Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


Leave a comment

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.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Good Mood Food: How to Eat Your Way to Better Mental Health

There’s no doubt about it – life at College and University can be tough. With exams to study for, papers to finish, and deadlines to meet, it’s far too easy to put healthy eating on the backburner. This is unfortunate, as our diet has a huge impact on our happiness levels. Considering the rising rate of mental health issues on school campuses, it’s becoming more important than ever for students to focus on eating healthy.

In celebration of National Nutrition Month this March, I’ve outlined 4 simple ways that you can boost your mood through the foods you eat.

Add More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What’s your go-to snack that gets you through all those late night study sessions? If you’re like many students, chances are it’s one that’s packed with trans and saturated fats.

The average North American diet is much higher in trans and saturated fats and is lacking in the essential omega-3 fatty acids. This is troubling, as studies have shown that high levels of these fats can actually lead to depression. The good news is, research tells us that omega-3 fatty acids have a mood-stabilizing effect that can in fact reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

How can you add more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet? Great options include oily fish such as salmon, trout, and anchovies. If fish isn’t quite your cup of tea, try leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale.

Choose Foods High in Antioxidants

I have some great news for you chocolate lovers: eating foods that are high in antioxidants is a great way to maintain positive mental health and wellbeing.

Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene help minimize molecules in the body known as “free radicals”. Free radicals are detrimental to our mental health, and they are one of the leading causes of major depression. The silver lining? It has been proven that antioxidants help to fight these molecules, reducing symptoms of depression and improving our overall mental health.

On top of dark chocolate, foods that are rich in these mood-boosting antioxidants include tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries, artichoke, and kidney beans.

Increase your Vitamin B12 Intake

How many nights have you stayed up late studying only to find yourself feeling a little bit down the next day?

I like to think of vitamin B12 as a “miracle” vitamin when it comes to perking up and improving your mood.

Research has found that those who have vitamin B12 deficiencies have higher levels of depression, anxiety, and irritability. Vitamin B12 reduces these feelings by producing a chemical called ‘dopamine’ in the body. Dopamine is an essential chemical that helps to regulate our emotional response, boost our happiness levels, and improve our mood altogether.

To add more vitamin B12 to your diet, try eating more fish, beef, eggs, cheese, and milk.

Go for the Good Bacteria

Did you know that not all bacteria are bad bacteria? It’s true – eating foods that are high in ‘probiotic’ bacteria is a great way to improve your mental health.

Studies have confirmed that probiotics reduce inflammation as well as increase serotonin production within the body. This is great for your mental health, as inflammation causes higher levels of depression and stress, while serotonin helps boost your happiness levels. By consuming probiotics, you are effectively giving your body a natural antidepressant.

If you’re looking to add more depression-fighting probiotics to your diet, try making yogurt your snack of choice.

As a post-grad many, many, many years ago, I understand how busy your days on campus can get. It’s often much easier to choose quick, “on-the-go” snacks than to make a wholesome, nutritious meal. But if improving your mental health and wellbeing is something you value, consider taking that extra time. You’ll feel a whole lot better about it – inside and out.

To learn more about how you can improve your mental health through your diet, check out our Online and Telephonic Nutritional Service through your Student or Employee Assistance Program.


Leave a comment

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!


Leave a comment

Not All Midday Slumps Have to Lead to Chocolate

huge_36_181001-300x200We’ve all done it, and depending on when you read my blog, you might have already hit that time of the day, affectionately called the midday slump. You know that time of the day when we open our drawers looking for a chocolate snack, or that second large coffee, or visit the lunchroom seeking cookies to re-energize us for the balance of the day.

The problem is that instead of perking you up, these snacks often leave you feeling sluggish and unfocused. The exact opposite of what we had hoped!

In fact, a recent study from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and the Center for Health Research shows that workers who ate healthy meals and exercised on a regular basis had better job performance and lower absenteeism. Their research further cites that employees who eat healthy all day long were 25% more likely to have higher job performance, while those who eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables at least 4 times a week were 20% more likely to be more productive.

Great research, but how does this impact our midday slump? If we invest a little time and energy into making changes to eat healthier at work, it will reap rewards of improved concentration and productivity.

Here are a few tips on how to help make healthier food choices at work:

  • Step away: Make an effort to step away from your desk for a few minutes a couple of times a day. It’s easy to get caught up in a task and eat at your desk, but productivity may suffer later in the day.
  • Don’t eat your lunch at your desk: Take a few minutes to decompress and refocus, enjoy your lunch, think about the fact that you are eating, and then our body is able to give us that cue of satiety. Doing this will help us maintain and achieve a healthier weight.
  • Lunches out with co-workers: Take a few minutes before you go to research the menu online and come up with a game plan of what to eat. Many menus now indicate calories or healthy choice options.
  • Drink plenty of water: One way to perk up mid-afternoon is to stay hydrated, but reach for water. A can of regular pop has the equivalent of 10 cubes of sugar.
  • Smoothies: They can be a great energy booster, but make your own with plain yogurt and frozen berries, because some purchased smoothies are equal to the same amount of sugar as 20 chocolate cream-filled cookies!

What do you do to eat healthy at work? Does your employer provide health management programs that included nutrition? If so, do you use this service? I look forward to hearing your feedback.