Staff General Wellbeing
The health and wellbeing of University staff is a priority and the Occupational Health Department run a series of wellbeing events and initiatives throughout the year. These include Staff Only Learning Lunches, Staff Wellbeing & Benefits Fair, Weekly Staff Meditation Sessions, Staff Pop Choir and Menopause Talk and Support Sessions. Please take a look at the webpages for these and let us know if you would like to join in.
We are always interested in your views. if you have any comments or ideas you would like to pass onto the wellbeing team please email Staff.firstname.lastname@example.org
Below you can also find information and signposting for the following specific areas of health and wellbeing:
Every cigarette you smoke is harmful. Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in England, accounting for nearly 80,000 deaths each year. One in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease. Every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation in your body, mutations are how cancers start.
If you currently smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit.
Below are just some of the benefits of quitting:
- Live a longer, healthier life. 50% of all long term smokers die early due to smoking related diseases such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Smoking causes approximately 90% of all lung cancers.
- You will breathe more easily, within 9 months of giving up smoking you should cough less and breathe more easily as your lung capacity improves by up to 10%. This can be difference between an active, healthy old age and struggling to climb the stairs.
- Look younger, Non-smokers skin gets more nutrients and oxygen, so stopping smoking can slow facial ageing and delay the appearance of wrinkles.
- You will have more energy. Within 3 months of stopping smoking your blood circulation improves. This makes physical activity easier, can reduce tiredness and headaches.
- Improve your fertility, stopping smoking improves the lining of the womb and can improve sperm quality. Stopping smoking also decreases the chances of miscarriage.
- You could feel less stressed. Nicotine withdrawal between cigarettes can increase feelings of stress, this is because our bodies confuse the stress of withdrawal with other stresses. It may therefore feel like smoking reduces stress but the opposite is true. Scientific studies found peoples stress levels lower after they stop smoking.
- You will have an improved sense of smell and taste. As your mouth and nose stop being dulled by harmful chemicals found in cigarettes you should notice food tastes and smells better. In addition to this your general oral health should improve leading to fresher breath and whiter teeth.
- You will have younger looking skin. Stopping smoking has been found to slow facial ageing and delay the appearance of wrinkles. The skin of a smoker gets more nutrients, including oxygen, and stopping smoking can reverse the sallow, lined complexion smokers often have.
- You will be protecting your loved ones. Breathing second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Children who live in a smoking household are more at risk of chest infections, ear infection, asthma and are 3 times more at risk of developing lung cancer than children from smoke free homes.
Visit the NHS Smokefree website to find lots of information and resources to help you quit including a personal quit plan, a free app, email and text message support and information about stop smoking aids.
Stoptober also takes place annually and is promoted by the staff wellbeing team.
Benefits of cutting down alcohol consumption
By reducing your alcohol consumption you could:
- Improve your long term health. By reducing alcohol consumption you reduce your risk of developing cancer, liver disease, heart disease and reduce your blood pressure.
- Improve your sleep. When you drink excessive amounts of alcohol you sleep less deeply, you are more likely to wake up early and not be able to get back to sleep.
- Improve your energy levels. Alcohol can have a negative impact on your immune system making it harder to fight off bugs. Couple this with the negative effects of alcohol on sleep and mood, drinking in excess can make you feel tired, glum and under the weather.Could improve your mood. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol interferes with the neurotransmittes in your brain, this can lead to low moods the day after you have been drinking heavily.
- Improve your skin. Alcohol dehydrates your skin, this can make your skin look dull and grey. Skin quickly recovers and could start to look better within a few days of reduced alcohol consumption.
- Lose weight. Alcoholic drinks are often high in calories. A pint of beer a day has the same number of calories as 4 burgers.
- Reduce indigestion and diarrhoea. Alcohol irritates the stomach causing it to produce more acid than usual, this can lead to stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Why should I exercise?
If you exercise regularly you could reduce your risk of:
- Osteoarthritis by 83%.
- Hip fracture by 68%.
- Type 2 diabetes by 50%.
- Colon cancer by 50%.
- Coronary heart by 35%.
- Depression by 30%.
What counts as regular exercise?
To remain healthy an adult should be active daily and should do 150 minutes of exercise over a week. For exercise to count your heart rate needs to increase, you should breathe faster and feel warmer. Easy ways to fit exercise in include walking or cycling to work.
Staying Active in the Workplace
Most of us know that being active is good for our health. But more evidence is emerging that even if you exercise regularly, spending a lot of time sitting down can still be bad for you. People who spend long periods of time sitting have been found to have higher rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death from all causes. If your job is desk based, it can be difficult to avoid this, but there are ways to help us keep active in the workplace.
Meetings often involve spending a lot of time in a seated position with minimal physical activity, limited access to fresh air and consumption of foods high in sugars and fats, such as cookies and other snacks during coffee breaks. The World Health Organisation has released guidelines for employers and meeting organisers to promote healthier and more sustainable meetings.
The guide includes the following simple yet easily applicable ideas:
- ensure that fresh fruits and vegetables are the basis of any snacks provided;
- reduce portion sizes to discourage overeating and decrease food waste (for example, cut baked goods or sandwiches in half);
- choose wholegrain foods such as whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice;
- avoid offering sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas and juice drinks in favour of water, served plain or with the addition of fresh cut fruits, vegetables or fragrant herbs for additional flavour;
- choose products with lower salt content and request that caterers reduce the amount of salt in the menu – ask them to use herbs, spices and acids (vinegar and lemon or lime juice) for flavouring instead; and
- offer participants appropriate opportunities to be physically active by incorporating physical activity into the meeting agenda or by allowing enough time during lunch breaks for people to be physically active and to refocus their minds.
Read the full guidelines here
Five steps to mental wellbeing
- Be active, exercise is linked with reduced levels of depression and anxiety.
- Connect, relationships are vital for wellbeing and helps to shield against mental ill health.
- Learn, lifelong learning promotes good self-esteem.
- Give, Studies show that people who give to or help others are more likely to feel happy.
- Be mindful, Studies have shown that being aware of the present moment, your thoughts and feelings can have a positive impact on the way you view your life and how you approach new chanllenges.
Information on mental health awareness and stress can be found at the following websites:
For further resources on stress management go to the Occupational Health Stress page.
SilverCloud offers secure, immediate access to online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) programmes, tailored to an employee’s specific needs. The programmes have demonstrated high improvement rates for depression and anxiety. The programmes are flexible and can be accessed anywhere, on a computer, tablet or mobile phone. The programmes are also easy to use, there are interactive tool and activities to make the experience interesting and motivational.
All employees with a hud.ac.uk email address can use SilverCloud. Please click here to sign up.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep has a number of critical functions and is essential for good
health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep has a profound impact on our brain’s ability to function. The cumulative impact of successive nights of poor sleep is significant. There is a strong relationship between sleep and physical and mental health. This is why taking steps to prevent sleep deprivation or poor sleep is so important.
Types of Sleep
Sleep occurs in a recurring cycle of 90 to 110 minutes and is divided into two categories: non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is so called because during this type of sleep, your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind your eyelids. During REM sleep, your brain activity increases, your pulse quickens, and you have dreams. REM sleep first takes place after you’ve been sleeping for around 90 minutes.
Importance of REM Sleep
REM sleep is really important, as it is during this type of sleep that our brain processes and consolidates newly acquired information, and also actively forgets unimportant information.
Think of your mind as a busy office with stacks of papers and post-it notes everywhere. At night when we dream, this is the time when we tidy this office and sort out what we need to keep and remember, and what is less important and we can forget.
REM sleep is also when we dream and dreaming has an important function for our wellbeing. REM-sleep dreaming appears to take the painful sting out of difficult, even traumatic, emotional episodes experienced during the day, offering emotional resolution when you awake the next morning.
Dreams also allow us to act out things we can’t do in real life and is when we ‘emotionally vent’. When we are distressed we dream more because we need more of this ‘emotional venting’. And don’t worry if you think you don’t dream, you do, we just don’t remember almost all of our dreams.
Ways to Improve your Sleep
In order to have a restful night’s sleep, you should establish good ‘Sleep Hygiene’. Sleep Hygiene refers to the ideal conditions for a good night’s sleep.
Good sleep hygiene includes:
Fixed times for going to bed and waking up – Once you establish a fixed routine, your body gets used to going to sleep and waking at certain times. Your regular bedtime will then become the critical time when your mind and body becomes tired and is ready for sleep.
Maintaining a comfortable sleeping environment – Your bedroom should be slightly cool (16-18 degrees) as the body temperature naturally lowers when preparing for sleep, so a cool room will help with this. You should also sleep in a room that is as dark as possible, to stimulate melatonin (a hormone that regulates sleep) to be released to help you feel relaxed and ready for sleep.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late at night – Caffeine, as can be expected, can disrupt sleep. Caffeine takes a long time to get out of our system, so it is a good idea not to drink caffeine after midday, to ensure it has been released from our system by the time we go to sleep. Some may think that a couple of glasses of wine before bed actually helps them get to sleep, but alcohol consumption actually blocks REM sleep, meaning that although you will be sleeping, you will get much less of the important, restorative REM sleep. Nicotine is also a stimulant so is best avoided late at night.
Fluid restriction 2 hours before bed – We benefit most from sleep that is uninterrupted but often our sleep is interrupted by having to get up and use the bathroom (especially as we age and our bladder sphincter muscles weaken). The simplest solution to avoid this is to make sure you are well hydrated during the day, and then restrict fluid intake in the 2 hours before bed, giving you time to empty your bladder before sleep.
Other Ways to Improve your Sleep
Work out how much sleep works best for you
Adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night but how much sleep works best for you is very individual, and your sleep requirements will vary with factors such as age and how active your lifestyle is. Some people will need more sleep and others less. You will most likely know how much sleep you need to feel at your best the next day, so respect this – needing 10 hours a night may be best for some people and doesn’t make you lazy! Alternatively you may need less sleep – but less than 6 hours is not a good idea as it is linked to a higher mortality risk.
Avoid blue light from screens 1 hour before bed
Melatonin, also know as the sleep hormone, is produced by the pineal gland in our brains. Melatonin is responsible for regulating sleep and wakefulness. In the morning, the natural blue light emitted from the sun tells our brain that the day has begun and that it is time to feel awake and alert. After the sun sets and it becomes dark, the lack of blue and green light in our environment tells our brain that it’s time to wind down, so it releases melatonin, making us feel relaxed and sleepy and allowing us to obtain deep and restful sleep. However, using blue-light emitting devices such as smartphones and tablets before bed tricks the mind that it is morning, and so restricts the release of melatonin. Stopping using these devices at least an hour before bedtime can avoid this disruption.
Get outside during the day
Exposing ourselves to sunlight during the day can help us sleep at night. Sunlight stimulates the eye with light pressure, which in turn stimulates the production of melatonin. When it becomes dark at night, this melatonin is released, making us feel relaxed and sleepy and ready for bed. So it is a good idea to get outside as much as you can during sunlight hours.
Save your bed for sleep (and intimacy) only
Your mind should recognize your bed as a relaxing place for sleep and intimacy only. If you sit in bed and work, surf the Internet, or watch TV this is unlikely to be the case. Also, our memory can be ‘context dependant’. This means that our retrieval of memories is easier if we are in the same context and environment that we made the memory in. You have probably experienced this if you have ever returned to the home where you grew up, or a school that you used to attend. When you do this, memories of events that happened there came more readily to mind. So if you have sat on your bed during the day to complete a task or make a call that you find stressful, at night you are more likely to recall and think about this stressful episode as you are in the same environment (on your bed in your bedroom) that you made it in. However if your bed is used only for sleep, you can more easily switch off at night and put these memories out of your mind.
PHE has launched a sleep and recovery toolkit for all employers which consolidates the best evidence, employer practice and aligned with the best freely available resources.
With so much conflicting information out there about the best way to eat a nutritious and balanced diet, it is easy to become confused. Firstly, it is important to remember that food is to be enjoyed and not to feel guilty about.
The Eatwell Guide translates government recommendations on foods, nutrients and health into simple messages to help us make informed choices about the foods, drinks and dietary patterns that promote good health.
The Guide suggests the different types and proportions of foods and drinks to be consumed to have a nutritious, balanced diet whilst also being able to enjoy eating.
The Eatwell Guide
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Have dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). They are a good source of protein and calcium.
- Base meals on starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta. They are a good source of energy.
- Eat meat, beans, pulses, fish, eggs. They are a good source of protein.
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts.
- Eat foods high in fat, salt and sugar less often and in small amounts
- Drink plenty of fluids such as water, lower-fat milks and sugar free drinks.
Switching to a more nutritious way of eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy, and you don’t have to change everything all at once. A better approach is to make a few small changes at a time. For example, adding a salad or a couple of portions of vegetables to one of your meals each day. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more nutritious choices and reap the health benefits.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with food: Intuitive Eating
One important aspect that may get overlooked when seeking to consume a ‘healthy diet’, is the need for balance, and to maintain a healthy relationship with food. Intuitive eating1 is a philosophy of eating that promotes a healthy attitude towards food and body image and encourages people to trust their body and eat in response to internal cues of hunger and fullness. An intuitive eater is defined as a person who “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honours hunger, respects fullness and enjoys the pleasure of eating.” Intuitive eating also urges us to change our language and behaviour around food - things aren't 'good' or 'bad' for us; they're just 'foods'. Research indicates that practicing intuitive eating is associated with better psychological health, and long term, is associated with lower body mass index2.
There are 10 principles of Intuitive Eating and if you want to know more about this philosophy of eating, you can via these links:
- Tribole E & Resch E (1995) Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
- Van Dyke, N. and Drinkwater, E.J., 2014. Review article relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review. Public health nutrition, 17(8), pp.1757-1766.
Support for Disordered Eating
If you are concerned about your relationship with food and would like support for this, Beat is an eating disorders charity which has downloadable resources, a helpline and online support groups.
The menopause is when a person who menstruates stops having periods. Periods usually start to become less frequent over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly.
The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age and in the UK, the average age for the menopause is 51. However, around 1 in 100 experience the menopause before 40 years of age. This is known as premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency.
The University is committed to supporting staff who are experiencing symptoms of the menopause, or those who are affected by colleagues or loved-ones going through this transitional period. Menopause Awareness Month is an opportunity for us to highlight the information and support available to staff.
Menopause Talk and Support Sessions
The Human Resources Group host regular Menopause Talk and Support sessions for staff. It is recognised that peer support is an important way of supporting people through the menopause and these sessions provide a forum to talk about the menopause and share experiences. Everyone is welcome, whether you’re experiencing symptoms yourself and want to meet others in a similar situation or if you would like to understand more about the menopause to support others. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sessions are currently being held online.
For more information about the Talk and Support Sessions, please email email@example.com
Further Information and Support
- Henpicked are menopause in the workplace experts and have information and support on their webpages for colleagues and managers
- The NHS have a Menopause Webpage, including information on symptoms and treatment options
- The Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians have produced Guidance on Menopause in the Workplace
- Women’s Health Concern have produced a Menopause Factsheet
- BUPA’s Menopause Webpage includes information on symptoms, treatment and how to look after your self during the Menopause
- Menopause Support have published a Guide to Understanding Menopause for Partners