At UBT, our motto for employees when it comes to health and wellness is “Live your best life.” We asked our internal Wellness Advocate, Sam Dolezal, about that phrase, and why she considers overall wellness to be important. Sam’s philosophy is not radical; it simply works on the premise that we do things well (or at least better) when we are well and that, while everyone’s “best life” is going to look different, everyone can — and should — make an investment toward their best life. According to Sam, investing a little time each day goes a long way toward a healthier you, and the best thing you can do is simply start by doing the small things well. Read on for Sam’s tips on incorporating wellness into our everyday lives.
Drink enough water. Staying hydrated helps to regulate body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, helps prevent infections, keeps organs functioning the way they should, and delivers important nutrients to your cells. Drinking enough fluids also improves mood, cognition, and sleep quality.
To hydrate adequately, you should aim for eight 8-ounce glasses of water at a minimum each day — or, even better, shoot for 1 ounce of water for each pound you weigh. However, these are very general recommendations; if your physician or trainer recommends otherwise, go with that.
Eat a balanced diet. The benefits of a balanced diet go far beyond losing or maintaining weight. Eating well promotes heart health, strong bones and teeth, improved cognitive function, and better mood and energy levels. The right kinds of foods can also battle stress and dehydration.
Good nutrition begins with eating at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day — that’s 2 cups leafy greens, 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked veggies, or a small piece of fruit per serving. Add lots of whole grains, and, if you do dairy, keep it low-fat or fat-free. Protein should be lean, with nuts and beans being a great substitute for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. The most important thing is color: Ensure that your plate is as colorful as the rainbow, and chances are you’ll hit all the right nutritional notes.
Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep helps to reduce stress, improves your mood, helps you think more clearly so you do better in school and at work, and helps boost your immune system. It can increase your exercise performance, strengthen your heart, and increase productivity. Folks who get enough sleep also have less difficulty staying at a healthy weight and often get along better with people (it must be that “better mood” thing).
The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults, noting that some folks can get by on six hours, while others need as much as 10.
Move daily. Daily movement helps strengthen your muscles, which improves stability, balance, and coordination. Movement also helps build dense (and more durable) bones, strengthens your heart and lungs, aids in joint health, and can help regrow the structures of the brain linked to cognitive decline.
General guidelines for exercise are 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity with two days of resistance training. But starting out small is good — if you’re working from home or tend to sit more often, make an effort to walk for 30 minutes three times a week, and you can build from there. The important thing is to move. Find something you enjoy doing and go for it!
Manage your stress. There are some pretty obvious perks to managing stress, such as being happier, healthier, and more productive (that 11th-hour stress boost that some of us thrive on notwithstanding). There’s also the fairly widely known link between stress and binge-eating or lack of motivation. But the results of a steady diet of stress run much deeper, and there are some very serious reasons why we all need to get a handle on it, such as the link between stress and heart disease, diabetes, ulcers, and other digestive disorders, in addition to increasing the risk factor for many types of cancer.
Eating well and exercising are noted by most experts as a great start toward keeping stress at bay. Methods for dealing with pressures beyond the normal level are as widely varied as its causes, but some suggestions for helping to dissipate tension in a healthy way include taking relaxation breaks for deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or prayer; listening to music, watching TV, or reading; identifying and eliminating or decreasing your stress triggers (or at least being aware of them); making time for hobbies; spending time in nature; and talking through your problems (more on that in a minute). And don’t forget about laughter — not only is a great way to deal, but others appreciate it, too.
Know when to ask for help. In this DIY, self-help era, learning how to ask for assistance is a valuable skill. There are times when we all need to ask for help, whether that’s in our professional or personal lives. Experts tell us that if we have exhausted all potential solutions or are in over our heads, we should not be afraid to reach out.
This area is a little more difficult to offer suggestions on, as each situation is highly individualized, and there aren’t any national guidelines. However, most of us know that the time to ask for help should be before we reach our breaking point. Whether that’s extra help on a project at work, some additional assistance on the home front (maybe it’s time to hire someone to mow or clean), or time to rebalance a committee or board on which you serve, others won’t know you’re needing help unless you ask. And, if we’re talking about more than a full plate at work or being stretched too thin at home, we shouldn’t forget about the valuable support mental health professionals provide; many employers (like UBT) even offer access to Employee Assistance Programs through organizations like Continuum.
At the end of the day, wellness isn’t about the short-term destination of losing weight or eating better, or even learning a new relaxation skill. It’s the long-term destination of enjoying and living the life you have today and in the future. It’s about taking care of yourself even when you feel like you don’t have much control over the circumstances — something we all grew more familiar with last year. By controlling what you can, you’re building physical and emotional resilience, which puts you in a better position of feeling good and weathering life’s storms. We all want to live our lives to the fullest, and by being well, we can optimally do just that. What would help you live your best life?
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