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Stay healthy – some productive tips

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“The body never lies”. — Martha Graham, American dancer, 1979.

Most of us run a business to produce a happy life for ourselves and the people we care about. But often we work too long and too hard. We know little about our own bodies — the very ‘machine’ we use to achieve all these goals.

In a small business, the entrepreneur or manager is invariably the business’ most important asset – and yes, that’s you. So always remember to look after your number one asset.

Author, Matt Church, is one of the most sought-after speakers on the business speaking circuit. As a small business operator, Church knows the stresses we are subjected to when we work for ourselves. As a biochemist, he knows what makes our bodies over and under perform.

This is how he explains what he is teaching audiences about themselves:

“Potential to be your very best requires more than goal setting and motivation workshops. Too often people attend life change and motivation seminars only to be stuck in ruts of past habits and old behaviours. I don't think that apathy is always to blame and I feel that many of the self-help technologies are on the money. I believe that people fail to make changes because they do not have the chemical foundations to succeed. They may have bad adrenalin management or a lifestyle that limits their reserves of serotonin — the body’s natural ‘feel good’ drug.”

One of Church's books is called Adrenalin Junkies, in which he explains the role of the body’s natural drug, adrenalin. This is our rush drug – part of our body’s emergency system. Designed to be used in short bouts throughout our day, it prepares us for fight or flight.

Problems arise, however, when we overuse or abuse this emergency system. And this is exactly what happens when you’re running your own business and you’re on the 24/7 treadmill.

“Say you have a reserve of three hours of high adrenalin activities each day. By skipping breakfast and driving fast to work, you may blow off an hour of your adrenalin reserves,” Church explains.

Church says a mistake such as not eating breakfast is a classic error we make when dealing with our bodies. This is not healthy on a number of levels. Our body doesn't know the difference between real stress and stress we create through bad lifestyle management.

“Not eating will cause your brain to release a hormone called galinin that makes you crave fatty foods,” he explains. “And galinin causes you to make unhealthy diet choices.”

Another drug our body produces is serotonin. Academic types call it a neurotransmitter, but Church calls it the happy drug. Serotonin works in the brain when we feel happy and satisfied. Anti-depressants such as Prozac are constructed to unnaturally elevate our serotonin level. Without healthy supplies of serontonin, on comes depression, weight gain, irritability and apathy.

Church says people who are happy, quick-witted and turned on by life most likely have high levels of serotonin. And it’s this happy person who is able to give off good feelings to staff and customers – and that’s one of the key ingredients of business success.
So where do you get serotonin? Church explains it this way:

“Your body makes its own from a protein called tryptophan, easily found in red meat. A good night’s sleep helps increase its level, as do exercising and eating well.”

He says red meat is important, but you don’t need to go over board. In fact, a good serve once every ten days is enough, but if you like it more frequently, within reason, it can be good for those seeking a happy, healthy life. Another source for elevating our happy drug level is a good old-fashioned sleep.

From a body chemistry point of view, sleep would have to be the first key to being happy and motivated. Church says, with adequate deep sleep, we wake up to a brain full of happy drugs.

“Our body has a sleep/wake cycle that is adaptive, it responds to the messages our lifestyle delivers,” he says. “At night, our brain releases melatonin from the pineal gland in the centre of the brain.

Going to bed and getting up at the same time is good for teaching your body when to turn on and off this sleep drug. Other things that help are the obvious steps of decreasing light, controlling noise and not being disturbed by your partner.”
Church goes on to explain the importance of taking breaks away from business and why hard exercise is better: “The hard exercise makes you fitter, which will cause you to be a better fat burner when you are not exercising. So 23 hours a day you burn more fat. The most effective exercise strategy for weight loss is a mix of intensities. If you find that exercise in the morning makes you tired by mid morning you could try eating some carbohydrates within 30 minutes of finishing your exercise. A banana would be a good choice,” he says.

Anyone who doesn’t know enough about their key asset, namely their health, should pursue Church’s educational offerings. Church has two books Adrenaline Junkies and Happy Brains, both available through ABC bookshops. And if you want more, you could go to his website

Stressing out

Stress in the workplace is recognised as a factor associated with absenteeism, illness and workers compensation.

Stressors include work overload and underload, shift-work, perceived danger, heavy work and physical environment factors.

Stress can affect your business in the following ways:

  • You or some of your employees might need replacing
  • You could end up with a compensation case
  • If you or your staff can’t deliver it could be disastrous for your business. A customer could sue you for non-performance — that would be stressful
  • As an employer you should care about your employees and as the business owner you should care about yourself.

Stay healthy – some productive tips

  • Don’t work unlimited hours or go right through the day without a break. Whenever you can take one — go for a walk. Each day do something you really enjoy — a run or game of tennis or golf. Stress accumulates and can hit you badly if you don’t do things to take the pressure down
  • Plan your breaks. Include your holidays into your business plan and religiously take them. It may cost you. and you will have to perhaps pay for someone you can trust to run your business while you are away. This is a difficult area for many in business, but the lesson here is – you are your business. If your health fails because you push yourself too far, your business could end up failing too
  • Eat a healthy diet, rich in complex carbohydrates, so the experts say. Steer clear of too many business lunches, and don't get caught in the take-away meal trap
  • Learn about stress and time management
  • Plan and set goals for the future
  • Seek help and support wherever you can. Specialise in what you do best, and pay others to do the rest. Put your time and energy into developing your business. That will end up making you more money down the track
  • Be aware of the potential stress issues and be willing to use counselling to help yourself or your staff
  • Be happy and build a positive and communicative ‘vibe’ in your business. Improved self-esteem leads to improved performance
  • If presentation is important to your business, then overhaul your image. Diet, work out and improve what you can to give yourself a positive, healthy look
  • Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about getting your core values right. Read his book to help balance yourself
  • Be a contributor to society. Deserving causes benefit from your charity and your business is seen as a supporter of the community — that’s a marketing plus
  • Visualise winning. Set high standards and train hard in your business to improve both physically and emotionally
  • Make time for yourself, your family and friends. You work to live, not live to work.

Watch your back!

About 10 years ago Nigel and his wife Jo kicked off Chairbiz with the simple business plan to provide chairs to commercial offices. Along the way they became more ergonomically inclined and diversified into a Sydney-based operation called Sit Back & Relax.

“Occupational health and safety concerns, and the explosion of home businesses and employees working at home, has created opportunities for someone to sell chairs that are good for people’s backs,” Hobbs says.

Putting it bluntly, Hobbs explains why better seating is becoming an essential: “A safe and healthy office environment built around ergonomic seating and workstations is a legal requirement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Approximately 60 per cent of the workforce suffer some sort of back pain or disability from work-related injury,” he says. “And back problem is the second most important reason for time off work behind the common cold.”

The Hobbs have two physical outlets in Sydney. And while this develops, they intend to grow their other business — the online operation located at

Published on: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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