Stress is a killer. This all-too-familiar truth hit home for Donald, the 55-year-old Managing Director of a large South African flooring company, when he fell prey to a debilitating physical and mental breakdown. After years of mismanaged stress, insufficient rest, mindless eating and a lack of exercise, Donald experienced first-hand the effects of work and lifestyle-related strain, the symptoms of which were numerous.

Donald suffered insomnia, anxiety and depression, severe back and neck pain, eye complications, dizziness, neuralgia and chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Such health problems are common among modern professionals and they severely impacted Donald’s life, and professional performance, forcing him to take extended sick leave. Although his drive and determination played a part in his burn out, they served him well during his commitment to transformation.

There was no silver bullet, Donald’s journey was a tough one, but through an increased level of mindfulness in the way that he approached his day-to-day life, he was able overcome his difficulties. He listened to his body, moved more often, ate healthier food and mindfully disengaged more from his work. He reconnected with his vision, and understood the choices he had to make to live in alignment with it and turn his life around. As Donald’s wellness coach I was very involved in his transformation progress and he once expressed to me that his only regret was not adopting the approach twenty years earlier. Within a year, his health problems were resolved and he had a renewed vitality, meaning he was once again able to perform at the high levels he expected of himself.

Donald is, however, one of the very fortunate few who are in a position where they have the authority and flexibility to make the necessary changes. The majority of South Africans do not have the luxury of being able to adapt their schedules to suit their wellness needs, and that is where corporate culture is key. In order to create a powerful, vital and productive workforce, organisations must create a culture where the wellness and happiness of its people are highly valued and supported.

What does a culture of wellness and happiness look like?

In order for organisations to foster a culture of wellness and happiness they need to take a number of essential steps:

  • Allow for and promote regular breaks from work throughout the day
  • Ensure access to healthy food
  • Encourage and support regular movement at work

Holistic wellness programmes must become the norm and organisations must mindfully create a culture whereby they inspire their people’s best work. Every employee must have a voice and a sense of purpose, believing that the work they do, and their organisation, help to make the world a better place.

This is not an unachievable vision – challenging yes, but impossible? No. There are numerous global and local organisations leading the way and I have had the opportunity to work with some of them, one being BSG. BSG is a niche consulting and technology company, operating in complex industries and fluctuating economies. In an environment like that, finding the optimal pressure range is crucial. BSG, like other forward thinking companies, acknowledges that people need to be happy, healthy and inspired in order to reach their true potential. Modern life is stressful, and if organisations want to play a positive role in combatting these challenges they must adopt a culture that supports employee wellness. Aside from being the right thing to do, studies show that an effective wellness programme will yield a significant return: improve people’s wellness, you improve your organisation’s bottom line.

In order to achieve our best in the workplace we must be healthy. We depend on both our ability to make mindful lifestyle choices and the culture of the organisation in which we work to support this. Stress and demand have the potential to push us to excel, but we must counter this with rest and rejuvenation or we will pay the ultimate price. Belief in, and connection to, our work as well as our personal wellbeing are equally important, as is finding an organisation that supports your wellness journey. Successfully striking this balance is the recipe for success.

About the Author

Steve Peralta is a Wellness Coach and Exercise specialist who consults to BSG as part of the organisation’s Holistic Wellness Programme. Steve’s mission is to help people he is able to influence live happier and more vital lives. He believes that healthy habits and mindfulness are both necessary for crafting an authentically successful life. In his role as a Wellness Coach and Exercise Specialist at BSG, he empowers people towards making both a part of their lifestyle. Steve values individuality and uniqueness and steers well clear from a one-size-fits-all approach. After travelling the world and studying to become a CHEK Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach in London, Steve moved back to South Africa at the start of 2013, where he has established himself as one of the go to Wellness Specialists in the country. He has featured as the regular host of Wellness Wise on Ballz Radio, as well as becoming the resident Fitness Specialist on Doctor’s Orders on SABC3. He has developed a particular passion for helping hard working and talented professionals change their lives from ones dominated by fatigue, stress and pain into ones of vitality, balance and effectiveness. He strives towards making a positive impact on the health of many South African’s in the years to come.

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