HEALTHY WORKSTYLES : A Hectic Year, A Holiday Break, A Healthier Outlook…

Christmas should be time for merriment, but unfortunately the words Christmas cheer don’t always ring true for everyone.
Family demands, work demands, social engagements and financial pressures can all take their toll. Couple this with the difficult economic environment of the past 15 months and it is easy to see why so many will be feeling completely burned out by Boxing Day.
However, it has never been more important to encourage employees to use the holiday break to relax, unwind and focus on personal wellbeing so they return to work in 2010 feeling rested, reinvigorated and motivated.
This year has been challenging for many in business, but it seems many employers have underestimated the impact this has had on their staff.
Research conducted by recruitment firm Hudson this year, showed that employers consistently think their employees’ sentiment – whether perceived stress levels, job security, job satisfaction, motivation or morale – is twice as good as it is in reality.
The survey of close to 2500 employees and 247 employers found that Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have been the most severely distressed with almost half (42 percent) concerned about their future employment.
With this group also more prone to health ailments, these stress levels are concerning.
But it is not just those approaching retirement who are feeling the pressure. Another study of 4898 employees conducted earlier this year by SEEK showed that stress levels are the most hated aspect of New Zealand employees’ jobs, with 20 percent of respondents saying this was their number-one job hate.
As an employer or manager, this is worrying, as high stress levels can pose hazard to the health of employees, and the health of an organisation.
The link between personal and workplace wellness should not be underestimated so we should be using the holiday break as an opportunity to help and encourage staff to relax, unwind and reassess their lifestyle choices.
Christmas may threaten to be detrimental to our lives and waistlines but this needn’t be the case. little self-restraint together with longer days and sunshine provide the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and be physically active. There are number of simple measures to ensure people come back to work in the New Year feeling revitalised, and with stress levels better under control.
• If you are normally involved in workplace wellness scheme, it is important not to completely give up the exercise and healthy lifestyle habits over the break. It is well known that feeling fit and healthy helps to keep stress under control, so try to maintain healthy diet, and keep the activity levels up.
• Develop calendar of holiday activities for those employees who may not be going on holiday and like the motivation and camaraderie that comes from working out in groups. For example walking group doesn’t have to stop just because people aren’t working regular business hours.
• Consider giving staff pedometers to take away with them to remind them they need to get up off the beach chair every now and then and remain active.
• Consider healthier Christmas gift for staff this year. Some healthy BBQ recipes, book of popular New Zealand walking tracks or even kite can mean hours of fun and activity, and kids will love it too.
• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and be aware of food hygiene in the heat of summer, particularly with BBQs.
• Be safe when doing home handyman jobs, fixing roofs etc.
It may also be worth considering closing the office for the Christmas/New Year period (if you don’t already) to ensure everyone gets break.
The good news is that we should be approaching the New Year with more optimism as New Zealand is now officially out of recession and expectations for 2010 are looking more positive.
Employers should be looking at making the most of the opportunities revitalised economy will offer and to do this will need staff who are feeling rejuvenated and revived.
So be realistic with those New Year resolutions – perhaps better work-life balance. Why not set some health goals, or if you don’t already run workplace wellness programme, consider starting one, or at least implementing some workplace wellness initiatives.
In the meantime, have safe, happy and healthy break.

Peter Tynan is CEO, Southern Cross Medical Society.

Looking after your liver
The festive season is time of merriment for most, but unfortunately some of our internal organs dread the holiday season onslaught.
Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, dehydration, indigestion, gallstones, and weight gain are just some of the problems that doctors encounter over this period.
Too many calories and too much alcohol can overwhelm our poor ‘old’ livers. The ‘older’ ones among us can definitely testify to this fact! So how do you make it through the holiday season without feeling ‘toxic’, hung-over, tired, and headachy?

Follow these simple tips:
1.Drink plenty of water. Try matching each alcoholic drink with non-alcoholic one.
2.Eat something when you are drinking.
3.Moderate your alcohol intake. This takes some willpower, but you will definitely feel better for it.
Men: three to four drinks at any one sitting.
Women: two to three drinks at any one sitting.
Don’t drink and drive – that goes without saying.
4.Try to stay physically active over the festive season. You will be amazed at how quickly the waistline expands – and how effective exercise can be as an antidote to the excesses of the period.
5.When eating those Christmas delights, remember that grazing is better than hunting.
6.Avoid mixing alcohol with medications. Check with your doctor if in doubt. If you have known liver disease, completely avoiding alcohol may be the best move.

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