Sabrina Goldhahn is a Master of International Business alumna and Head of Strategy at HCF as well as a health and wellness coach in her own business, Mission Wellbeing. Here, she discusses how setting yourself up for success at work doesn’t have to come at the expense of your wellbeing.
Before we get into the ‘how’, let me take a step back and talk about why wellbeing and success are inextricably linked. While traditional measures of success focus on money and power, I very much agree with Ariana Huffington’s view that a focus on these elements alone is like a two-legged chair that could topple over at any time. The “third metric” as she calls it in her book, Thrive, includes the element of wellbeing.
The two-legged chair example became very real for me when I took on my first job as a management consultant in Shanghai. The hours in the office were very long, which meant little sleep, hardly any movement, no time for friends, eating virtually all meals at my desk, and trying to keep my energy up with caffeine and sugar. On the outside, I had landed my ‘dream job’ and I certainly felt ‘successful’ and ‘important’. But the shadow side was that it got harder for me to keep my mindset positive and my body well. I felt tired and bloated and avoided leaving my apartment most weekends.
While I was grateful for the job, and all I learned from it, there was no way I could have continued like that for much longer.
With a move back to Sydney came a journey to redefining personal success and learning to look after myself. While continuing my consulting career, I studied to become a health and wellness coach and started my own business on the side. I discovered that, in coaching, it always came back to the same key ingredients for success and wellbeing: finding the right balance of nutrition, proper hydration, adequate sleep, movement, healthy relationships, and career fulfilment.
Jeff Olson makes the point in his book, The Slight Edge, that seemingly insignificant decisions we make during our day can have a significant impact on our life in the long term. Looking after our body and mind is no exception; it makes a big difference to how we present ourselves at work. This is up to us. No corporate wellness program will be effective if we don’t look after ourselves first.
The hardest part in today’s world – where we can distract ourselves 24/7 – is to be still and listen to what our body is telling us.
Consider the following as a few tried and tested tips:
Where possible, eat nourishing, non-processed food that your body responds well to. Feeling bloated after a meal? It’s time to find food that works better for you. Avoid sugary food and drinks, as these can make your blood sugar spike and then crash, which only increases cravings.
Stay hydrated throughout the day, avoiding coffee where possible. Have a bottle of water, some delicious herbal tea or try a matcha latte instead of coffee – you may love it!
Sleep is vital
Do you feel that working late is a badge of honour? It’s not. Working with little sleep has a very similar effect on the brain as being intoxicated, so proper sleep hygiene is critical. Alcohol does not help, as you want your body to recover during your down time, not have to deal with a loaded up liver. So instead of that glass of red, how about a peppermint tea? Furthermore, listen to your body’s clues. Snacking and sugar cravings happening at night? That’s your body telling you it’s tired. Finish what you are doing and go to bed.
Stay active throughout the day
It might feel a little counterintuitive, but movement gives you more energy. It doesn’t have to be a high-intensity workout. A walk around the block, taking the stairs, going for a swim or a yoga class can be just as effective.
Healthy relationships at work
It’s great to get along well with your colleagues at work but keep some distance between your private and your work life. Stay away from workplace gossip, keep a positive attitude, assume the best of your colleagues and avoid playing the blame game. A can-do, solution-focused attitude will open many doors for you.
Check in with your priorities. From my experience, they change significantly through different life stages. When you find yourself in a job that you don’t particularly enjoy, ask yourself why. Is it the day to day work, your colleagues, the hours, or is there something going on outside of work? Find out what brings you joy, and work towards that.
Wellbeing at the workplace, and in life in general, is a continual process of learning to listen and finding out what works for you. Be ambitious but kind to yourself and strive for progress, not perfection.