Gareth Prior

I'm Awesome : )

FREE Wellness in the Workshop for Schools

After the last couple of years the recognition of Wellness for staff in schools has come as no surprise. Ofsted’s inclusion of Wellness in the Workplace as an inspection criteria can be seen as a positive step forward, but what does Wellness in the Workplace really mean and how do you deliver it? 

We have now seen that mental health plays a vital role in our everyday lives and has a direct impact on our physical health. This is also true of nutritional health and these three factors combined are what makes up our overall wellbeing.

We are beginning to hear the term Wellness in the Workplace a lot and for very good reason. At LIFE Fit, we understand that our health includes our mental and emotional state as well as our physical and nutritional habits and it is important to address our wellness holistically. 

Singular approaches to health do not work because they do not take into account stress management, hormonal balance, depth of sleep, food choices, and mental and emotional health. This is where many of the Wellness in the Workplace programs that are being offered are failing.

It is becoming more apparent that teachers are requiring a little more help with their overall wellness and to this effect, we are on a mission to bring our wellness programs to as many schools in Essex as possible. <!–more–>

 The question is, as schools are different to most office working environments, how can this be incorporated into your school?  Each room you use each day has a particular purpose and is designed to meet a specific requirement. Where can you go during your daily routine for your wellness, for you to use to unwind and to gather your thoughts?

A wellness space can be as simple as an integrated area in your school that can be used as a ‘breakout area’ But what happens within this wellness area? How do you encourage everyone within your school to reap its benefits to its full potential? That bit is simple, you ask LIFE Fit to come into your school to run specific programs for everyone within the wellness space.

The wellbeing of your staff is paramount to your schools success. A healthy workplace culture and staff wellbeing is fundamental in creating an effective team. With a happier, healthier, more focused and cohesive team you will see an increase in their creativity, efficiency and focus and if that isn’t enough, you will benefit from employee relationships becoming more harmonious with individual morale and a sense of team connectivity all increasing.

The correlation of improved health and wellness within the workplace is evident and provides significant positive impacts on staff retention and attendance, not to mention an improvement in everyone’s mental health.

It is for all these reasons that we are offering a FREE workshop to you and your staff.

This would be our introductory course and is a comprehensive mental and physical health workshop covering goal setting and implementing, self-growth and improvement, physical activity, nutrition and its impact on health and body weight. This is a taster-session, designed to show you how our ongoing attendance would benefit you and your staff physically and mentally.

After the most challenging two years in modern history, we could all do with a little help and if you can  see how this could help you and your staff, please contact us to arrange your FREE workshop.

We are looking forward to speaking with you and hope you have a great day in the meantime.

All the best

The LIFE Fit Team

5 Tips to Understanding Mental Illness

The term mental illness is used in a general way to describe conditions that include symptoms that can affect a person’s thinking, perceptions, mood and or behaviour. 

The majority of people have some form of what we will refer to as mental dis-ease. We are referring to it in this way because by splitting it into its component parts can aid in the understanding of the original intent of the word disease, whereby the addition of the prefix ‘dis’ to the second element ‘ease’ suggests it is a lack of ease.

If a mental dis-ease is ignored and or denied the chances are the condition will deteriorate and begin to express in a variety of differing ways, which can lead to increased feelings of sadness and or depression. It can also lead to growing feelings of tension and or anxiety. There can also be physical manifestations such as aches and pains, eating in excess or insufficiently and other actions such as the consumption of more alcohol than is healthy, which inevitably leads to the decline of overall physical health. 

Possibly one of the best things to have come from the last couple of years, is that so many more people have become aware that they have some form of mental dis-ease and that they would like to manage it better and hopefully even resolve it.

Below are some insights and first steps into the understanding of mental dis-ease and the beginning of the journey to dealing with and even ultimately resolving it.

  1. Understanding you are not alone can be a great source of relief for many. It can also help tremendously to see, read about and talk to others that successfully manage or have even resolved personal traumas and psychological issues. Because learning that others can feel similarly and that no longer do, can promote a desire strong enough to seek resolution for yourself as well.
  2. Asking yourself why you feel the way you do can be a great help in discovering the roots of your feelings. This can be assisted greatly with practises such as mindfulness, meditation and talking therapies. Because if you understand the why, you are better able to do something about it.
  3. We, more often than not, are able to show compassion for someone that is dealing with a challenging situation, yet often neglect to do the same for ourselves. Learning to be understanding and compassionate with yourself is one of the fundamental keys of resolving mental dis-ease.
  4. Understanding why you tend to stay in your “comfort zones” is really interesting. The primary driver for this is generally your fear centre, because its primary job is to protect you and keep you safe. Sometimes it can be a little too effective at this and it could be keeping you from changes that may very well be good for you. This is because one of the fear centres’ key markers for safety is familiarity, but just because something is familiar, does not mean it is good for your wellbeing
  5. Breathing. We all do it, all day every day, yet we seldom pay much attention to it, if any. It can however be a significant indicator of how you are feeling. For instance short shallow breaths can be an indication of fear, it can also simply be an unconscious way you might generally breathe. Interestingly your body and mind naturally observes this fundamental function and reacts accordingly, even if you do not realise consciously that this is what is happening. This is really easy to test. Simply take a lovely big deep breath in, holding it in for a second or two and then let it out. You can often enhance the feeling of relaxation by adding a big sigh of relief to the letting out part of the breath. Do this three times in a row and then notice if you feel more at ease and relaxed as a result.

If Mental Health was as easy as a one day course, no one would have any issues

It is great to see so many people now taking mental health seriously, but we are alarmed at the explosion of those advertising themselves or being handed a role in a workplace as a mental health support person after only a couple of hours in a group workshop or even just by completing an online course. To then say they are able to deal with another’s mental health, is in itself insane, because if it was that easy, everyone would go on a course for an afternoon and then no one would require any support with their mental health.

With figures of depression skyrocketing, the growth of alcoholism and food disorders together with the increase in suicide and attempted suicide rates, it clearly shows the sadly stark state that our country’s mental health is currently in and that it does require additional support, to the already overwhelmed and underfunded NHS system. With this recognition we are witnessing a massive growth within the mental health industry, with a growing variety of courses available to choose from. Such as a child psychology course available online for £12 and lasting only 7.5 hours, a nutritional coaching course, available free online and only taking 15 hours. There are now even mental health first aid courses available for people in the workplace and these range from online courses, through to a two day course costing around £300. Unfortunately it doesn’t end there, we have even seen online courses for £49 which allegedly qualifies the participant to be an addiction specialist.  

These are examples of the thousands of courses that many people are taking in order to promote themselves as mental health professionals. Worryingly none of these courses require any previous knowledge, understanding, experience or qualifications. Many of these courses are accessible completely online with no human interaction and if there is a tutor, many are only teaching the course and have no experience, qualifications or understanding themselves of the subject matter. Now ask yourself, do you think or feel that someone who has completed one of these courses, would be adequately equipped to assist you or one of your loved ones, through what may be one of the most challenging times of life?

Unfortunately this ever increasing ‘give it a go’ approach, can and often is incredibly detrimental to the mental health of the person offering their services; In many cases they themselves have not learned to deal with or even to begin to recognise their own issues, let alone differentiate between those of the client and their own. This lack of one of the most fundamental skills can and does inevitably lead to a further deterioration of issues for both provider and the receiver.

In contrast, a typically qualified counsellor progresses through many stages and years of developmental training, including personal elements whereby the trainee goes through their own counselling before they are approved to work with clients and to safeguard this further, these counselling sessions are initially undertaken with supervision for as long as 450 hours. This is to ascertain whether they are able to safely work on their own with clients. To work safely with a client is to be comprehensively trained to recognise the vulnerability of the client, even when the client does not necessarily recognise this within themselves and It would only require a poorly or inadequately trained person to miss very small details, for a situation to spiral downwards into something far, far worse. 

Not only are these easily accessed, inadequate courses insulting to those that have invested many years of training in the fields of mental health, it is equally insulting and quite often dangerous for those on the receiving end of this approach because, no matter how well intentioned it may be, it will often lead to the deepening of issues rather than there resolution. 

Working with a good coach, counsellor or psychologist can have amazingly positive and enlightening results and can lead to the cessation and even the resolution of many issues leading towards a happier and more fulfilled life. On the flip side, the wrong counselling can potentially cause damage that could lead to a worsening of the overall situation and a further decline in the mental health of the very people it was intended to support.

If you are considering any form of mental and emotional support services we would suggest you talk to any provider beforehand, much like you would interview someone for an important role. Ask them about how they work and what experience they have. It is important that they are able to explain themselves clearly and that you are able to understand what they mean easily and clearly.

All this said, do not be put off from seeking help when you require it. There are lots of fantastic professionals out there. Just ensure they have more than a day course behind them before you place the wellness of your mental health in their hands.

Post Covid Studies in Our Schools and Colleges 

Alarmingly a study way back in April of 2021 shows that “One in 50 teachers have self-harmed amid Covid stress” and also “Shocking data shows 23% of teachers are on medication and 12% have sought counselling to help deal with work stress” (https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/one-50-teachers-has-self-harmed-amid-covid-stress), but why have these studies, and others like them, not made it to headline news?

Ofsted have begun to review its impact on teacher wellbeing during their inspections and are now looking to also include the health and wellness of staff as part of their inspection criteria. The government has also now implemented an Education staff wellbeing charter, which is a declaration that schools and colleges are invited to sign up to, as a commitment to protect, promote and enhance the wellbeing of their staff, including temporary and support staff.

What does this really mean though and how does any place of work effectively implement such a commitment and to stop it becoming simply a well intentioned idea or worse still a box ticking exercise? Even with the best intentions of an educational organisation to deliver on the implementation of a healthier working environment, there are some real world obstacles to navigate, even for the most well intentioned and determined of organisations. 

The pure intention of why we send our children to school is all about education through learning and experience, but as so many teachers will no doubt share, if the pupils receiving this training do not have the desire to receive it, it will simply fall on deaf ears. There is a saying that education is wasted on the young, but what if they understood why the lessons were being shared and the value they could acquire from them; would they engage with it more readily? Or is it that the pupils have little or no concept of the advantages they can gain, because it is currently outside their frame of experience, so are unintentionally unaware of its benefits. This could be the same for any member of staff within a school or college during the introduction of any new scheme, including that of a health and wellness program designed for their benefit.

These are real world considerations and can be why change does not progress much further than the initial idea. There are three milestones to be implemented to significantly increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. Acknowledgement, Agreement and Action. Acknowledgement is essential because unless you acknowledge at some level that there is something to change, things will seldom progress. Agreement, because unless you agree to do something about what has been acknowledged, things will more often than not stop here. Action, such as implementing a plan within the organisation. The major issue we have seen is that the resources are rarely made available for an educational organisation for the purposes of an effective wellness program. Without the professional knowledge and expertise from a third party, who are experienced and qualified to action such programs, effective change seldom happens. 

Unfortunately, what tends to happen in a bid to operate within the restraints of little funding and over-stretched time, is that the task of implementing wellness within the workplace falls to an existing member of staff. They are then burdened with the responsibilities along-side their already busy workload and this is where any successful and meaningful action often comes to a stop.

Furthermore, the disillusionment felt by the staff of any real help being received from such a poorly run wellness program leads to an undermining of staff morale. Because of the disappointment of lack of fulfilment from the original “promises” and the installed scepticism that this will happen again then further undermines any future programs that are later implemented as their confidence in such systems have been eroded.

The problem faced with seeking professional support is that it does come with a financial investment and as is commonly known and understood, funding for schools is limited. The question is then, how can an effective wellness program be affordable by a school? It is the classic case of chicken or the egg; if teachers are not supported in their overall health their subsequent absence from work will be more costly to a school and its performance, which has a direct impact on the following years funding for the school. Increase the funding to allow for a staff wellness program and the staff become more effective in their roles.

If funding were to be available, a school would now have the ability to bring in a health and wellness company who would deliver all aspects of the fundamental physical and mental support through their reservoir of experience. Using a company whose role is to improve the wellness within a workplace means that all who take part will then benefit from a program that is delivered more effectively and efficiently thus leaving the teachers free to teach and in turn the pupils in a better environment to learn.

Chickpea Tikka Masala

Chickpea Tikka Masala – Dinner is on with this flavourful & saucy Indian-inspired tikka masala recipe! It is lusciously creamy and easy to make right at home in one pan with simple ingredients

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 40 min

Total Time: 45 min

Time to have fun

Prepping the onions, ginger, and garlic is the hardest part, the rest is easy, requiring stirring occasionally and then a nice simmer.

Remove the skins and ends from the onions and slice into thin strips.

Remove the skins and ends from the garlic and finely chop or use a garlic press.

Remove the skin from the ginger and grate or finely chop. 

In a large pot, heat the oil or water over medium heat, add onions and cumin  and cook for 5 – 7 minute, until onions are browning around the edges.

Add the ginger and garlic, cook 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add the garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander seed and Smocked paprika and cook for 1 – 2 two minutes, or until nice and fragrant.

Add tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes, until they breakdown a bit.

Add tomato paste, chickpeas and coconut milk, stir to combine and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.

Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Now you’re ready to serve with a grain of choice.

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil 2 Tbsp

    or 1/4 cup water

  • Onion 1 large
  • Cumin 2 tsp
  • Ginger 2 Tbsp

    Grated

  • Crushed Garlic 4 cloves

    You can use more or less if you prefer

  • Garam Masala 1 Tbsp
  • Turmeric 2 tsp
  • Ground Coriander Seed 2 tsp
  • Smoked Paprika 2 tsp
  • Chopped Tomato 2 Cans

    or 4 – 5 ripe tomatoes that have been diced.

  • Tomato Paste 2 Tbsp
  • Chickpeas 2 Cans

    Drained or 3 cups freshly cooked

  • Coconut Milk 1 can