Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Keeping Physically and Mentally Fit this Winter

k-s21-eye-0187November is here and the countdown to the holiday season can officially begin. As we look forward to spending time with family and friends, it’s important that we prepare for some of the gloomier elements that the colder weather brings. After all, colder weather is known to negatively affect our bodies, as well as our mental health. When our physical health takes a toll, our mental health can be affected as a result. But if we take a proactive, preventative approach, we can improve our physical and mental health all while fighting the winter blahs.

Here are my recommendations for maintaining a healthy mind and body this winter:

  • Keep moving – One of the biggest health issues in winter is that we limit the amount of time we spend being active. Spending time each day being active, even if it’s simply going for a walk around your office, has been shown to improve your physical health. If you’re fond of winter weather, you can partake in weather-related activities such as sledding or building a snowman with your family, or ice-skating with your significant other or friends.
  • Eat healthy – It’s no secret that winter is flu season, and if you work in a larger office, it won’t be hard to find a co-worker with a cold this winter. Your body is spending more energy than usual to stay warm, so it’s important that you incorporate immune-system boosting foods, like fruits, vegetables and yogurt into your diet, so that you’re less likely to be bogged down with a winter ailment.
  • Make time to reduce stress – Everyone has different ways to reduce their stress levels. For some, simply taking the time to reflect on the cause of the stress does wonders. For others, taking a day off is needed to adjust and refocus. Whatever your technique, remember to make time to schedule it in, even if it doesn’t feel absolutely necessary. I have a few ideas to help you reduce stress: listen to music, meditate, connect with friends and family, and ensure you get enough sleep each night.

You may notice that to improve your health and mood this winter, you won’t need to take any truly drastic steps. It can be challenging to juggle all the hustle and bustle of the season, so living a physically healthy lifestyle this winter can go a long way in managing your mental health. After all, this holiday season is about celebrating with family and friends; and, as long as you take a few proactive steps, you’ll be ready to celebrate in good spirits!

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International Self-Care Day is July 24th: How to Make Time for Self-Care with a Busy Schedule

Pilates exerciseJuly 24th is International Self-Care Day. It’s the perfect time for all of us to pause and remember just how important self-care is. Although it may seem impossible to take time out of our busy days, it’s important for employers to encourage employees to fit self-care into their schedules. Work-life initiatives can really make a big difference in the workplace. According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian worker is away from work for the equivalent of almost two weeks in a year. Casual absences (not requiring a doctor’s note) account for 80% of lost days for most businesses. Encouraging and promoting a healthy work-life balance is not only good for your employees, it’s good for business.

What is International Self-Care Day?
The International Self-Care Day (ISD) worldwide campaign objective is to celebrate the importance of self-care and to encourage the general public to practice responsible self-care. Every year ISD is observed on July 24 to serve as a reminder that the benefits of self-care are lifelong, experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What is self-care?
The International Self-Care Foundation has developed a framework called Seven Pillars of Self-Care.

Pillar 1 – Health Literacy: It’s important to learn about our health so that we can make informed decisions on what we need for self-care.

Pillar 2 – Self-Awareness of Physical and Mental Condition: We need to be self-aware about the state of our physical and mental health. The best way to do this is to regularly visit your doctor or health practitioner and be honest about how you’re feeling physically and mentally.

Pillar 3 – Physical Activities: Regular physical activity is vitally important for self-care. It doesn’t have to involve intense or extreme activities. Walking, cycling, yoga, swimming… they can all significantly improve your health, fitness and mood.

Pillar 4 – Healthy Eating: Eating a nutritious, balanced diet is always essential. Take the time to eat; eat and chew slowly.

Pillar 5-Risk Avoidance or Mitigation: A few important tips are – avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake and use sunscreen daily. Take Vitamin D, especially for us Canadians who experience less sunshine and relatively short summers than those living closer to the equator.

Pillar 6- Good Hygiene: While most of us practice good hygiene, it’s still important to note that washing your hands well and often is one of the most important things we can do.

Pillar 7-Rational and Responsible Use of Products, Services, Diagnostics and Medicines:  Avail yourself of medical help when necessary. If you’ve been prescribed medication, take it as directed. If alternative medicine is your thing, use it.

Why self-care is so important for employees?

  • Boosts morale
  • Increases productivity
  • Reduces absenteeism
  • Improves mental and physical health
  • Decreases stress

Tips on how employers can encourage employees to make time for self-care

  • Help employees set and maintain personal boundaries
  • Help your employees set achievable goals
  • If you schedule meetings during the lunch hour, provide a healthy meal
  • Encourage employees to take intermittent self-care breaks – a walk at lunch time, a social break with a co-worker
  • Promote outside-of-work activities
  • Allow for flexible schedules

Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to give of yourself to others.

July 24th is right around the corner. Is your company promoting self-care in your workplace? Now’s a great time to begin a self-care initiative.


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5 Ways To Improve Wellness And Increase Productivity In Your Workplace

161-photo-f520ccf7858c9d71169d64a0c57b40c5Wellness programs are linked to increased productivity, a reduction of long-term health care costs and less absenteeism.  In fact, it has been shown that a 28% reduction in sick leave, 26% lower heath costs and 30% lower compensation and disability costs are directly linked to wellness programs in Canada.

The facts are undeniable, and the good news is that even if you feel your organization does not have the financial or staffing resources to implement a wellness program, there are many small steps you can take to promote wellness at work that do not include elaborate or costly investments. I have outlined below five ways to help you bring your company closer to wellness.

  1. Encourage Exercise.
    Implement and promote a lunch hour walking club and offer incentives for employees who participate. Encourage the entire office to use the stairs or suggest a “bike to work” week. You also might offer discounts or partially subsidize memberships to a local gym

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You Are What You Eat

aspiria healthy eatingFor many of us, we associate eating with weight and body image, but supplying our body with the right types of food is so much more than that! Eating a balanced diet, full of the necessary vitamins and nutrients that your body needs, will help prevent disease, stay energized, and improve your mood.

Unfortunately, a majority of the population is not fueling their bodies with the right foods, instead opting for unhealthy, (albeit tasty or satisfying) substitutes. And like the old saying goes, you are what you eat! What does this mean exactly? Your body, (mood included) is a direct reflection of what you’re putting into it.

This week, I would like to focus on what simple things you can change about your diet to improve your body, mind and spirit.

What to eliminate:

  • Foods high in fat
    Fatty foods are detrimental to your weight, and to your overall health. High-fat diets increase risk for heart disease and stroke, as the saturated and trans fats act as roadblocks in your arteries. Cutting out fatty foods can lead to more productivity and energy.
  • Sugar
    The more sugar you eat, the more you want! The addictive ingredient has been associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and mood. High-sugar foods are basically empty calories, providing your body with little to no benefits.

What to increase:

  • Water
    Hydrating your body is one of the most important tasks of the day. Dehydration leads to fatigue, loss of focus, dry skin, and so much more.
  • Whole Foods
    Shift your focus from processed foods (containing ingredients that you do not recognize) to whole foods, like natural protein, fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. These foods contain more nutrients such as thiamin (B1), which has been associated with control of mood, and folate and zinc (supplements of these nutrients have been shown to improve the mood of people with depression in a small number of studies).

If you can work towards these goals, your body will thank you! Remember, while I brought up the saying “you are what you eat”, keep in mind that “everything in moderation” is applicable as well. Understand the signs your body is giving you and adjust your diet accordingly. You may be already aware of what you need to change about your diet in order to feel better and healthy. But sometimes, we all need a gentle reminder!

Have you seen improvements in your productivity and mood by making changes in your diet? Share your experiences in the comments.

Happy eating!