Taking a vacation is good for your health (and your job)

Vacation

We are obsessed with talking about well-being, on this blog, and so it’s no surprise that we enjoy reminding people to take their much deserved vacation time. After all, taking a vacation is proven to be not only fun and relaxing, but also be good for your health.

One study compared heart disease rates among 12,000 men over nine years. They found that those who took frequent vacations were 32% less likely to die from heart disease and 21% less likely to die from another serious health problem.

Another large and influential study found that women who took a vacation only once every six years were almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease compared to women who vacation at least twice a year or more.

It’s no surprise that people who take vacation time are less likely to suffer from higher levels of stress and depression. A study conducted on 1,500 women found that those who take vacations at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and stress than women who take at least one vacation every two years or more.

Interestingly, and there are studies proving that vacation time actually increases productivity. Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation they took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. Staff who took frequent vacations were also much less likely to leave the company.

Another study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that employees who were required to take time off were much more productive overall than those who spent more time working 52 weeks a year. Personally, after some days free of the daily stresses, I find I’m able to make more thoughtful decisions at work. Taking a break for one’s own wellness is a right that shouldn’t be taken for granted, and research shows us, it increases productivity: a win-win for companies and employees. So where are you thinking of going this summer? Keep an eye out for our post on places to visit in and around Ontario.

By: Greg Dwulit

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#FridayFeeling: 7 feel-good hashtags for each day of the week

 “Hashtag” skit with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake

#TGIF!

What is it about the weekend that we love so much? Could it be the BBQ waiting to be fired in the backyard, being able to press the snooze button on our alarms, or finally being able to catch up with family and friends? Whatever it is, the weekend is a time we look forward to, and it doesn’t only apply to people who work in certain jobs. In fact, studies have shown that the “weekend effect” makes people happier regardless of occupation.

So, what if every day could feel like the weekend?

Each day, Twitter populates a “Trending” section where the most used hashtags and topics being talked about appear. On that list, there’s at least one hashtag that trends specifically to getting us pumped and motivated, if not reflective and inspired for the day. Thinking of getting a meal plan ready for the week? Tweet it out and use #MondayMotivation – motivate others while also getting ideas for next week.

With social media, and Twitter in particular, people who share the same joys (and pains) are just a hashtag away, creating a real sense of community and ability to get inspired as well as inspire others.

Check out these 7 feel-good Twitter hashtags and connect with us throughout the week @SEIUHealthCan:

  1. #MondayMotivation
  2. #TuesdayTip
  3. #WednesdayWisdom
  4. #ThursdayThought
  5. #FridayFeeling
  6. #SaturdayVibes
  7. #SundayFunday

Got hashtags to share? Tweet them to us @SEIUHealthCan and include #healthaholicblog!

By: Richelle Himaya


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Health is real wealth

seiu healthcare healthaholic blog health is real wealth

Wellness is important to us all, and by creating an environment that is healthy and encouraging, you can help build your workplace into a hub for positive change.

With summer right around the corner, there are many things you can do within your workplace to help create a healthy and happy work environment inside and outside the workplace. Here are a few tips that can help you on your road to wellness.

TAKE A WALK

Everyone likes to be outside on a nice, sunny day. By organizing walks outdoors during lunch or coffee breaks, it gives people the opportunity to soak up some much needed vitamin D from the sun as well as burn off a few calories with some friends. Walking allows people to go at their own pace and set goals however they like. Even if it’s raining outside, indoor walks with the right company can make cloudy days into sunny ones.

DRINK MORE WATER

With patio season quickly approaching, who doesn’t enjoy a refreshing beverage on a hot summer’s day? We all know that those sugary drinks aren’t good for you, and too much alcohol is damaging to your liver.  Anyone looking to lose weight could be helped by upping their water intake. Studies have found that when participants drink water before a meal, they lose weight faster than those who did not drink water. Extra water helps us eat less by making us feel full, and it may also boost metabolism, so drink up!

PACK YOUR OWN FOOD

We know how hard it can be to prepare meals in advance, with a busy schedule who has the time to pack a lunch? Studies have shown that people who eat lunch out less frequently are more likely to lose weight. Even one fast-food meal a week can do damage, including increasing your risk for heart disease. Snack machines usually don’t have many healthy options. Get around this by preparing your own snacks ahead of time. From fresh fruit to mixed nuts, pre-planning will help you make healthy choices and avoid impulse buys.

By: Andrew Miller

Close your eyes. Relax your mind. Breathe.

Many SEIU Healthcare staff hear those phrases whispered every week when they participate in weekly yoga classes.

For the past six weeks, SEIU Healthcare staff have the chance to get out of their office chair and onto a yoga mat for a chance to relax their mind and body through meditation, stretching and breathing techniques. The classes are held every Wednesday at lunchtime to break up the week and day and give staff a chance to refocus their mind.

Yoga at SEIU Healthcare

Human Resources Administrator Cecilia Ng was overjoyed that she could participate in Yoga, as her former workplace had the same routine. She says, “I love the idea of doing Yoga at work as it helps me with stretching especially after long hours of sitting in front of a computer.”

The initiative was launched by SEIU Healthcare’s Wellness Committee, which formed in the beginning of 2015 to address high stress levels which are all too familiar for our staff, our members and Canadians in general. To address these issues, the Committee has led a number of initiatives to address mental health, physical health and nutritional health – with Yoga being one that melds all of these aspects.

As a result, Yoga has been the most popular initiative by far, where approximately 30 people showed up to the first Yoga sessions.

Angie Jacome, an administrative support employee, who has worked at SEIU Healthcare for 33 years, is a regular now as it helps with her body aches.

Angie says, “The stretches I showed you the other day makes me feel taller. It must be that my tight muscles are stretching therefore making me more relaxed.”

Not only have these classes helped build individual strength, but it has also developed into a team building exercise. Every week, there are also new faces joining in, many of whom are trying Yoga for the first time.

Natasha Luckhardt, a researcher and member of the Wellness Committee says, “I love how it brings everyone in the office together. I get to talk to people from different departments who I’ve only had the chance to talk to when I’m passing them in the hallways.”

Alex Murphy, a Pay Equity Representative, says that she feels energized and rejuvenated after every Yoga session. She says, “It’s wonderful to get the exercise and practice in mid-week. Thanks to the Wellness Committee and the organization for giving us this opportunity.”

Her colleague, Lisa Wong, also works as a pay equity representative and is equally as excited about the weekly classes. Lisa says, “I would say it helped me to reduce stress, focus and concentrate on my work better after a session.”

Dave Pielas, SEIU Healthcare’s HR Manager and wellness committee member, also noticed how calm and focused he is after the sessions. Initially, Dave was a bit nervous about joining in because he had never tried Yoga. Since trying it, he’s really grateful as he feels a “rush of calm” for the rest of the afternoon and even into the days following.

Matt Cathmoir, a researcher at SEIU Healthcare, tried Yoga for the first time last week, walking bravely to the front of the class. Afterwards, Matt said it was “a challenging, yet rewarding experience both mentally and physically.”

As well as being helpful for employees, the benefits of Yoga extend to SEIU Healthcare as an employer as well.

As worker representatives, we know that high levels of job stress can lead to employee absenteeism, physical and mental health issues and an unhealthy work environment. We also know that the employer is responsible for ensuring a healthy and safe environment, which is why SEIU Healthcare has created a wellness committee for their internal staff.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, every dollar invested in workplace wellness, on initiatives such as Yoga, companies can expect $3 in cost savings or benefits.

By strengthening our staff’s health, both in their body and mind, we can work even harder to ensure that our members’ well-being is protected, encouraged and fought for.

Can youth teach us how to be healthy?

Deanna in her basketball jersey

Deanna spent the day with SEIU Healthcare as part of the “Take Your Kid to Work Day” program.

Hi. My name is Deanna but people call me De. My mom works for the SEIU Healthcare as an accountant. I’m not really a numbers person but I do know a lot about health.

I am what I like to call a sporty, outgoing girl. I play basketball as a point guard at my high school in North York.

I do track (short distance running), and also enjoy volley-ball (my favourite sport). Being healthy is one of the most important things if you want to be athletically built. I know being healthy all the time is hard. I don’t always follow the rules but there will be consequences. I learned this the hard way.

I am a person that would eat junk once in a while…which really means a lot. Sometimes I would eat so much that I would get sick. Sometimes I knew when to stop and eat something healthy, but others days I wouldn’t care what is healthy or not as long as it tasted good.

It wasn’t until I joined my high school basketball team that I noticed how consuming junk food/drinks made me feel. When I made it on the team, my coach drilled it into my and my teammates’ heads that we are not allowed to eat anything unhealthy.

Let me tell those who don’t know anything about basketball: my girls’ basketball season is from September to November. That is 3 MONTHS of eating healthy and being fit.  At first I didn’t follow the rules but during the games that I would get tired easily, and that affected the game.

My brother told me a story, saying “If you have a car and it breaks down one day, would you give the car fuel or juice?” I said fuel, because putting juice in would make it worse.”

The same goes for our body. You need to give what it needs and not give it what it doesn’t need, damaging it more. Being healthy gives our body natural sugar that helps your energy more than putting sweets in it.

This is my story about my experience with getting healthy and would be happy if it helped someone else’s life.

Sports fandom, a cure for many ails?

We talk a lot on this blog about what a given activity does for your health, physical and/or mental, from more obvious things like walking, to more subtle actions like cooking good food.

What about sports? Not playing them, which we know is good physical exercise. Watching them. Following them.

Two weeks ago a lot of Canadians were feeling the pressure; not just because of the looming federal election, but thanks to the Blue Jays, who for the first time since 1993 (also the last year they won the World Series) had entered baseball playoffs, and, for a while there, were doing very well.

Blue jay

Die-hard fans celebrated and many other proud Canadians jumped on the fan bandwagon. Social media exploded. It seemed as they everyone was talking about the Jays. On the Dundas streetcar in downtown Toronto on election night, passengers alternated between talking about vote day and updating everyone on the latest home run Donaldson had hit.

The happiness that the Jays’ playoffs success brought to cities and town across Canada was contagious. They eventually lost, leaving a historic season nonetheless. And the question remains: was this pressure, this happiness, this rallying around a common cause good for our health?

In his 2001 book Sports Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators, psychologist Daniel Wann says that because of our human need to belong, being a sports fan could improve our health on several different levels. Perhaps it makes us feel simultaneously more secure and more hopeful. It is nice when “our” teams do well, but following sports allows teaches us that failure is a necessary part of life. We must learn to process feelings of disappointment with grace, to pick up and move on while trying to look at the bright side.

And keeping up with professional sports this winter? We’re great at that. We can always follow the Canadian teams who qualified for the Major League Soccer playoffs, or keep an eye on the Raptors who start their NBA season tonight, or the ongoing hockey season.

Even though baseball has ended, with the NHL and NBA (We The North!) seasons underway, there could be more heartbreaking moments for fans ahead – or maybe more surprisingly heartwarming times!

Once in a while it would also do us some good to leave the screens off and play around outside, or cheer on some local teams while they play.

And the Jays will be back next year.

5 ways to cope when your kid moves out for school

Grace and her daughters

Grace, centre, with two of her children. Mira, 18, right, just moved out of the family home and into a student dorm for her first year of university.

Back to school can be an exciting yet troubling time for all. New and returning students suddenly have a lot to manage, but what about the families who go through a major life change as a result? We spoke to Grace, a single mom from Vaughan, Ontario who helped her eldest move out at the beginning of this month.

1.       Get a soundproof room and scream it out (physically or metaphorically)

Grace states simply:

“I’m dealing with loss. My daughter doesn’t live with me anymore.”

This feeling of loss causes a roller coaster of emotions. It’s important to recognize this, and forgive ourselves when we have a hard time managing.

Grace, who works full-time in SEIU Healthcare’s organizing department, used to manage her household of 4 with the help of 18-year-old Mira. Now that Mira’s moved out for university, she is adjusting to the reality of being a single mom without another adult in the house. Plus, the other kids are also dealing with the recent change.

“It’s okay to scream and shout at each other once in a while. Then sit and hug it out. You’re not a bad mom if you do that.” Grace also recommends a few sessions with a punching bag at your local gym.

2.       Ask for help

Parents may suddenly find themselves with a lot more work once an older child moves out. Putting aside one’s pride and reaching out for help can be one of the smartest things to do for good mental health during a life change.

“The best advice I got was to lean on people and allow them to help me because I was not created to do everything on my own,” says Grace.

She gave the example of asking her neighbours to help take care of the younger kids when Grace had to go to work and Mira to a job interview, just before school started up again. They spent the day with the neighbouring family, happily swimming and playing.

“I felt so safe knowing there was a security net.”

3.       Go with the flow

When school starts and the family unit changes, there is a lot going at once and it is difficult to process it all in a calm manner.

Grace recommends taking it easy and trying to not let things get on your nerves at home, for example around cleanliness, while everyone adjusts to the new living situation.

Perhaps things that normally are considered important for running the household can be temporarily downgraded in the name of sanity.

4.       Focus on new routines

That being said, with a new living situation generally comes a need to develop new routines. Grace says that focusing on this has really helped her feel grounded while dealing with her sense of loss.

She has made time to bond more with the other kids, and looks for new ways to do things at home. Her youngest, 5, now helps tidy up after he plays, for instance. Her 13-year-old helps make lunches at night.

5.       Keep in touch

When someone moves out after many years together, the whole household faces the change and each person deals in their own way. Keeping in touch using modern technology is a good way to figure out how to manage the new relationships that will emerge after a young adult moves away for school.

Even though the sense of loss is there, there is also opportunity. Grace points out that Mira and her 13-year-old daughter used to fight a lot at home. “Now, they miss each other,” she says.

Collectively, using some of these tricks and pointers, the family will adjust to the new way they do things—just as all new students must create new ways of doing things for themselves.