1 Thing You Can Do Today

Call a friend (with a real phone call)

If a phone call with a friend came in pill form, doctors would prescribe it to everyone. A real phone call – not a text – can give you comfort, energy, fulfilment, and deep connection. Here’s why:

1. Phone calls reduce stress

Once you get over the anxiety of making an actual call, you will find that phone calls give you one thing texts don’t: immediate human response. When you ask a question, or make a slightly awkward statement, you don’t have to watch those three dots of doom “<Someone is typing>”.

2. Phone calls create stronger bonds

A 2020 study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology asked 200 people to make predictions about what it would be like to reconnect with an old friend by email versus phone.

People worried a phone call would be too awkward, but when they did actually call, people felt more connected. “When it came to actual experience, people reported they did form a significantly stronger bond with their old friend on the phone versus email, and they did not feel more awkward,” explains co-author Amit Kumar.

If you are worried about disturbing your friend at the wrong time, then set up the phone call via text first. Simply ask, “are you up for a phone call?” or “Let’s arrange a phone call tonight.”

When Work Gives You a Headache

Around 15 per cent of us take painkillers for headaches at any given time. Headaches cost workplaces dearly in absenteeism and lost productivity. What can you do to prevent them?

Do you find you are more prone to headaches at work? There could be a number of reasons why.

Stress is a common headache trigger. Mounting deadlines, challenging co-workers or customers, and difficult tasks – work is often a source of mental stress. Stress is believed to cause a headache by tightening the muscles of your upper back, shoulders, neck and head while at the same time reducing the levels of endorphins, your body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.

Workplace headaches can also result from lifestyle triggers, such as poor sleep, caffeine withdrawal (if you drink less or no coffee one day), dehydration, and hunger from skipping meals.

Is there light or glare from your computer screen that makes it hard to see it clearly? Anything that causes eyestrain can trigger headaches.

A less than ideal ergonomic setup can also trigger headaches. Sitting for long periods of time in a ‘goose-neck’ pose – head jutting forward, shoulders hunched – increases the curve in the mid back, straining the upper neck and causing pain that reaches into your head. Poor posture when you are standing, particularly hunching over, can also cause headaches.

What you can do to help prevent headaches:

  • Take regular breaks, especially if your work is repetitive or you use computers. While on a break, practise relaxation techniques to help deal with any stress and tension, such as taking a walk, doing a short meditation or taking slow, deliberate breaths.
  • Vary your physical position to avoid stiffness and tension, standing and moving to stretch your back and shoulders.
  • Make your work environment as physically comfortable as possible – check that the position of your chair, desk and computer screen follow ergonomic guidelines.
  • If you find your eyes strain to see the screen, ask your optometrist if you’d benefit from computer glasses.
  • Ensure you have good lighting that imitates natural daylight and avoid glare from natural lighting, highly polished surfaces, or bright walls.
  • Drink water regularly to avoid dehydration.

How to Have Difficult Conversations at Work

Performance reviews. Giving feedback. Talking with an angry client. These are emotionally triggering conversations, and too often, we waste precious energy dreading them or trying to avoid them.

We worry we will hurt their feelings, or we will make things worse, or we will show ourselves up as being incompetent.

Yet we know from experience that prolonging the situation only makes it worse.

Fortunately, there are ways to handle difficult conversations which not only make things ok, but can actually improve your working relationship.

Author, speaker, and conflict coach, Judy Ringer, says the key is to be crystal clear on the purpose of your conversation. Ask yourself what would be an ideal outcome?

Then, when things get too emotional, you can keep coming back to that core purpose.

Ringer also suggests shifting your attitude. “If you think this is going to be horribly difficult, it probably will be. If you truly believe that whatever happens, some good will come of it, that will likely be the case. Try to adjust your attitude for maximum effectiveness.”

She says an attitude of curiosity is essential. “Pretend you don’t know anything (you really don’t) and try to learn as much as possible about your partner and (their) point of view.”

A step-by-step guide is useful for anyone in a work situation:

Step 1: State the problem and provide examples. State the impact that the problem is having on the business.

Step 2: Listen and question. Let the employee explain their side of the story and motives. Try to understand their point of view.

Step 3: Acknowledge the employee’s feelings and view of the situation. Confirm and clarify your understanding of what they have said.

Step 4: Reassess your position. After the employee has put forward their point of view, it is your turn to clarify your position without minimising theirs. What can you see from your perspective that they have missed? Has your position changed?

Step 5: Look for solutions. Work together to develop solutions and agree on a way forward.

Step 6: Close the conversation. Clarify and document the agreed actions and next steps, then thank the employee.

How do I begin?

One of the hardest parts to having a difficult conversation is knowing how to start. Judy Ringer suggests using one of these openers:

  • I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.
  • I’d like to talk about ________ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.
  • I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
  • I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)? If the person says, “Sure, let me get back to you,” follow up with them.
  • I think we have different perceptions about ________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.
  • I’d like to talk about ________. I think we may have different ideas about how to ________.
  • I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.

Is There Anything You Do To Reduce Your Risk of Dementia?

In a word: Yes! Research has found 12 modifiable risk factors that are responsible for 40 per cent of dementias.

What does modifiable risk factors mean? It means if we can reduce these factors, we can potentially reduce the risk of dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, nor is it a disease. It’s a group of symptoms that affect your memory, thought processes and social abilities. Several diseases can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Dementia affects almost 55 million people worldwide and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

People with dementia often become forgetful and confused. They can sometimes feel angry when they don’t understand why they’ve forgotten something, or why things seem to be changing around them. It can be extremely difficult for their loved ones.

What are the risk factors we can control?

The 12 risk factors cover a person’s lifetime, from early childhood into late age. While several of the factors are outside of our personal control, such as air pollution, others are within our control. Here are the risk factors that you can personally do something about:

  • alcohol use in mid-life – from 45 to 64 (above guidelines of 10 standard drinks a week and 4 drinks on any one day)
  • obesity in mid-life
  • high blood pressure (hypertension) in mid-life
  • smoking in later life – from age 64
  • physical inactivity in later life
  • social isolation in later life

The other factors are:

  • hearing loss
  • traumatic brain injury
  • depression
  • air pollution
  • diabetes

Start now

The good news is that it’s never too late to start making changes. With so many risk factors coming into play in mid-life and later life, the changes you make today can have an impact on your risk of dementia.

These lifestyle changes will also reduce your risk of other chronic disease such as heart disease. By reducing alcohol and smoking, and increasing physical activity and social connections, you can have a profound impact on your future health and happiness.