-90%); or
- 30 minutes at maximum intensity, such as sprinting, skipping rope or resistance training (100%).
*Use perceived exertion (how hard you feel you’re working as a percentage of your maximum potential).
Finally, a caveat:
Talk to your doctor before changing your exercise regime.
5 Re-wire: look forward to retirement with a brain that’s still healthy
Here, Eric turned his attention to environmental toxins and the havoc they wreak on the body. If we can minimise our exposure to toxins he says, then ‘degenerative brain disease is not inevitable.’
Steps we can take include:
- Remembering where toxins lurk. They’re everywhere, including in:
- Foods containing pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals and additives;
- Plastics containing BPA and their newer replacements;
- Buildings with leaks leading to mould and furniture treated with fire retardant materials;
- Drinking water; and
- Cosmetics, personal care products and household cleaning products.
- Avoiding them. Ways to steer clear of toxins include:
- Buying organic food when possible;
- Storing food in glass and stainless-steel containers rather than plastic;
- Using safe cleaning products;
- Choosing personal care products with toxins in mind; and
- Filtering water and indoor air.
- Detoxifying. Effective strategies include:
- Working up a sweat, either through exercise or by sitting in a sauna;
- Moving around and getting out in nature;
- Getting seven+ hours sleep at night, allowing the body to carry out overnight repair work; and
- Eating real food and maintaining healthy gut flora.
Around 85% of the causes of poor health are environmental, not genetic. We can determine how healthy we’ll be when we reach retirement by making healthy choices now.