As the pandemic eases and we slowly return to work, the road to normality is full of potholes.
Many challenges, both professional and personal, lie ahead, writes Alec Lom.
The international consultancy firm Accenture recently forecast that, in the future, post-Covid-19 era, "every business will be a health business".
By that, they didn't just mean we'll all be wearing masks and social distancing at work meetings. They were referring to a change in climate that would affect the entire British workforce.
This new environment, in which businesses and those who work with them will be more focused on health matters, also means excellent opportunities are looming now for employers to create companies that support their people by minimising risk factors linked to diet and lifestyle.
Sadly, obesity, type 2 diabetes and other poor-health factors contribute to casualties from the virus. But when it's over, employers will still have a chance to help support their employees' physical and mental health.
60 years of experience
Employees across the UK, workers in every sector, will indeed be looking for extra support from their employers. So, how should we respond?
Here are the views and top tips of three highly respected experts. All three work in the health sector, and between them, they have clocked up around 60 years of professional experience, supporting both individuals and members of the business community.
The trio – comprising one of the UK's top corporate nutritionists, a leading osteopath with particular back-injury expertise, and a 'rapid change expert' and hypnotherapist who is an anxiety specialist now very focused on Coronavirus anxiety – have between them presented over 1,000 webinars and workshops, and engaged with hundreds of companies, including some of the biggest in the country.
Whether you're the owner or manager of a business, working as part of a team or self-employed, leaving lockdown will prioritise physical and mental health issues and pose lots of questions. Let's ask the team for their answers…
#1 The Nutritionist
Angela Steel is one of Britain's most experienced, highly respected specialist advisors on corporate nutrition and physical and mental wellbeing at work.
For the past ten years, she's closely integrated with some of the UK's most famous and successful companies. Her professional expertise, and the hands-on guidance of her nationwide team, have helped more than 100 businesses and national organisations to support their workforces by participating in her bespoke and engaging programmes, challenges and campaigns.
In her 20s, Angela travelled a lot, didn't eat very healthily, smoked ten cigarettes a day and often fell ill with the flu. One day she read an inspiring article about a detox retreat in a remote village in Thailand. She took the plunge, and it proved to be an epiphany. It opened her eyes, changed her life, and led her to form her own business.
After re-training in nutrition, with earlier qualifications in business and languages and a previous career in technology marketing, Angela founded SuperWellness. This award-winning consultancy is now the leading provider of nutrition-centred wellbeing services in the UK, supporting many high-performing teams among Britain's ten million+ office workers.
For her clients, who've included Vitality, Network Rail, AmcoGiffen, P&O Ferries, Harrods, HSBC, REM (The Shard), PricewaterhouseCoopers, The London Stock Exchange, Visa and many more, Angela and her team have hosted over 1,000 webinars and workshops. These encourage CEOs, MDs and HR Directors to improve their support for their teams' physical and mental health. Results regularly surprise companies, who quickly discover the measurable impact such investments have on their performance, morale, turnover and profits.
"As we begin to leave lockdown, it's important to do everything we can to strengthen our immune system and general health," says Angela. "Here are my two best pieces of advice."
Tip 1: Get a vitamin D check
Recent research has shown a strong correlation between Vitamin D levels in the body and how our body responds to the virus. It can be challenging to get the amount of sun exposure we need in the UK, and we don't get much Vitamin D from our diet, so taking a supplement is usually the most effective way to top up your levels. It's always a good idea to get your levels checked first, through your GP or via a blood spot test at home.
Tip 2: Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
Inflammation is one of the critical mechanisms by which Covid-19 causes damage and complications, so minimising inflammation in our body can be a positive step. In a nutshell, this means minimising inflammatory foods high in sugar, highly processed, containing trans-fats and additives and increasing anti-inflammatory foods. These include a wide range of colourful vegetables and fruit, omega-3 containing foods, such as oily fish and walnuts, and spices such as ginger and turmeric.
#2 The Osteopath
Such MSK, back, neck, and upper-limb injuries cost UK plc nearly 7 million working days per year, and so six years ago, Tim also founded The Bad Back Company. It's become one of Britain's most popular websites in the back-pain community as it offers sufferers access to over 100 high-quality pain-management products from around the world, all of which Tim has tested personally.
Tim says: "Emerging from lockdown imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic will inevitably result in a surge in extra aches and pains, injuries and strains."
It may mainly involve those of us who, after being cooped up at home for weeks, leap at the Prime Minister's relaxation of the rules stating that we may now take unlimited exercise outdoors daily. Tim's top tips to keep yourself off the osteopath's or doctor's couch are:
Tip 1: Don't go exercise-crazy
Start with exercises that you are familiar with and ease yourself in. Don't suddenly take on a whole new regime that you are not prepared for. As an osteopath, my January is always super-busy with people getting injured coming out of 'Christmas lockdown', trying to get fit in a hurry for the New Year. So my advice would start slowly and gradually build up to avoid injury.
Tip 2: Take a walk
While we can't get to the gym, one of the safest exercises you can participate in is walking (often under-valued). A brisk walk can engage and lubricate almost every muscle and joint in your body, helping to relieve the tightness and tension that has built up in lockdown. If you feel your upper back and neck muscles are still 'in lockdown' and may require a little help, you could consider the UK's leading posture support brace, which you can discretely wear at home or the office under your clothing without anyone realising it.
#3 The Therapist
Howard Cooper is one of Britain's leading 'Rapid Change' therapists. A qualified hypnotherapist and Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), he specialises in helping people create rapid shifts in their thinking.
Drawing on various psychological tools, Howard has supported more than 2,500 individuals over the past 17 years, regularly bringing about transformational changes to their lives. His approach has helped people from all walks of life and ages overcome intrusive personal phobias, anxieties, and issues they have often suffered from for years, offering his clients a new lease of life.
He spent almost two years as the lead psychological presenter on Virgin Atlantic's critically acclaimed 'Flying Without Fear' course and appeared as the expert on fear of ﬂying on Channel 4's documentary 'Fear of Flying: Caught on Camera'.
His focus is on helping anxiety sufferers who are worried about Coronavirus. Long-term Coronavirus anxiety is a growing problem despite lockdown restrictions, and Howard is hosting a new support programme. It is accessible to all NHS frontline key workers, including carers and volunteers, and it starts on Monday 18 May.
Howard says: "Everyone's going to be focused on health, and especially mental health issues, as the pandemic eases. Employers are right to be concerned about the need to care for their workforce's mental wellness, and you will need a great deal of extra support in the months ahead. Here are my two top tips:"
Tip 1: Go easy on yourself
During lockdown, many people have been putting pressure on themselves to maintain perfect eating habits and exercise plans. While it's all well and good to have a desire to do these things, remember to go easy on yourself, too. As lockdown eases, it's essential to take pressure off yourself. Be kind to yourself if you aren't as productive as you'd typically be. If you tell yourself you HAVE TO or MUST be perfect at all times, then you are more likely to beat yourself up if you don't manage this. But if you tell yourself that you'd like to get stuff done but understand you don't have to, that can often help alleviate the psychological pressure.
Tip 2: Focus on positives and gratitude
It's easy to get swept up in all the fear and anxiety coming from the internet and then incorrectly conclude that everything is beyond despair. However, there are also lots of positive things to be focusing on. Around 96 per cent of people are surviving; the world carries on turning, pollution levels are down, we are all getting a gift of some time to reflect on where we are at and the choices we are making. Taking time regularly to focus on 'what's good' and 'what we are grateful for' literally begins to wire the brain for more positivity in the future. And guess what? People who are more optimistic, calm and clear-headed deal best in times of uncertainty.
- For more information about corporate nutrition for businesses, check out Angela Steel's award-winning company SuperWellness at www.superwellness.co.uk.
- Osteopath Tim Everett's online pain-management resource, The Bad Back Company, is at www.thebadbackcompany.co.uk and his bestselling Posture Support Brace http://bit.ly/PostureHelp.
- For details of Howard Cooper's work, see www. rapid change. Works, and if you're struggling with Coronavirus anxiety, help is available through his new 12-week Corona anxiety support programme https://rapidchange.works/coronaanxiety.
- Alec Lom is a former Fleet Street journalist and UK media expert whose articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including The Daily Telegraph. He now runs his media and publicity agency supporting businesses across the health and wellbeing sector www.aleclom.com.