Five practical steps to better well-being

Renae Shaw

Head of People


You’d have to be living in a cave with your internet connection down to have missed the media attention around “well-being”. It’s great this topic has been getting the airplay it needs, and even the Royals are on board, but what does it actually mean?

Today on International Stress Awareness Day, we explore the cornerstones of positive well-being. It might be a good idea to score yourself for each area and see where there may be room for improvement.

1. Get on top of your finances

Worrying about bills and debt can be a huge cause of stress and anxiety. Thoughts about how to manage our finances can permeate the working day, whilst also causing sleepless nights. In the UK, financial worries topped the list of concerns, which was backed up by 30% of employees surveyed. Money worries can be extremely detrimental to our health, but there is help available. If you’re struggling to make ends meet you might consider:

  • Identifying your stress points. It may feel like an overwhelming mess that can’t be tackled. Break it down into the specific things causing you concern and, for each, consider possible solutions
  • No matter how much we hope problems will go away if we ignore them, they generally only get worse. Even when there is no obvious solution, by tackling things head on, you’ll feel relief for moving things forward. Telling your credit card company, for example, you can’t pay your bill, means something will change – and you won’t carry on feeling how you do now
  • Don’t avoid talking about it because you think others will judge you. Bottling things up and dealing with it on your own isn’t healthy
  • There’s tons of free support out there. Citizen Advice have lots of advice on debt management, as well as sites like the Money Advice Service

2. Check in on your mental health

Sometimes we plough on, only acting after strain has turned into stress. Having good mental health means feeling equipped to cope with the normal pressures of life. We know better than anyone else what “normal” is for us: Perhaps we feel more irritable than usual, more withdrawn from friends and family, or we might be starting to feel overwhelmed. Being in-tune with how we’re feeling and taking action as soon as possible is key to positive mental health, to do this you may think about:

  • How can you ditch the things that make you unhappy, and get more of the things that make you smile in your life
  • There are tons of great self-help resources out there if you’re struggling. The charity ‘Mind’ offer absolutely loads of great advice, and practical resources. This includes a Directory of support services and helplines.
  • Look for local support groups as well, as this can be a great way to connect with other people facing similar issues
  • Don’t underestimate how much you can help yourself, and how many great resources there are out there and readily available
  • Also, don’t put off going to the GP if things don’t improve. Your GP will be able to advise you if counselling, CBT, or other forms of therapeutic support are appropriate

3. Eat well and get more exercise

The mind and body are linked, and when you improve your physical health you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. If we eat poorly, we have less energy to be active, and this is when illnesses can start to occur. Physical exercise, which releases happy hormones into the body, has been proven to be as effective as anti-depressants. If the gym doesn’t do it for you, find something you do enjoy, like dancing or walking the dog. Again there are lots of great resources out there:

4. Learn how to switch off

Your phone might recently have started telling you how many hours you’re spending online; and there are other digital well-being apps to see how glued you are to your handset. Unfortunately, these won’t actually make your phone less addictive. If you know you’re reaching for the technology too often, you’ll need to take charge and replace this habit with something more conducive to well-being. Reclaim your evenings and be protective of your personal time, ring a loved one over checking those work emails! Perhaps you struggle more with checking social media. A significant amount of research suggests that many of us are now addicted to checking our social media channels. From 2014 to 2016, the number of accidents on the road attributed to mobile phone usage rose from 8% to 31%.  If you think you’re spending too much time online, whatever the reason, you could:

  • Be aware of how much time you’re spending online. If you think it’s too high, set yourself a realistic goal. Reward yourself by doing something else you enjoy when you achieve it
  • Think about what is driving this behaviour. Excessive internet usage can often occur when we’re trying to deflect loneliness, depression, or other underlying or uncomfortable emotions. We enjoy the affirmation and connection we sometimes get from social media. Once we know where this behaviour is coming from, we can explore how we might get the same outcome, but in a different and better way
  • Put the technology away! By physically putting it out of reach, you’ll give your brain (and thumbs!) a rest

5. Make sure work is having a positive impact

We know work shouldn’t have a negative impact on us; and we don’t want to be overloaded, stress, or experience conflict with colleagues. But is work having a positive impact on your wellbeing? Do you feel as stimulated and challenged as you want to be? We know that feeling under-utilised can be as stressful as being over-stretched, and we are creatures who naturally love to learn and grow. Work can play an important role in social wellbeing, helping you feel connected, supported, and having a sense of belonging to something. Speak to your line manager if these areas are falling short for you and, if you can’t get the job satisfaction you need, it might be time for a move.

We need to take a holistic approach if we want to feel happy and fulfilled. Financial, mental, physical and social well-being all play a key part in keeping us healthy. We can fail if we try to change too many things, so give the one thing that will make the biggest difference to you personally your full attention. Once mastered, you can move on to the next thing that will help you have a healthy and happy 2019.

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