Work-life balance. Burnout. Stress. Taking a break. Feeling the strain. Grinding it out. Can’t cope. Resilience.
All the above are colloquial terms used frequently to highlight the feeling shared amongst people in every working environment, especially those of a high-performance nature. It can be hard to find a balance between performing at a high level and prioritising our own wellbeing.
In my 15-year career in health and wellbeing, I’ve worked in some of the most competitive environments in the world. From high performance sport to FTSE 100 companies, the pattern is always the same. Too few people ever anticipate that they’re going to be the one to experience the negative effects of a poor work-life balance.
Whilst there are many factors to consider when it comes to finding balance, for me, one is paramount: learning to prioritise your health and wellbeing.
I’ve delivered a range of health and wellbeing services, reaching large numbers of people. From NHS health checks, clinical commissioning group projects, public health England programmes, elite strength and conditioning, one theme has become clear to me. Many people wholeheartedly believe they ‘don’t have time’ to prioritise themselves.
The reality is that we only have 24 hours in a day, and time doesn’t discriminate. What I really heard from people is that they aren’t prepared to ‘make time’ to prioritise themselves.
Once we start to make time, things become far easier. We can effectively plan to integrate the things that make us feel well into our routine. These things are typically referred to as ‘protective factors’, meaning they serve to protect against the negative effects of mental wellbeing.
Protective factors can range from daily exercise, mindfulness or learning a new skill, to more simplistic approaches such as spending more time outdoors, talking about your feelings or simply making time to yourself.
There are evidence-based approaches to this. The ‘NHS five ways to wellbeing’ serves as a useful guide, and tools such as ‘Headspace’ provide science-backed applications accessible on iOS and Android.
As a simple guide, try the following checklist over the next 7 days to prioritise your wellbeing:
- Go for a midday walk to clear your mind
- Listen to focus playlists or calming music
- Practice mindfulness such as Headspace
- Schedule short breaks into every work day
- Make daily movement a priority
- Set boundaries between work and personal life
- Integrate regular time for self-care
- Practice breathing exercises
- Make lists to help you stay focused and clear
- Let your manager know when you feel overwhelmed
What steps will you take to increase your wellbeing and performance?
By Sam Cooper, Health and Wellbeing Lead
Before joining as Health and Wellbeing Lead, Sam worked in high-performance sport with professional athletes for over a decade.
In recent years, Sam has worked in private, public and voluntary sectors consulting on evidence-based health and wellbeing interventions designed to improve wellbeing and increase performance. This involved working with some of the biggest businesses in the region, including FTSE 100 companies.
Alongside this, Sam worked closely with the NHS, Public Health England and clinical commissioning groups to develop health outcomes of the wider population. This covered a range of interventions including key research, development of projects, commissioning new initiatives and direct delivery of NHS health checks across the region, including blood testing.
In his new role at GPG, he is responsible for designing and implementing a full health and wellbeing provision. Alongside this, Sam brings his expertise from Health and Wellbeing into other areas of the business, lending his perspective from a strategic and leadership viewpoint.