It’s holiday time, which means frightful weather, figgy pudding, and plenty of rockin’ around the Christmas tree!  Or something like that, anyways.  We think we can all agree that it definitely means a lot of activity and little rest – even when we have visions of pajamas and lazy mornings dancing in our heads.  We’re huge fans of a good time, but too little focus on nutrition and rest can lead to an overworked brain and body, which affects on-the-job judgment and energy.  We’re invested in the safety, health and welfare of people at work, so what can be done to enhance our health during this chaotic, but wonderful season?  Read on for tips on improving safety and productivity, while still having a grand old time.

Sleep

We don’t know about you, but sometimes we crave some good, old-fashioned hibernation.  John Peever, director of the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory at the University of Toronto, and Brian J. Murray, director of the laboratory at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center said that sleep reenergizes the body’s cells, clears waste from the brain, supports learning and memory, and plays a vital role in regulating mood and appetite.  Sign us up.  Especially when we consider the opposite – that a lack of sleep can affect judgment, mood, and the ability to learn and retain information.  No, thank-you.

In the workplace, a lack of sleep might result in reduced productivity, analytical errors, short-tempers, and accidents.  None of us want to be on the giving or receiving end of that mess.  Ideally, you should go to sleep when you’re tired and wake up on your own.  If that sounds like an unattainable dream, don’t stress it, just do the best you can.  Take naps if necessary, and provide the body with food and activity that nurture restful sleep.

Nutrition

Wow your co-workers with this exciting trivia.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, and mediate moods.  Around 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract.  Mind blown?  What if we told you that it shares that space with billions of good bacteria that play a large role in your body’s health, including the activation of neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain?  Bottom line? Healthy guts support healthy brains.  And the answer to a healthy gut lies in feeding it premium fuel

Eating isn’t usually an issue during the holidays.  We’re practically drooling thinking of grandma’s pecan pie, dad’s leftover turkey casserole, and frosted sugar cookies.  However, if we’re being honest – and our goal is your health after all – we wouldn’t consider any of that premium fuel.  So, we recommend you mix it up.  Go after all sorts of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.  Avoid eating too many processed and refined foods and sugars.  How about a smoothie, vegetables and hummus, or some whole-grain toast spread with nut butter and coconut oil?  We all have our favorite holiday snacks, and there’s nothing wrong with sharing in food and community.  Smile, relax, and rejuvenate.  Then help out your brain and body by adding in key nutrients.  It will pay off during vacation time, and when you need to report to the office.

Activity

Okay, we know the couch is calling your name, but it’s not going anywhere.  Before you stretch out, head to the great outdoors for some blood-pumping activity.  Exercise reduces insulin resistance, stimulates the release of chemicals that help grow new brain cells, and improves mood and sleep – among many other positive direct and indirect benefits.  In other words, exercise makes you physically more capable and can reduce cognitive impairment.  #Winning.

If you don’t like the idea of lifting weights or running on a treadmill, then don’t.  Make it your goal simply to move more.  How about walking, hiking, biking, or mountain climbing?  Or maybe yoga, Tai Chi or rowing?  Group sports?  There’s no end to creativity here, just remember to consistently move.  Think about it this way.  It’s recommended we brush our teeth twice a day.  Now, if we brush our teeth eight times one day, and then zero times over the next few days, does that really achieve the same results?  Of course not.  The same is true for exercise.  Find something to do every day, even if it’s only for a short while.

Let’s Wrap it Up

Health is complex and it’s impossible to expect one body system to work at an exceptional level if another is feeling sluggish and overworked.  If we want to reduce brain fog and the spread of illnesses, we’ve got to combine diet, exercise and sleep.  When we’re talking about winning the health jackpot, those three areas are the answer to vitality.  When you’re at your best, you give your team your best and enable them to do the same.  This holiday season, pay attention to how your nutrition, exercise and sleep can make for a safer environment for all.