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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Stand Up to Sitting Disease

DEVO-I-FiguresHave you ever got up from your office chair after hours of sitting, and surprised yourself with how much time has passed since you last stood up? If this is typical for you and your employees, you all may be at risk of Sitting Disease.

Sitting Disease involves the negative health effects of inactivity, or over-sitting. Research has found that it is harmful to sit for long periods of time throughout the day. Our sedentary lifestyle of sitting more than half our day can increase the likelihood of a heart attack as much as a person who smokes.

Sitting Disease is a syndrome whereby your metabolism is lowered. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

By simply spending a few more hours standing in our day, our health can be greatly improved. In fact, life expectancy may increase by about 2 years if we all reduced sitting to less than 3 hours a day. I’ve outlined a few tips to help prevent sitting disease for you and your employees in your workplace:

Stretch at your Desk

  • Employees should spend no more than one hour sitting at their desk without getting up and moving. Your staff can do quick, easy and readily available stretches while at their desk either sitting or standing.

Talking and Walking

  • Talking on the phone in the office is a necessary part of the job, so encourage staff that when the phone rings, try standing or walking around while talking. If appropriate, see if headsets can be accommodated in your office.

 Gentle Reminders

  • Setting an “alarm” on their computer or cellphone on an hourly basis can remind employees to get up and stretch, or to go for a short walk around the office. For some, incorporating a standing desk for their computer could be of great benefit.

Healthy Competition

  • Provide employees with a pedometer to count their steps. Friendly competition among groups of coworkers can be created through weekly awards (i.e. juice bar or sport apparel gift certificates) to whomever is the most physically active in the group.

Don’t Always Bring Lunch to the Office

  • As odd as it may sound, encourage your employees to go for a walk to buy a sandwich for lunch, or to take a break during the day and go outside for a walk.

Skip the Ride

  • Suggest to your staff that after lunch is a great time to take the stairs to get back to the office instead of taking the elevator. If the office is located higher than the third floor, you could always suggest walking up a few flights and riding the elevator the rest of the way.

From standing on the subway to work, to going for a walk at lunch, to standing during TV commercials instead of relaxing on the couch, we can all find ways to incorporate physical movement to avoid Sitting Disease.