The Pillars of Health: Nurture a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul
Melanie O’Brien: Hello, and welcome to today’s webinar titled “The Pillars of Health: Nurture a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul.”
My name is Melanie O’Brien and I will be the host of today’s webinar.
Our presenter today is Kris Hooks.
Kris Hooks is a licensed professional counselor, a marriage and family therapist, a certified employee assistance professional, and a certified wellness coach. Kris has provided and managed employees in the behavioral health field for 30 years. She has written and facilitated seminars and webinars for hundreds of organizations and many Fortune 500 companies.
We are very pleased to have Kris with us today, and so without further delay, Kris, I will turn it over to you.
Kris Hooks: Melanie, thank you very much! If I could see all of you I could look out and say I’m sure there are some of you who weren’t even born when I started doing behavioral health work. So, with experience, it’s a really good thing.
All right. So let me just start by asking you a question. What does it mean to be healthy? How would you define or describe being in your best health?
A lot of times people will focus on numbers, they are like, oh, I want to lose how much weight or my blood pressure is a little high, I need to get those numbers down. When the lab work comes in my cholesterol or my blood sugar are not in the range I would like them to be.
Sometimes people will say, like I want to have energy, or I want to sleep better, or I want to eat healthier, or I want to manage stress better in my life. I want to emotionally have better self-control. I want to be mentally sharp. I want to be able to be a great contributor at work. I want to be a great team member, a great employee. I want great performance evaluations because I am making a difference and doing a fantastic job. All of that certainly can be part of good health.
It’s not uncommon to just focus on those physical numbers that we really need to think of our health in terms of our mind, our body and our soul. That’s what we are going to do in today’s webinar. So, let’s look at our learning objectives. There we go.
We are going to identify seven pillars of health, and as I talk about them I want you to think about your health being the tabletop and every supporting pillar is actually equally important to being in your very best health. We are going to make the connection between how each pillar really helps you with your health. We are going to talk about what’s the connection, because when we think about strategies that might improve one area of our lives, there is a ripple effect many times where the improvement takes place not only in that area, that pillar, it can take place in multiple areas, and when we start in a positive direction in one, the other sometimes come along, which is a wonderful thing.
And what do you really need to do, what strategies, so I want this to be the best use of your time. What are some takeaways for you? How can you reach your optimal health? We are going to focus—because it is a webinar we can probably spend over eight hours talking about all seven pillars, we are going to focus on three primary ones that can help you kind of the most given that you work in your company’s environment; your physical health, your mental health, and your vocational health. So, those are again going to be the areas of concentration.
All right, as I go along I want you to be thinking about two things. I am going to ask you at the end of our webinar so what are you going to do to get started on improving whatever area of health you have identified? Very real, very practical strategy, and I want that to be translatable to a smart goal that will be important to you, you’ll feel confident in your ability to start and make progress and you’ll feel motivated. So, again, I am going to come back to that.
OK, let me give you give the overview of the seven pillars of health, so you can kind of think about your tabletop, your overall health, and kind of how you are doing in each of these areas, each of these legs on the table; so, your physical health. Don’t you wish sometimes we could, I don’t know, like if our car wears out we can just go and we know it costs money but we can get a new car.
We can replace body parts, knees when stuff goes out, but I am telling you we really only get one physical body and the better care we can take of it, hopefully, the longer and better health it’s going to be. We can’t control the gene pool, there are a lot of things genetically that you might be predisposed to, but in terms of physical health we have a lot of control over healthy habits. I am not saying it’s always easy, but we’ve got control there.
OK, your mental health. How are you doing in terms of thinking clearly, being able to solve problems, make decisions, concentrate, remember things, even when stress is high? How are you doing vocationally with your career?
We’re going to talk about what really helps people stay invested in life and that is when they are doing something that they really enjoy.
Now, I know, I mean I have had lot of different jobs in my lifetime. There are always things with work that we like more than other things, but to try to figure out a way to live life where you’re focused on making contribution, making a difference adding value, that helps us with fulfillment, in meaning and happiness; we’re going to talk about that pillar.
All right, your emotional health, and again, when I talked about mental health, many times we think of mental behavioral health, and as emotional health, we’re drawing the differentiation here where mental is like brain power and emotional is like the things we would think of.
How are you feeling? Are you able when you are stressed or shy on sleep to remain patient, or are you able if your buttons are pushed at work by team member, are you able to not take things personally and take a deep breath and react effectively? Very important pillar. Help in a hold up are very best health care. What about socially? Social connections in life being able to be there for other people, feeling loved, being cared about ourselves that enhances the quality of our life and studies are now out that that kind of connectedness even adds to the lengths of our life. Do you know that loneliness can shorten your life by as much as seven years according to recent research?
Again, and it’s easy to be lonely in the world we live in where electronic communication is whole rampant, I mean, rather than talk to someone and hear their voice, we can send them a text message, an instant message or whatever. Look at Facebook or Google, there are lot of areas in terms of social health that we have to make sure we stay grounded and connected with other people in ways that are healthy.
Spiritual health; I know that this is individual and it’s not just about your religious belief for your practices, but it’s about feeling grounded about your place in life, about your purpose on this earth, that kind of thing.
And then intellectual health; this is being able to engage and creative, stimulating activities, expand your knowledge and your skills.
Sometimes there’s another area of health, financial health. More people are stressed out about money and the lack thereof and how they can live on what they’ve got without over-extending themselves, that’s a huge area, and certainly the EAP is helping people focus on that too. So, those are kind of legs on the table with the addition of that financial one that I said.
As you look at this list, I don’t want you to be overwhelmed and go, oh my gosh, I need to make improvement in every single area, yes. None of us are perfect, I don’t think any of us ever arrived in the pillars of health and go, woo-hoo! You know I’ve got them all lit, I don’t even have to think about this anymore. We all have ongoing opportunities to improve our health in multiple areas.
Try to think in terms of what one to or three areas I know I really need to concentrate on and then I’m going to ask you what are some strategies, what are some real ways you’re going to get going with that?
All right, so, what about the connectedness between the pillars? I already told you, it’s like legs on the table, our lives are the tabletop, that’s the way to get to optimal health best quality of life.
So, optimal wellness is about integrating each of the pillars. The interconnection of the pillars adds to the quality of our lives, there’s overlap, like I talked about. When you improve one many times there is a ripple effect on others. For example, let’s say you decide you want to focus on moving more as in exercise—some people worked in a hospital for 12 years with people in medical weight management and they had medical issues that cause them to be in that program doctor supervised very strict.
Anyway, we help them lose weight rapidly, but then they would need to transition back to regular life, regular lifestyle, regular food to learn how to move more and eat calorie-controlled healthy diet. Again, we all know that those things are important but they are really hard to do in our lives.
OK, back to the example. So if you start moving around more and you are not increasing your calories, you are going to start to lose weight, and if you want to lose weight, you will be pretty excited about that; might be slower than you would like, but slow is good.
You might have more energy. Your self-confidence might improve. You might be more likely to reach out to people socially. You might be less lonely. You might quit spending as much money, going out to eat or on fast food and your finances could improve. Do you see how the ripple thing can happen?
All right! When we are focused on our best health in all areas, we are able to be more engaged. Our lives have greater meaning and purpose. We will be happier. We are more productive and we are living up to our potential.
We all, I believe this about all people, we all have strengths, we all have gifts, we all have areas to improve also, but when we are managing ourselves and our lives and our health in the best way we can, the areas that we want to have improve, we are able to help make that happen.
If we are just focused on one or two pillars and we neglect the others, we don’t do so well. If we just become totally physically focused, OK, people might develop narcissism, all about me. They are not tending to their relationships or working on being cognitively sharp, maybe not working as hard in their career; again, that’s an extreme example, I don't think any of us would ever want to land in that place.
If a pillar is totally neglected, we can easily get out of balance and issues can come from neglecting that area. If we neglect social pillar or we neglect relationships or people, we can have additional struggles there. Strategies can be used to improve more than one area.
OK, the examples I give here is volunteer work. That might fall under social health, the social pillar, that if we are volunteering and it actually is helping us be more effective at work or it helps us feel we are giving back, adding value, making a difference in someone else's life. Same for mentoring. You can see how multiple pillars can be positively impacted.
All right! Let's dive into talking about the physical pillar. OK, optimal health means—oh, don't you hate it that we have to talk about this, taking responsibility for your own health, and maximizing healthy behaviors.
So in my years of working in the hospital I had a gentleman who came to me one day and he goes, I just want you to know, I have got it all figured out, I know what I need to do. He goes and you are going to want to write this down, because you are going to want to tell everybody.
I am like tell me what is it? He goes, I know what I have to do. I have to get my know better and my do better living at the same address. I mean there is a whole lot of things having to do with our physical health that we know in our brains, but it’s so hard to get those healthy habits in place.
I mean most of know I need to be attentive to what I am eating. I need to make sure I am moving my body around. I need to get adequate rest. Make sure I am getting restored in my life through relaxation, those kinds of things.
As I go through this list, I don’t think there are going to be any huge surprises here for you, but I want you to be thinking about what is one thing I could do to really improve my physical health.
All right! I have a daughter who is a dietitian and she would be so excited that we are going to talk about eating close to the earth. All right, what that means is eating foods that are less processed. Whole foods mean it's coming from the produce section or lean meats, proteins, beans. Certainly if keeping things fresh is a problem, finding things that are frozen without a lot of additives, like frozen blueberries, frozen vegetables, not with the butter sauce all of them, but plain.
You can even make chips out of kale, imagine that; she taught me how to do that.
Not skipping meals, and I know when we get busy, that is a very common situation for folks. What's recommended is that we are eating meals, again, portion controlled meals, three a day with some snacks in between, two or three of those. That’s call defensive eating. That helps us control hunger. It helps increase our metabolism. I kind of mentioned, fruits, veggies, whole grains.
When you read the nutrition facts on something that comes in a package, she has taught me that if it goes on and on with a whole bunch of lines of stuff that you don't even know what it is, that's probably not something that you should be eating a whole lot of, and maybe you even need to leave that at the store.
In terms of dairy, we need lower fat dairy, healthy fats; things like nuts, avocados, olive oil are all recommended. And I know, I mean different people have different views about diet, what I would always say is check with your medical professional, make sure you are doing—if you have any medical conditions that you are eating according to what your medical providers tell you. I might do the commercial for dietitians, they are certainly very well-trained. I know that.
Watch portion size, five ounces of meat is not what is served up in a lot of restaurants, that's about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
A serving of cereal is not what will fit in your cereal bowl, and if you buy in bulk, like at a wholesale place like Sam's or Costco and it's a bag of chips, I looked recently the chips I bought had 32 servings in the bag.
One person I worked with in the hospital long ago would bring home things to save money in larger quantity, but she would immediately divide them into single serving Ziploc bags. That's a very smart strategy to help you with your physical health.
All right! Exercise, do you know the three areas we are supposed to be like focused on? We need to do things for our cardio health, that's in moving, getting our heart pumping and keeping that up. What is recommended is 150 hours of that heart pumping activity a week, that's two-and-a-half hours, that's 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Again, some people are like I don't have that kind of time. If you don't have that kind of time, do 10 minutes a couple or three times, do 10 minutes one time a day and work up from there.
Strength training, finding ways to make our bones stronger, very important and to help with muscle mass, that helps with our metabolism, and helps us; it depends on your age, you might not think about this, but in my personal wellness vision is if I fall down I want to get up with nothing broken.
Strength training helps. You don’t have to belong to a gym, you can use your own body, you can look online. Again, as long as it's OK with your doctor, definitely check with your doctor before you start any exercise program, but find ways to move.
Cardio, strength training, stretching, very important. You can even take a quick break at work. If you google online there are exercises you can do at your desk. Try to really create opportunities to move more. Park a little further at the store. Now they do curbside pick up, that a lot of stores are not getting many steps there, again, can save you time, depends on your life and how that works. Take the stairs if your knees and body are able.
If you have kids who are involved in practicing any kind of extracurricular instead of sitting, see if you can walk and watch them, that can help you move more and look for those opportunities.
Oh, sleep, have you seen the research out lately on sleep. Most of us are not getting the sleep we need. Sleep is restorative. It's healing. It boosts our immune system. It improves our memory. If we are not getting adequate sleep, our reaction time is slower, we are less productive, we are more irritable. We even have difficulty losing weight, controlling blood sugar and blood pressure if we are sleep deprived, and there are safety risks involved.
If you think you have sleep issues, talk to your doctor. You can see a sleep specialist. If you have a diagnosable sleep condition like sleep apnea, that is treatable. With sleep apnea, there's an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. None of us want that, so yeah.
And you know what's recommended from the National Sleep Foundation, seven to nine hours a night and that would mean no electronics and no sleep aids. Again, talk to your doctor. I am not saying there aren’t times that people need those, but we don't want to come dependent. Sleep doctors want us to learn how to go to sleep on our own.
How are you doing with checkups? If you had a physical in the last year, if you had a dental checkup in the last six months, are you flossing those teeth, are you getting your eyes evaluated, your vision evaluated annually.
Know your numbers. BMI, that's your Body Mass Index based on your height and weight, your percent body fat, your cholesterol, and not just the total, but the good HDL, the bad LDL, keeping those in check, your blood pressure, your glucose, blood sugar, your thyroid function, on and on.
And try to be proactive. Don't wait until there's a problem; try to address things before they become problematic.
I don’t think there is anybody bereaving who doesn't know to avoid tobacco, that’s dipping, chewing, smoking, vaping, even e-cigarettes. Research; we don't have a lot of that on vaping and e-cigarettes and some people are assuming those are healthier for them. I have heard people in the know talk about how they are very afraid that over time those will be just as risky as others. So again, just take good care of your physical self.
If you drink alcohol, do that in moderation. If you don't know what that is, I recommend that you look at the National Institute of Health Rethinking Drinking. Men, no more than four drinks on any one day, no more than 14 in a week. Women, no more than three on any one day, no more than seven drinks in a week.
And that serving of alcohol is not that one glass I saw that will hold an entire bottle; a bottle of wine has five servings of wine, with five ounces being one serving. 12-ounce beer, that's a regular beer is one serving of beer, not the tall boy or the malt liquor because that’s higher in alcohol. 1.5-ounces of a spirit is what is considered.
OK, I won't get my soapbox out. I have got a lot of addiction in my gene pool. I have lost family members to drugs and alcohol. I know how easy it is for someone to start with something that seems innocent and it can grow.
Drink more water; I would also add make sure you are taking your body weight, half that number in pounds, try to drink that number of ounces of water. So a 200-pound person, 100-ounces, 150-pound person, 75-ounces, minimum would be 65 and coffee and soft drinks, although they are liquid, they are a little dehydrating for us. They don't do for our bodies what real water will do.
There is a lot of fruit infused water now, but if you are not quite sure, you can definitely try some of that.
The mental pillar is really about cognitive function, your ability to be sharp cognitively even when stress is very high. We know with life, sometimes life can be incredibly stressful, very challenging. Our ability to keep on keeping on during times of challenge is really important. That’s a quality called resiliency that we all want to be building in our lives.
That's not just about surviving when times are tough, it's about learning from those tough times and actually making application to the future so we don't make the same old mistakes over and over again. That’s the definition of insanity, we do the same old stuff and we expect different results.
So we should not be insane, we should be resilient in learning from where we walk.
What about your ability to relate to people differently from you? So I grew up in Houston and Brené Brown is a Professor at University of Houston and she is also an author and does a lot of YouTubes, and if you just want to be entertained, she is very entertaining, but very research-based, got a fairly new book out called ‘Braving the Wilderness’; I recently read it. And she talked about how to help people with connection, true connection and disability to not only work with people who are differently from you, but actually be accepting and nonjudgmental in your life and not be quick to jump to conclusions about people, how much that will deepen your life and certainly help you with the very things we are talking about in terms of your health.
So what can you do? What are some strategies to achieve optimal mental health? You want to build those brain reserves, so how do you do that? Sometimes we have to get out of our regular routine, kind of the rep that we might live in and we have to push the edges of our comfort zone. We might need to look around for some new possibilities.
At work, you might cross-train. You might join a special interest group. You might focus on really enjoying yourself and your life. You might learn a new language, pick up a new hobby. If you have pets or children or grandchildren, you might watch them and that might help you play a little more in your own life, it might help you smile and laugh.
I have known people to learn how to do things online, like create their own blog, the arts are wonderful; singing, dancing, painting, woodworking, build something; pottery, stained glass, use your hands, that can be incredibly rewarding, and when we stretch it actually causes brainwave activity that is excellent for us and our health.
We used to think as we got older we were just going to have brain cells die and there was nothing we could do about it. We know that is not true. We can continue to be engaged and have good mental function throughout our lives.
I am not saying we might not become a little more forgetful, but we can use strategies to remember here that car is and where those car keys are and whatever else, where we filed things at work electronically or physically.
All right, so to manage stress, we are breathing anyway, we can stop and take some deep breaths. That can be wonderfully relaxing. Deep breathing releases endorphins, counters stress hormones, to bring your thoughts to the present, that is mindfulness. In that place we can think of a relaxing scene. We can envision something that is calming for us. We can even think about breathing in relaxation and exhaling tension. Those are all very easy to do. Doesn’t cost us any money. While you are sitting at your desk, you can stand up and stretch.
Practice; you can envision being effective in a meeting before you actually get in the meeting. Being able to envision things is extremely powerful.
Find ways to relax and get recharged in your life. And we are each different, what is relaxing and recharging to one person may not be to another, so definitely find what works for you. And in the job, there may be something you haven't thought of that would work incredibly well.
All right, so how about mental fitness. So be open to new ideas and new experiences. Positive psychology is a fairly new study. It's about people building resiliency and optimism, navigating hardships and being able to work on a more positive attitude. Positive psychology helps us be able to grow and change and adapt and get stronger.
Optimism can be learned. Like on the continuum of how optimistic am I in general, you may be like, oh no, I see more problems than I do possibilities. My brain is extremely analytical and I can identify things that need to be improved more rapidly than most people I know. That can help you in some areas of your life, but if you are always in that place, it's not going to help you be able to identify what's going right or things that have improved or recognize effort.
So again, we want to be able to monitor where we are on that continuum and do things that help us be more optimistic.
Have a sense of humor, and if you don't have one, hang out with some people who do, because they will help you laugh.
Get some perspective in your life. I love Magic Five. Is this going to matter in five minutes? Maybe. What about five hours? Depends on what it is. What about five days or five weeks or five months or five years, and then you start adding zeroes, what about 50 years? At some point I promise you it's not going to matter.
And I am not saying don't take things seriously in our lives and don't work on what needs to be worked on and address issues, but try to keep it against the backdrop of your bigger life.
Your ability to manage your reactions to conflict; conflict is inevitable. Please try not to think of it as, oh no, conflict. It's an opportunity to grow, to learn about each other, to develop some skills.
Never blame others when things are wrong. Take responsibility for yourself, your own emotions and talk about what changes you would like to have and offer ways to help bring about positive change.
All right, vocational health; I know, you come from all different companies, all kinds of careers, all kinds of jobs, look at the description, the dimension of wellness for vocational health recognizes personal satisfaction and enrichment that we get through our work. And it doesn't have to be just our work at our job; it can be our work outside of our job. It's important for our overall wellbeing to be engaged in things we love and to love what we do. Do what you love, love what you do.
The best is if you actually have a job that has some elements of that in it. When people are doing what they are meant to do, if they are using their gifts, that deepens their sense of meaning and purpose in life.
So let's talk about it, so how the heck do you do this? Now, I know it is very easy to just go to work, kind of, even if you are not an hourly employee, kind of feel like you are punching the clock, get the job done, get the paycheck and not think a whole lot more about that.
If you pulled back and said, what am I really enjoying most about my work, how do I add value on my team? How does my department add value? The sense of meaning and purpose that I derive from my work and my job, from the things I do outside of work, how am I growing professionally and personally, all of that is like related to this pillar of vocational health. Find value and meaning in what you do. Generate a work environment.
When you think about, what kind of people do you want to work with? We want to work with people that are fun to be around. People who are optimistic and creative and innovative and energetic and they will go the extra mile and they will help us when we need help, and they are just great people.
Do you know, we actually can work at being those kind of people too, be a good role model, work on our attitude, it depends on your life.
I remember, there was a time in my life when I would see like, yeah, I am volunteering, yeah, sure like I don’t even have enough minutes to get that seven to nine hours of sleep a night, how am I going to volunteer for anything right now? Or, I didn’t really think about when my kids were little and I was doing a lot of activities with them, I was giving my time and I did derive meaning in purpose, but I always thought a volunteer work is something beyond just parenting role or other things.
Look at your life and your time, and see if there are ways, even random access kindness. At work can you be a mentor to someone, can you be a mentor to yourself? Those can be wonderful opportunities.
Think about your career goals. Most companies have people develop like individual development plans and write out goals for the year and make sure you’ve got traction, those are meaty goals to you, you like them and you want to work toward them. Visualize your future. As I talked about visualization is extremely powerful. Think about your strengths, your interests, your abilities, your gifts, and all of that can make such a difference in our lives.
I know, when we are busy we are kind of like seriously ask for more things to do, but ask for things that would be challenging for you.
Envision yourself in six months, what do you want to be doing? In maybe a year or push a back further, three years or five years or even ten years, and this doesn’t have to just apply to work, it can’t, but it can apply to your life in general, because that then helps you develop that vision of your best health possible, which is what this is all about. Write a little more on strategies or your vocational health.
All right, so, mental fitness at work. Be open to enjoying your job, actually think about what you like about your work for every one thing you think of that you wish were different, try to come up with a few things, maybe two or three or four that are going well, that you really enjoy about your work, that can extend to your company to your benefits to the coworkers you enjoy working with, to ways that you can make a difference, possibly something that you come up with in terms of improving a process or—again it depends on you and your job, but just ways that you move things in a positive direction that capacity to learn and problem-solve and make decisions and be creative and imaginative, all of that can help improve that vocational health pillar, and you can see how there is ripple benefit on other pillars with that too.
Be engaged, ask thought-provoking questions, give thought-provoking outside the box brainstorming kind of solutions that shake things up. Some people don’t want their world shaken up, but sometimes it’s good for a little shaking to take place.
Have the ability to perform your regular job and that you do that not just in a ho-hum way but in an exceptional way that we work on being exceptional, in as many areas of our life as possible.
All right, so in conclusion, don’t focus on just one or two pillars and neglect everything else, but don’t feel overwhelmed where you are like there is no way. I can address all seven pillars simultaneously, we know that. Just make sure you are aware there are different aspects of this tabletop of my best health and I need to make sure I am not ignoring any area of my life.
Live with intention, think about what conscious decisions can I make that are going to help me develop healthy habits, that are going to improve my lifestyle. Help me be within at my very best, where I am living out my potential and I am achieving this optimal health and I do that with one foot in front of the other day after day.
And even when I am knocked off course a little, I don’t get lost, I get back on track as quickly as possible, kind of the relapse prevention thing.
With a renewed commitment to practice good health we reduce risk factors for negative health consequences, we can live longer and with greater quality of life.
Most of us are not about just I want to live to be a 100, but I’d like to live in my best health possible and enjoy my life as long as possible.