Employee wellbeing, mental health and burnout are important topics at the moment, with so many people working from home and the boundaries between work-home balance becoming more and more blurred.
We recently hosted a webinar to dig deeper into these hot topics and we were joined by Ayse Kocak, founder and CEO of PAAR London. Ayse was joined by her colleagues, wellness coach and head of sales and marketing, Veronika Pongracz, as well as Ezgi Kacar, PAAR London’s medical advisor and holistic health and nutrition coach.
PAAR was created to work with individuals who are in search of implementing lasting changes to improve their health, energy and vitality. Ayse, who has a background in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical aesthetics industries, believes in a holistic approach to health. She explains that she chose the name PAAR, because it translates to ‘transcend’ in Hindi - to go beyond limits, which is her motto in life. She believes that we can take our health and longevity beyond accepted limits.
A recap of the webinar is also available as:
“We can offer everybody the ability to slow down, stop or even reverse their ageing by working with their own body's innate ways to either heal itself or regenerate or rejuvenate. It is possible. Our mission is to offer everybody that opportunity and that possibility. We don’t have to wait for people to get sick. We can take some measures now if we know enough about ourselves to live a longer, healthier, happier life. That is our mission.”
Ayse believes that it is integral for companies to be focussing more on their employee wellbeing: “When someone is happy and healthy, they are going to bring the best to the others in this world, be those who are working with me or those who are expecting things from me. So while we do need to take care of ourselves, employers also need to help their employees by creating platforms or other ways to help them take better care of themselves.”
Ayse believes that companies who look after the wellness of their employees will have more loyalty. This is shown in higher retention, higher productivity, better work environments and better results. However, she stresses the importance of a personalised approach, “If an employer is interested enough to really understand what's going on at a personalised level with their employees, then the solutions and the recommendations can be really impactful. This can make a big difference to increase productivity, wellness and loyalty.”
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Burnout is also a big concern in current times. Ayse believes that this is only something that happens if you’re doing something that you don’t like to do, “If you're doing something that you really enjoy doing, I don't think burnout is going to happen. People really need to focus on giving their time to something that they believe in, things to help themselves or even help the world. This is the number one rule for burnout.”
“It’s a perspective. We need to find aspects of our jobs that we are passionate about. The way we live today affects our innate ability to regenerate, renew and heal ourselves. We are more vulnerable to disease and ageing. You need to understand as a unique person what's going on with you, and once you're aware, then it's easier to incorporate some personalised measures into your life and find out what would work for you. If people can take care of themselves and if employers can support this process, you can limit burnout.”
Veronika, who has an interest in wellness and mindfulness, believes that mental health should be part of company culture: “For a thriving business, you need thriving employees. Good mental health goes hand in hand with good management. We shouldn’t think about physical health and mental health in isolation from each other as they are strongly correlated. For example, chronic stress can cause physical issues in the long run and physical issues can cause mental health issues.”
She believes that leaders need to look at how they can support mental health, for example implementing policies that make tools available to management to help them respond to any employees who may have mental health concerns. She also stressed the importance of addressing any discrimination against mental health.
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On the topic of burnout, Veronika recommended watching for the following signs: “Feeling physically and mentally exhausted, even after a good night’s sleep. Pay attention to physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches. Other signs include irritability - finding that things annoy you or you are less patient with your family members, friends or even colleagues, or escape behaviours, like daydreaming. These are all signs that something is going on. Your body is asking for your attention.”
Veronika believes it is unhealthy to always think about work, particularly before bed and when we wake up, as our minds don’t get quality time to recover, renew and refresh, which can lead to burnout. Other signs to pay attention to are frequent illness, weight gain or loss, insomnia, anxiety or depression. “These are all clear signs which we need to pay attention to in order to avoid burnout.”
Veronika explained that there are three fundamentals of energy, being nutrition, regular exercise and sufficient sleep, and if you prioritise these, you can avoid burnout. Another tip is to break down tasks into manageable chunks to avoid feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious, as well as avoiding self-critique and instead of practising mindfulness in how we talk to ourselves to instead cultivate self-compassion.
On the topic of mindfulness and meditation, Veronika believes it’s about being aware: “Meditating does not necessarily mean that you sit down, fold yourself into a pretzel and suddenly find inner peace and there are no more thoughts! If you have five minutes during your day to try meditation, first look at what kind of work you do. For example, if you’re at a desk all day, consider walking meditation, where you pay attention to the movements of your feet, the sounds around you and the sensations in the body.”
“This can help your brain to switch from fight or flight work mode into a more restorative mode to support our well-being and longevity. Mindfulness and meditation activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which can be really healing, even if you do this for five or ten minutes a day. The goal is not necessarily to empty your thoughts, but to get out of this whirlpool of the mind and get into the body and recognise our senses and become an observer.”
The discussion then turned to Ezgi, who is a GP and holistic health coach with an interest in nutrition. She believes that it is important for companies to recognise the benefits of good nutrition.
“This benefits both parties. We are what we eat. It’s as simple as that. If we want to have fully functioning, happy, motivated, energised employees, then we really need to care about what they put into their bodies because to be alive and to fully function, we need energy. And while producing energy, we use oxygen and nutrients, and those nutrients come from the food we eat.”
She believes that the quality of your food will affect the quality of the energy produced, and in turn, your overall well being. “While producing energy we release free radicals. If they start to accumulate, they might affect our overall health, wellbeing, energy level, mood and stress levels. By making more conscious food and lifestyle choices we can actually prevent diseases and even slow down the ageing process. The science of epigenetics shows that our genes have only a 15% impact on the ageing process. The rest is about our lifestyle and environment.”
“So we see why nutrition is so important as it has a huge impact on our health and ageing. Leaders need to be advocating and supporting their employees and also setting an example of the healthy eating habits and lifestyle they are promoting. Leaders should also give the opportunity for their employees to ask questions and share concerns with the experts, be it through webinars or regular workshops.”
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Ezgi realises that everybody is different, so different things may work for different people, and there isn’t one healthy diet for everyone as we all have different cultures, eating habits, generic backgrounds and preferences, something she terms as ‘bio-individuality. She would recommend going with general recommendations, such as making sure there is variety and balance from the different food groups and experimenting to see what works for you. She does however advocate choosing seasonal, fresh and organic and grass-fed.
In terms of wellness trends coming into the workplace post-Covid, Ayse believes that general well-being will become a focus. “Everyone understands that the best way to protect yourself is having a strong immune system. So when you're faced with different viruses or bacteria, you have an immune system that can deal with the situation. The best way to keep your immune system healthy is to understand what's challenging it currently, such as build-up of toxins or poor nutrition, and work to fix that through lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation and improve immunity.”
Veronika closed by reminding us to all find time for mindfulness in our day. When confronted by clients who say they have no time for mindfulness to let go of the day, Veronika reminds them that mindfulness and meditation can be found in simple everyday tasks as long as you find small things to focus on, for example walking, or even the mechanics of showering or brushing your teeth - just find sensations to focus on.
She gave her own example: “Before we had to work from home, I once noticed a beautiful tree right on my street with amazing flowers. So I then started the day in a very different way, not rushing, but just admiring the tree. It made me feel really grounded in my own reality and gave me a positive outlook and in tune with my surroundings. This is the advice I leave - something we have kept highlighting - do what works for you individually.”