In our desire to achieve, sometimes we miss the basics

Basics

In the first quarter of 2024, there has been a considerable amount of research and discussion in the press and beyond on women’s health. No surprise probably to those of you who know me that one particular piece of research caught my attention concerning women’s health and the impact on the global economy undertaken by McKinsey in time for this year’s WEF Davos.

As I read the research, I started to reflect in particular on how we so often overlook our own health. What do I mean by this? It should come as no shock to both women (and men) that if we don’t look after our health. And if organisations and healthcare systems aren’t there to support us in doing so in a responsive and responsible way, then as we age we are going to find it increasingly challenging to keep thriving including at work. Good health is not the given we may assume it to be.

As I reread this, it seems so obvious and yet I know as a result of much of my coaching and consulting work that prioritising the basics of one’s health frequently doesn’t happen. Many of my clients haven’t prioritised looking after their health because, in my experience, it usually hasn’t make it to the top of their long, overloaded to do lists. And oftentimes, because the organisations within which they are working and the systems within which they are living (including healthcare systems) aren’t set up to support them to do so. As the working population in many mature economies is now at 50% aged 50 and over, this is a real challenge not just for individuals but for organisations and governments which needs to be addressed (as the older we get typically the more health challenges we face so prioritising our health along the way is an imperative).

But it’s not just about the older workforce and it’s not just about women (although the latter are likely to face greater health challenges through their lives). Younger people also struggle to make looking after their health a priority. I work with many founders who are in their 20s and 30s who are also struggling to do so.

What we know is that if we don’t focus on the basics of sleep, diet, exercise (including time outside in nature), relaxation and social connection which make up good health throughout our lives, our health both physical and mental, will suffer. So how can make our health more of a priority? The researchers would have a field time answering this question.

As for my experience, I’ve observed through my studies as well as my coaching which I frequently start with the question: “How are you?” clients like to jump straight to how busy they are, how overwhelmed they are feeling with different demands etc. From there they typically go straight to what they need to do differently work-wise and what needs addressing, actioning or fixing. They often fail to link these experiences and feelings back to the basics (ie good quality sleep, healthy diet, exercise, rest and positive social connection). It’s like there is a loss of ability to tune into what they need to thrive which in turn would enable them to address work, career and other pressing challenges. I have found that until clients can access a level of awareness (through coaching, journaling and other reflective exercises) about their own state of well-being, it is tricky for them to take focused, committed and sustained action when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

In my own experience, trying to prioritise the basics of good health is a constant work in progress. Preparing and eating a balanced diet when there are so many different tastes in our household is an ongoing struggle, which I don’t relish but one I am learning to navigate with greater grace (I think). Social connection and relaxation are relatively easy particularly when it comes to the latter as I love spending time outside and enjoy my daily hour-long mindful walk (and talks with my husband when he joins me) as well as our campervan trips. Sleep has been a trickier one especially when I’m anxious and or in pain (the latter has been the case more recently). Joining up the dots of an underfunded health system in varying forms of chaos when you need medical support to get to a better place also takes perseverance and patience (something I have a lot of experience with).  But. if I am honest, the pillar of health that I struggle with the most is exercise. For me, it’s always been the hardest nut to crack (as I find with many of my clients). I’m increasingly recognising it’s about commitment and consistency rather than intense sprints as well as exercising self-compassion when it doesn’t happen but it’s not always easy. Accepting that my health needs shift and change over time as I move through the seasons of life is something I am increasingly aware of, intrigued by and open to acting on.

Finally, through my work and own experiences, I have come to realise that achieving at the expense of health isn’t the answer, that without our health we may never really achieve what we are truly capable of and so we need to keep attuned to our needs and committed to making it a priority.

If you’re curious to know more about any of the above, I’d be delighted to talk to you so please do get in touch at rebecca@wise.sherpa.co.uk or via my contact page. Additionally, to learn what my clients say about me, please check out my LinkedIn profile and/or this website’s testimonials page.

Rebecca Hill, Founder, Wise Sherpa

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