Today, on day five of Mental Health Awareness week, 2019, we are privileged to have Sarah Matyjasik, health and fitness experts and owner of SM Power, share her wisdom with us.
In this blog post Sarah looks at the four key areas of body, brain, nutrition and nurture and how getting the balance right can increase our happy hormones and our sense of well-being both in our home life and at work.
Over to you Sarah!
Over the years my perception of the word ‘body image’ has evolved as I’m sure many of you may have found.
Previously, we were perhaps more concerned with shaping and sculpting certain parts of our body: flatter stomach, smaller waist, rounder bum, smaller thighs etc, but I think our life experiences define our feelings towards how we view our body and what’s important.
There are so many more mental and physical disorders and diseases inflicting people all around us that we are recognising that it is more important to look after our health from the inside rather than focus just how we look on the outside.
I’m going to share a perspective from what I’ve discovered, both through my own experience and through my work with many clients over the years.
I’ve found as a society we believe that eating a healthy diet and/or working out at the gym is the key to improving our body image, and whilst this is important for physical & mental health reasons, there’s more to it than this.
The key to STRENGTH, and in turn success in life and work is what we put IN and what we do WITH our body.
What I mean by this, is that when we have all four key strength elements (BODY, BRAIN, NUTRITION and NURTURE) working together we find flow and in turn we become stronger from the inside out, increasing our happy hormones and our sense of well-being.
So how do we do it?
There are four common areas that are important and that enable us to function at our optimum, impacting both out life and work and enabling us to be more positive, productive and confident.
FOOD & WATER
Wholefoods (so, foods that as near to their natural state as possible) contain more nutrients (vitamins & minerals), than ones that have been processed.
Our body is made up of 60 % water and so water is essential for many functions in the body and brain, for example: digestion, elimination of waste and temperature regulation.
Both the body and brain benefit from more stable blood sugars and we can help that by eating a balanced diet of lean proteins, healthy fats (in particular omega 3 is essential for good brain health – sources include oily fish, walnuts, chia and flaxseeds) and lower GI carbohydrates that include more fibrous whole grains which are digested more slowly giving us a steadier energy flow.
Fibre is also essential for good gut health, feeding our friendly gut bacteria.
Stimulants like sugar, energy drinks, caffeine and alcohol can have an effect on our blood sugars and our nervous system. Be mindful of how much you have of these as they may exacerbate feelings of anxiousness and can affect us getting good quality sleep.
We were designed to move our bodies. This doesn’t have to mean heading to a ‘gym’ or a ‘class’ though. It can simply mean walking more, cycling, jogging, or even just taking the stairs or getting off the bus at an earlier stop.
Some form of ‘getting active’ on a daily basis may help to counteract the effects of sitting for many hours in sedentary jobs or jobs that require a lot of driving.
Exercise has a wonderful effect on our brain & mental health, it increases a protein called BDNF which along with producing new brain cells and strengthening existing ones, is a bit like ‘super charged’ serotonin (a happy hormone), so it has a positive impact on our general mood.
I’m a huge fan of resistance-based exercise as I believe that it builds our mental strength and resilience along with helping us keep a good body composition (it aids lean tissue development). As our body gets stronger physically, it’s making adaptations that mean it doesn’t have to work as hard. For example our heart is a muscle and like any muscle, when we exercise, we make it work harder so it becomes stronger. This means at rest it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood around the body. This is what is referred to as ‘blood pressure’.
SLEEP & REST
Most of us know how it feels to get a good night’s sleep and what’s it’s like not to!
It’s recommended we get around 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Many good things happen to our body and our brain when we’re sleeping. Our body goes through complex processes of repairing cells, organs, muscle tissue and renewing itself. It also regulates two important hormones called leptin (satiety) and ghrelin (hunger) which are intrinsically involved in the regulation of our metabolism and appetite. Leptin levels are often higher when we get good quality sleep.
Have you ever noticed when you don’t sleep well and feel tired when you wake up that you’re more hungry? You might end up grabbing convenience or high energy foods that day? This is often due to lower leptin and higher ghrelin levels.
During our sleep our brain processes the situations that have happened that day, removes the emotion from them and stores them as memories. This happens during what we call REM sleep.
Equally as important as good quality sleep is ‘rest’. When we talk about rest, we mean a number of things: rest from exercise (we recover and grow lean tissue when we’re at rest), rest from a taxing piece of work (research suggests an optimum concentration time on a high frequency work is around 90 min then taking 20 mins doing something low frequency to allow your brain to recover and recharge), it could simply be doing something different in your day (as change can be as good as a rest). Just like we plan step goals it’s good to plan rest goals.
PLAYFULNESS & RELATIONSHIPS
The fun we have, and the quality of the relationships we create and develop have a huge impact on our feeling and sense of well-being.
What do you do to simply ‘have fun’?
When did we lose that ability to play like we did as children?
Why not make it your mission this week to re-discover something you used to do that gave you so much joy but haven’t done in years… It’s incredible the impact it can have on our ‘playfulness’.
What kind of relationship do you have with yourself, your loved ones and colleagues?
We are often so hard on ourselves with that ‘little voice’ inside our head.
I urge you to try something new this week! By turning around things you say; for example, ‘I’m rubbish at sticking to my diet’ try re-phrasing that into something like ‘I’m getting better and better at eating healthy foods that are making me feel more energetic’. We can use this technique on lots of things we say to ourselves and how we view others.
Be forgiving and kind to yourself.
About Sarah Matyjasik – Coach and Nutritional Advisor
After 10 years in commercial recruitment and operational management, Sarah’s career led her into health and fitness when she had children and she took the opportunity to follow her real passion. Sarah has started, built and run a number of businesses as well as coaching and mentoring individuals and teams of people, both in business and in wellbeing.
She’s a qualified coach, nutrition advisor and personal trainer. Sarah has worked with dozens of successful professionals whose success has often come at a cost to their health and wellness, sometimes with significant impact on their relationships and their work or career.
She now runs SMpower, a company which specialises in helping businesses and the people who work within them to improve their health and wellness and develop sustainable energy, so that they can work at their optimum and contribute the best of themselves to their life and work.
IS YOUR ORGANISATION DOING ENOUGH
To Promote Positive Mental Health At Work?
Find out by taking our quick Mental Health At Work Quiz
This short quiz will take you through the six areas of ‘work design’ that highlight the primary sources of stress at work that, when not managed well, are associated with poor mental health and can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in reduced creativity, productivity and results.