Physical health articles

Physical health is critical for overall wellbeing. Some of the most obvious and serious signs that we are unhealthy appear physically. Addressing this aspect is crucial to sustaining overall health and wellness.

Each year in January we have Blue Monday, and it has been cited as the most depressing day of the year. However, it is important not to allow the concept to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps it is time to re-train our brain - maybe January could be the time for new beginnings. The days start to become a little brighter and we are a step closer to Spring and Summer. There is something re-assuring about the subtle change in nature in anticipation of better weather that can lift our spirits and encourage us to look to the future. With the current restrictions in place time is something which is not in short supply, so perhaps make plans and try to think about what we can do instead of what we cannot do. Enjoying an early morning walk Having breakfast with your kids Exploring, and appreciating, your local area Getting out in nature every day Embrace online learning Tackling that big DIY project and much-avoided clear-out Develop new gardening skills Learn to cook or bake Start to play an instrument Catch up with friends on Zoom Activity/Health Now is a good time to think about your health. Being active and having a healthy heart has never been more important. A regular walk will make a big difference and there is plenty of workouts or classes online, no matter what your fitness level is. Self-care Managing our stress and anxiety levels is essential and many people use meditation or yoga. But everyone is different, and some find painting or gardening works. Explore some options and find what works for you.  Dublin City Council has developed a great website with lots of activities and classes to keep us occupied and content during lockdown: Holding it together apart. Appreciation The New Year gives us time to reflect and consider our surroundings, our family, friends, and appreciate all that is good in our lives. It also gives us the opportunity to consider changing things which perhaps were not so good for us.    If, however, Blue Monday has made an impact on you then perhaps CA Support can help? We have a 1:1 confidential listening service and lots of other supports to help get your mojo back. CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:

Jan 13, 2021

The theme of Alcohol Awareness Week 2020 is change, something that most people find challenging, but change has been ever present since March.  As we spend more time at home it is easy to reach for that glass of wine or bottle of beer. We can easily slip into a pattern of using alcohol as a tool to cope with the boredom, the restrictions and lack of social contact. Perhaps our biggest challenge is to force a change in our mindset and seek alternative tools. Covid 19 has increased our levels of anxiety and stress and put significant pressure on our mental health, however high levels of alcohol consumed regularly can undermine our physical and mental health. The World Health Organisation states that a high consumption of alcohol can compromise your immune system and therefore make it more likely to contract the virus, so being mindful of the amount we drink will ensure we are protected and less vulnerable. If you are finding you are inclined to drink more heavily and frequently, then perhaps it is an opportunity to explore alternative coping strategies. Being mindful and observing a low-risk relationship with alcohol can make a big difference to your anxiety levels and mood. Below are some tips to get you started: Stick to the weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines If you can stick to these guidelines it will reduce alcohol related problems The recommended weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines are less than: 11 standard drinks for women 17 standard drinks for men Drinks should be spread out over the week –no more than 2 standard a day for men, or 1 standard a day for women. Have 2-3 alcohol-free days per week. For more on these guidelines and what is a standard drink check out the HSE site  The Ask About Alcohol  drinks calculator also provides fact-based non-judgmental information about how drinking affects health, wallet and weight. Be aware of your mental health & wellbeing Physical distancing is very different to social isolation, so use the tools available to stay connected with family and friends. By connecting with others is essential as it gives us purpose and a sense of belonging. Get out and about, walking and being outside is so good for our mental health. Keep a routine that works Most of us not only like routine, but we need it, so find a routine that works for you and reap the benefits. Keeping structure to your day and evenings will really help you to stay focused. Find alcohol free alternative tools While working from home or self-isolation we have more time on our hands, so why not explore new options. Reaching for that drink each evening can become a bad habit and one which could be hard to break. Reconnect with hobbies or interests you once had or learn a new skill and try some relaxation or mindfulness. Take a news break Turn off the endless newsfeed for a few hours. Anxiety, depression, and alcohol are linked, so give yourself a break and take sometime out from social media and all news feed. You will be amazed how quickly your mood can change once these distractions are removed. CA Support is here to support our students, members, and their families. Contact the CA Support team on mobile: (353) 86 024 3294 or email:

Nov 12, 2020

Top tips to stay healthy and happy while working from home Reduce your stress: getting stressed or anxious weakens your immune system so it is good to actively work to keep stress levels in check. Taking regular breaks, getting out for a walk, doing some yoga and listening to your favourite music will all help to lower the stress levels. Equally practicing some deep breathing exercises help switch off the fight or flight response which can lead to suppressing our immune system. Nose breathing purifies the air you take in by filtering it effectively before it reaches your lungs. This is a simple technique that is easy to master with just a little practice. Boost your intake of nutrients: consume plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C. Also try adding fish oil, curcumin, garlic oil, zinc, selenium and vitamin D supplements to your diet. These will help to boost your immunity and give your body a fighting chance to beat the virus. Equally, getting rid of sugar biohacks your immune system by removing a food source that feeds the “bad” bacteria in your gut. Get enough sleep - 7-8 hours each night. Sleep increases the strength and activity of certain immune cells called T cells. Your T cells fight against all forms of infections and viruses. Sleep increases the activity of T cells and makes them better at identifying virus-infected cells. Adopting a good sleep routine while working from home is essential for overall health but key to maximising your immune response. Top tips to stay mentally well while working from home Manage stress Our new reality of having to work from home, being separated from loved ones, fear of the virus itself and an uncertain future all contribute to increasing our stress levels. We also know that increased stress triggers an automatic suppressing of our immune system. It is more important than ever that we main our stress levels. Here are some simple ways to reduce stress: Express gratitude: The power of being grateful cannot be overstated, especially now. A daily gratitude practice can boost the immune system, improve mental and physical health, and create a sense of calm during stressful times Play some music: Music is an amazing tool to help calm the mind. Put aside work for a few minutes and lose yourself in your favourite sounds Meditate: This might not be the easiest time to start a new meditation practice. For now, spend about 2-3 minutes on a guided meditation when you start to feel the stress and negative thoughts take over. The Calm app is a great place to start. It has a free version and some fabulous quick meditations to get you started Share kindness: Many are going through the day worried about their own health and the wellness of their family and friends. Share kindness by showing up for those who need extra support. Even a simple “How are you?” can show people you care Detach from media and be selective about what you watch: Have periods of your day away from media, so you aren't absorbing negative news all day. Instead of watching the news, find a feel-good movie or series to catch up on. Equally be careful of fake news. Follow advice and guidance from WHO and HSE and other reliable sources instead Establish a routine: Seize the day. Set boundaries, start and finish times, with regular break times. Set goals each day. Tackle some of the tasks you’ve been dreading. Give your day a sense of purpose and achievement Set up a separate work-space: Maybe don’t set up your home office from the couch! Find a spot that has good natural light, is warm but well ventilated, is set away from the rest of the house if possible. Make it feel and look as office-like as possible. This is key to being able to establish your on/off switch Stay connected with colleagues: Use the technology at your fingertips - Teams, Whatapp, Facetime or Skype. Set up regular team meetings and hold these over Teams. Use the video function as it’s important to connect with visuals cues and facial expressions which all add to feeling more connected. Use these for virtual coffee breaks too. Try to maintain as many of your previous routines as possible in this new reality Take essential breaks: During your working day, establish a regular set of breaks when you leave your work-station and move around. Try some simple stretches in a new space perhaps moving to a different room or stepping out into the garden. Most of us have more time in our day as we no longer need to commute. Take back these 2-3 hours for yourself and your family. Get outside in nature every day. Enjoy lunches and dinners around the table. Everyone can benefit from this additional family time Eat good food: Maintaining a healthy diet with three wholesome meals and three healthy snacks per day will be key in keeping your mind healthy too. When feeling stressed or emotional, we tend to reach for sugary, high calorie foods which exacerbate stress levels. Here is a great article that helps tackles the issue of stressful eating Get regular exercise: Being cooped up all day is bad for our health. Getting our exercise outside is a great way to lessen the stress hormones and boost the feel-good endorphins which have been proven to ward off feelings of anxiety. Don’t forget to track your steps on your FitBit or iphones to ensure you are keeping up with your fitness goals Sleep: Sleep increases the strength and activity of certain immune cells called T cells. Your T cells fight against all forms of infections and viruses. Sleep increases the activity of T cells and makes them better at identifying virus-infected cells. Adopting a good sleep routine (7-8 hours) while working from home is essential for overall health but key to maximising your immune response As you can see, while living through the next few days and weeks of uncertainty there is much we can do to keep our minds and our bodies healthy and fighting fit. Staying connected, establishing good work, rest and sleep routines will serve us well during this time. Who knows we may even surprise ourselves by finding new appreciation in the simple pleasures of life. Finally, for those who would like some additional guidance, Pat Divilly (motivational coach who spoke in the Institute recently) is running a 14-day challenge “to support people who might be struggling with uncertainty and isolation”.  More information can be found pinned on Pat’s Facebook page or you can sign up for the challenge here. Stay well all! Related article Keeping the kids happy when working from home CA Support are here to offer guidance on all aspects of your health and wellbeing. If you or someone you know needs help, get in touch on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294. For more information, please visit us at CA Support.

Mar 16, 2020

If you forget someone's name the minute after you've been introduced to them, you may also struggle to keep important facts and numbers in your head. As for your desk, it's probably littered with post-it notes reminding you of dates, meetings and other appointments you might otherwise forget. Sound familiar? Well you're not alone. Most people struggle to remember everything, thanks to our ever-busier lifestyles. So if you've ever walked into a room only to wonder what on earth you went there for, here are some memory-boosting tips to keep your mind agile: Make up some mnemonics A mnemonic is a tool that helps you to remember things. Most people associate mnemonics with acronyms, where a word spells out the initial letters of a sentence, phrase or other information (or vice versa ). If you studied music at school, for instance, you may have learned the notes on the lines of the treble stave – EGBDF – as 'every good boy deserves favour'. Or if you were an astronomy student, you may have learned a mnemonic for the order of the planets ('my very excited mother just served us nine pies' for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). But there are different types of mnemonics. Rhymes are a good example. Most people know the mnemonic that helps with spelling, 'i before e except after c'. The rhyme that starts '30 days hath September', on the other hand, is a great aide memoir for remembering the number of days in the months of the year. You can make up your own mnemonics for things you find hard to remember. Think of a simple rhyme to remember someone's name – for instance, Sally from the valley, or Sam likes ham. You could also use a visual mnemonic to remember someone's name. So if you're introduced to someone called George Woods, imagine him with a tree growing out of his head. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. Train your brain Many people find that mind games such as crosswords and Sudoku help keep their memory sharp. Similarly, learning a musical instrument can help because it makes fresh connections in your brain – in fact, learning any kind of new skill is an effective brain booster. Get talking Researchers from the University of Zurich claim talking to someone may give your memory a boost, even more so than doing puzzles and other brain training exercises. Writing in the journal The Cochrane Library, the scientists analysed a number of different studies involving volunteers taking part in memory tests. They found that many achieved higher scores after taking part in discussions. So if you live on your own and your work doesn't involve that much conversation, pick up the phone and chat to a friend. Use repetition Routine may be boring, but it can help you to remember things. If you have tablets to take on a regular basis, take them at the same time of day, every day – with your morning coffee or evening cup of tea, for example. It will soon become a habit. Repetition works for other things too, such as repeating someone's name soon after you've been introduced to them (saying their name out loud will help you to remember it). Learn to dance Some scientists believe learning dance steps can help keep your memory sharp. A report from the Einstein College of Medicine in New York, for example, followed 500 people aged 60 plus who took part in a variety of exercises including swimming, cycling, walking and dancing. But only those who went dancing were found to have a lower risk of mental deterioration. Then again, any form of exercise will help your heart to pump blood more effectively, which means a better supply of blood to your brain. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity exercise per day. Eat brain food A diet rich in fruit and vegetables can give your brain the antioxidants and nutrients it needs to perform effectively. Omega-3 fatty acids – found mainly in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and pilchards – are thought to be helpful when it comes to maintaining brain function too. Herbal medicine experts also believe a supplement made from a plant called ginkgo biloba helps to boost blood circulation to the brain, which may improve your memory as well as your concentration. Get plenty of sleep If you have an important event coming up – an exam or an interview, for instance – make sure you get a good night's sleep beforehand. Scientists from the University of Geneva believe that sleep helps your brain to consolidate new experiences and learning, as well as to boost your memory. That's because when you sleep, connections between nerve cells in your brain are strengthened, and that may help you to learn and remember things more easily. Find out more about boosting your memory by reading our article Does your mind need a spring clean? Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 23, 2019

Over the past few years much evidence has been uncovered about the harmful effects of sitting down for too long. Several health conditions have been linked with too much sitting, including type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and being overweight and obese. Indeed, the idea that sitting for long periods may not be good for you has been around since the 1950s, when bus drivers were found to have double the risk of having a heart attack than bus conductors. Nobody knows exactly why excessive sitting may be harmful – some think it may make your metabolism slower, which can affect your blood pressure and your blood sugar regulation. But there is now overwhelming evidence to suggest a link between sitting and ill health. But what if you have the type of job that demands sitting for long periods at a time? Many people have sedentary jobs – almost anyone who works in an office spends most of their day sitting. So besides giving up your job and training to be a yoga instructor, what can you do? Strategies for sitting less Adults aged 19 - 65 are advised to try to sit down less throughout the day, including at work, when travelling and at home. There are a number of things you could do, such as: Giving up your seat on the train or bus Using the stairs instead of lifts or escalators (walking up escalators is also a good idea) Getting into the habit of standing up and, if possible, walking around whenever you make or take a phone call Organising walking meetings, where you take a walk with the person you’re meeting rather than sitting down with them Setting an alarm on your computer to remind you to get up and stretch your legs every 30 minutes Doing more active tasks or hobbies at home instead of spending all your time watching TV or sitting and reading for hours (if you’re going to be sitting watching the telly for a while, try to get up and walk around whenever there’s an ad break, or take a break from reading whenever you finish a chapter) Desk fitness tips Meanwhile, there are lots of other things you can do to keep yourself fit at your desk and improve other aspects of your health, not just your fitness level. Here are some suggestions you can try today: March on the spot You can do this standing or even sitting. March on the spot for 1 or 2 minutes (if you’re sitting, make sure your posture is upright and simply march your feet up and down). Try to do this several times a day. Do desk push-ups    Work your arms and shoulders by doing push-ups off your desk. Stand up and put both hands on the edge of your desk with your fingers pointing forwards. Then take a big step back with both feet, keeping a straight line from your heels to your head (your body will be at an angle to the floor). Bend your elbows slowly to lower your upper body towards the desk, then slowly push back up. If pushing up from your desk is too difficult, try putting your hands against a wall instead. Shrug your shoulders If you spend long periods of time hunched over your computer keyboard, chances are your shoulders will ache or feel tight by the end of the day. Stretch those muscles out throughout the day by shrugging your shoulders as high as you can and holding them there for a few seconds. Release and repeat several times. Also try rolling your shoulders back as far as they’ll go (you should feel as if they’re almost touching). Hold, then release and repeat. If your neck also tends to feel uncomfortable, do some neck rotations: sit with your head upright then gently turn it from one side to another (try to get your chin past your shoulder). Squeeze your stomach   To work out your abdominal muscles while you sit, try to squeeze them tightly for up to a minute at a time. You can do the same exercise with your buttock muscles too.  Work your fingers To prevent repetitive strain injuries in your hands and wrists, consider doing a few simple stretches 2 or 3 times during the day: With your arms stretched out in front of you, make a fist with both hands, then make circles in both directions using just your wrists (try to keep your arms as still as possible) Place the back of the fingers of both hands against the edge of your desk, with your wrists bent (your fingers should be together and pointing upwards). Press against the desk with your fingers. Do this a few times, then repeat with your fingers spread apart Protect your eyes If you work in an office, you may spend thousands of hours during your working life staring at a computer screen. This doesn’t just cause issues such as dry eyes, it can lead to the development of eyesight problems too. So try to keep your vision flexible by looking up from your screen every 5 or 10 minutes and letting your focus drift off into the distance. If you can get into the habit of consciously blinking more often when you’re working with a computer, it could help with eye dryness too (working with computers tends to reduce your blink rate, which causes dryness). Also try doing the following exercises each time you have a screen break: Keeping your head and neck straight, roll your eyes in each of the directions below, holding each position for one or two seconds: up, down, right, left, top right corner, bottom left corner, top left corner, bottom left corner Hold your thumb out 6 inches from your nose and focus on it for a few seconds. Then stare into the distance for a few seconds. Repeat up to 15 times Finish by blinking rapidly for a few seconds to moisten your eyes Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 08, 2019

Looking after your physical wellbeing isn’t just about staying active… although being outside and making the most of the great outdoors does help. Getting a good night’s sleep and eating healthy also add to the many lifestyle factors that build up the cornerstones of a healthy way of life. 5 top tips for a healthy body Eat well Forget about dieting, just eat healthy. Have a banana, a small handful of nuts or some plain popcorn when you need a snack. Get active Be more active every day; walk the kids to school, take the stairs instead of the lift or go on a lunchtime walk with your colleagues. Drink in moderation Too much alcohol damages your liver, increases the risk of some cancers and can make you sluggish. Aim for 2 or 3 alcohol-free days each week. Stay hydrated Avoid fizzy drinks, instead drink plenty of water or decaffeinated drinks – headaches, migraines and lethargy are often triggered by dehydration. Get a good night’s sleep Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary of peace and tranquillity by removing any distractions including TVs and computers. Avoid caffeine after 6pm, cut down on alcohol and relax with a guided meditation from Meditainment. Soak up some sun Spending time outside is not only great for your wellbeing, it’s also good for your health. That’s because when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight it produces Vitamin D, which is essential for helping keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Remember to protect your skin before you go out in the sun, use clothing to cover yourself or protect your skin using sunscreen. You can learn more about Vitamin D on the HSE website. You are what you eat Here are some of the top sweet and juicy super-fruits you can munch on to give yourself a boost! Strengthen your immune system by harnessing the Vitamin A power of peachesand papayas The benefits of blueberries are endless. Packed with antioxidants, these little blue beauties can help protect your skin and memory from the effects of ageing Pick up a pineapple! It’s natural enzymes can speed up your bodies healing process and help prevent the formation of blood clots Did you know that kiwis contain more Vitamin C than oranges? They can be eaten whole, fluffy skin and all, to help keep your bones, teeth, cartilage and gums in shape Blackberries are brilliant! Bursting with antioxidants, just a handful can reduce your risk of developing cancer or having a stroke Nutrition for improved energy, brain and sleep In today's busy world our brains have to remember and process more than ever before. One easy way to keep your grey cells running smoothly is by eating the right foods. Discover the link between what you eat and drink and your brain functions, memory and mental health, with a webinar from expert nutritionist Anjanette Fraser. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 08, 2019