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Taking care of us!

Wellbeing messages for the future from the virus crisis.

As we battle with the Coronavirus situation it is interesting to assess the world as it has become and to look at what is seen as valuable when we feel vulnerable.  Being vulnerable, especially for those who haven’t felt that way for a long time, focuses the mind on what really matters.

So when bankers, the city, highly paid superstars and large swathes of industry, who are usually seen as the key players in our western economy, are confined to barracks, it is interesting that on the front line in the battle with the virus are health workers, social workers, carers and school staff and the food and transport infrastructure.

The emphasis on what we currently value has shifted hugely as a nation. Could you imagine people coming out to clap the NHS before Christmas? Now these workers are, quite rightly, feted as heroes. But why has it taken something so catastrophic to change the way we view things?

In essence, we have we have lost sight of our priorities in life. We have continued to accelerate the pace of life with digital technologies saving time but haven’t used that time for wellbeing and consequently finding ourselves working harder and longer despite the gains in time. It’s time to recalibrate our priorities as to what matters. This virus has showed us that we are all fallible. Our health is the single most important factor in us leading satisfying and rewarding lives.

I remember the 80’s when we were told that technology would save us so much time we would have far greater leisure time. All we’ve done is fill that time with work. When we get ill we go to the NHS in the form of our GP and look for something to get us back to work quickly. It’s essentially a stop gap. With A&E departments and GP surgeries busy we need to look at how sustainable the NHS is at the current rate of usage never mind the crisis it faces in the form of this virus. We either put more money in to meet an ever growing need with people living for longer or we use it differently and look after ourselves better so that we don’t need the NHS as often.

Actually, what we need to do is use some of the time we’ve gained through the use of technology to look after ourselves better. Developing a routine of exercise, eating better, getting more sleep and time to relax will all help to reduce the need to use the services of the NHS. Instead of expecting the NHS to rescue us we need to put our own oxygen mask on first and take care of ourselves and our own wellbeing.

To make this work we need visionary business leaders who are keen to develop the health of their workforce as much as market share. Fitter and healthier employees will be at work more often and will be more productive and happier.

Similarly, we need to evaluate what we are teaching in schools. Curricular built on academic schema alone will not develop an understanding of how to stay healthy and be happy.

How many schools actually teach children throughout their formal education the value of sleep, diet, exercise and relaxation and how these can combine to develop a strong immune system. Do we teach about the immune system? The one thing that stands between us and this virus, without a vaccine is our immune system but do children, young people and even adults know how to nurture and strengthen it?

I picked up on Twitter that someone had posted that it feels like the world has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we have done to each other and the planet. It’s actually a really good time to consider what we have been doing, how our focus on what matters most has been skewed and how we create a new different world when we emerge from our enforced isolation.

Looking forward we know that many of the worlds occupations and what have been described as 21st century skills will be automated in the near future but what computers can’t do is empathise, be kind, be curious, innovative and creative. All these things are human qualities and help us as human beings to flourish. We need to be teaching these qualities as much, if not more than the academic curriculum if we are to have a workforce fit for the future. Our current reception pupils at current retirement rates will retire in 2084; are we really saying that we know what jobs will look like then? Obviously not, but human qualities will be at least as important as now, if we want to have the sort of nation that values the very things that seem to be top of our list of priorities at the moment.

When we emerge from this enforced cocoon, we need to make sure that we create a better world and don’t just go back to the things that we’ve done before. Ironically, we have more people out taking exercise, walking, spending time with family and showing empathy and compassion. When the rest of the daily routine is pared back these are the qualities we value. Isn’t it time we allowed our schools to create that vision for the future?

We are all clapping to show our appreciation for the NHS and want to protect the NHS post virus crisis lets continue this by looking after ourselves and our loved ones better.

What matters  most is our Mental and Physical Health and our awareness that these are intrinsically linked we can use the lockdown to plan a better future as we now have the one commodity we normally hold as our excuse, not enough time?

Stay safe and I am looking forward to walking my talk not just my 1 walk a day 😊

-Andy Mellor, SAS National Wellbeing Director