Bike exploring: The New Forest
Brockenhurst New Forest Loop. Just under 12 miles of easy going forest trails and tarmac. A great all year ride, perfect for families. The route starts and stops in the pretty little town of Brockenhurst.
After completing the 100 Peaks Challenge, Karl Rushen struggled to re-adjust back at work. Here, he explains how he took responsibility for his own workplace wellbeing.
For a whole month in 2017 I spent my life doing what I loved, being in the outdoors, challenging myself away from the maddening city crowds, but when I returned to work, it took me some considerable time to re-adjust to the work life expectations again. I spent a long time in a post challenge funk, wishing to be anywhere else, but life goes on and we must live in the real world.
Over a period, I channelled that energy into thinking about the legacy of the challenge and how I could use that to improve my mood at work.
Since completing The 100 Peaks Challenge it's become a big driver for me in helping as many people as I can to realise their 'mental' and 'physical' potential.
Well-being. It's a two way street!
One of the easiest places to influence should be the work place. However, in reality, it's not. Therefore, we need to find a way of bridging the gap to what is considered 'working effectively'.
There are many factors at play here, but predominantly it boils down to a workplace's commitment to wellbeing, as well as the individual's commitment to wellbeing.
Research shows that the way employers run their workplace can influence an individual's sense of wellbeing, however, whilst the workplace may have a duty of care to help improve our wellbeing, it is down to us as individuals to adopt it into our everyday lives.
Again, trying to encourage people to do things differently is difficult when we all are driven to deliver at work.
If we're given the tools we must use them, otherwise they will be taken away.
Generally, today's work place is a pretty stressful place to be, with strong focus on delivering to tight deadlines at reduced budgets against competitors that are prepared to pimp their staff out for a share of the spoils. At the same time, our wellbeing is being promoted as being of the upmost importance, which sends a confusing message where you're expected to work harder for less, in a world that demands more.
A large majority of people do the job they have because they've invariably fallen in to it. You still have to be very lucky to be able to work in a profession that you love, so, for most people, we have to manufacture a positive mental attitude on a daily basis…..and that doesn't even take into account factors outside of work, that may be having an influence on our wellbeing!
Whilst I don't doubt there is a change coming and a desire for companies to take their staff's wellbeing seriosuly (which some companies do very well), I still believe that for some, it's very much about doing the fashionable thing without any real desire to action the necessary changes.
So, how do you stay positive?
By design we, in the modern working environment must be mentally and physically robust. It's a dog eat dog world, and whilst that might have always been the case, there is no longer any real loyalty in business.
We are at work, to work, that's a given, but by the same token, most of our lives are spent at work, so how do we get that balance that means we are always at our best?
It certainly isn't by being sat our desks or behind a wheel all day.
With stress and anxiety comes absence and sickness, in most cases stress and anxiety can be reduced by being switched on to the needs of people, however, and as previously stated, it's not all down to the companies to make this happen. Most companies nowadays will have some form of wellbeing and workplace performance programme, that is designed to empower its people within their roles to get the best out of them. But that's just words, unless acted upon on both sides.
So, I come back to the question of how to 'work effectively' and 'stay positive' in a demanding environment?
I'm a firm
believer in taking responsibility for making the changes we need in our lives. We already have everything
we need to make our lives better and nobody else can do it for us.
Firstly, you must recognise a change is needed.
For me, losing my little brother gave me a different perspective, helping me realise that I was no longer the man I identified with, mentally and physically.
Life isn't all about work, yes, we spend a lot of our lives at work, so we must learn to either love what we do, find something we love doing or take an element of what we love into our work.
My example may
seem a little extreme to most, but it's the principles of what I do that I
think many should be able to adopt. Before I start work, I train, after I
train, I spend some time with my son, then I go to work. So, before
my working day starts I've already done two things that I love, putting me in a good place mentally and physically to work effectively throughout the day.
With the common workplace now offering a lot more flexibility in our approach to working, we would be foolish to not take the opportunities given to us. Most companies offer the opportunity to choose our core hours, start times and lunch hours, enabling us to work around what's important to us.
When I first noted that I was suffering with my post-'The 100 Peaks' funk, I determined that more than anything I missed the adrenaline rush of pushing
myself physically, which in turn challenged me mentally. There were a few
factors at play here, I was still dealing with the grief of losing my little
brother, but also with the fallout of subjecting myself to such an extreme challenge.
I was mourning both my brother, and that the Challenge was over.
I learnt that I needed to find a focus once again, almost in the same way I had with the Challenge, but obviously to not such an extreme, because I was now back in the real world and having to balance family, work and my needs as an individual.
The legacy of the challenge had meant my level of fitness was the best it had ever been, which I was keen to maintain. Additionally, I found that mentally preparing for the challenge and the training had helped significantly with the grieving process and overall, improved my mental state and wellbeing.
Making time for what's important to you is essential.
There are 168 hours in a week, a third of that (55hrs ~ 33%) is taken up by work, 28% for sleep (47hrs). I aim to spend at least 28% (48hrs) of the week having quality time with the family, the other 11% is mine and for the most part that is taken up by training. Training helps me deal with stress and retain perspective, keeps me focused on my work, life and family. Training helps me improve my mental state and enables me to perform at a higher level.
I'm not going to preach that you must do things a certain way, at the end of the day you must find your own way to make the most of the opportunities given to you, to better yourself. You have to learn to adapt yourself and the way you work to get the best and most effective results, for both you and your employers.
You will very quickly notice the positive effects of taking charge of your own wellbeing.
Did you know the government guidelines for moderate exercise of 150mins a week equates to 1.5% of that week?
That’s 2.5hrs a week or 21.5mins a day!
(Alternatively, 75mins of vigorous exercise a week will have the same effect and give you the same benefits!)
Brits spend twice as long on the toilet each week as they spend exercising.
Incredibly, the average British adult whiles away three hours and nine minutes
sitting on their loo every week, but just 90 minutes exercising. In fact, 26% of people are active for 30 minutes or less every seven days.
Now, you have no excuse!
You may be thinking that this is all centred around fitness and promoting health, it is, and it isn't.
Again I'm a firm believer in promoting the use of exercise to improve our health and wellbeing, but you're wellbeing will be greatly improved by just finding time to do more of the things you love. That can be as simple as reading a book, taking your children to school.
With so much focus now on health and wellbeing, stress
related illness and suicide, it is important to look after ourselves in every
conceivable way. Small changes can have a massive impact on our ability to work
effectively and our positivity. Looking after our mental and physical health helps sharpens our mind, gives us focus, a greater sense of
achievement and a greater sense of purpose. Overall, it makes us a better person for
everyone we come in to contact with.
"to be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible."
That change can breed positivity and inspire others to follow suit, I often use the quote "To be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible".
It's true, you don't know who you're inspiring and sooner or later others will notice.
Although, we still have some way to go, our employers are becoming better at helping us. We as individuals need to be better at helping ourselves and others.