Are You Overwhelmed by Email?

We all know the feeling. No matter how many times you respond, delete, or move your emails, the number of unread, unsorted and unanswered ones keep building. The result is stress – every single time you open your inbox.

“Email has become the biggest and worst interrupter the universe has ever experienced,” says Marsha Egan, a workplace productivity coach and author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. ‘It’s cheap, it’s immediate, and you can copy 200 people if you want to.”

Not only that, says Cary Cooper, organisational psychology professor at UK’s Manchester University, but the added stress affects our health.

“Email overload is causing people to get ill,” he says. “It’s a great way to keep in touch with people, particularly who are remote,” he says. “It’s a great way to send data, to send information. By itself it’s fine – it’s the way people are using it that’s the problem.”

Get smarter with your email by putting up some boundaries.

  • Avoid opening each email as it arrives

Instead, process them in a batch, preferably just a few times a day. If this is not possible for you, then check email between other things, rather than while you are focusing on a specific task.

  • Stick to ‘the four Ds’.

Egan recommends this technique for every email you receive: do, delete, delegate or defer. If you can deal with it within two minutes, do it. Defer if it will take longer, popping it in a folder to which you return later. The key is to deal with each message before moving on to the next, to stop them all piling up unread. If you can, delegate the email to someone else, and always delete emails you do not need.

  • Turn off notifications.

Constant dings telling you that you have mail makes it almost impossible to stay focused, and your productivity will plunge.

  • Find and delete.

There are easy ways to filter out messages you can quickly delete – for instance, any that you are copied in on that are more than three days old.

  • Unsubscribe.

Those newsletters that you thought you should read but never do? Delete and unsubscribe. The same goes for emails from shops you once bought from, or restaurants you once ate at. It takes a little longer than deleting, but you only have to do it once.

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.

What Should We Do Instead of Grimly Trying to Be Happy?

Dr Susan David, Harvard Medical School psychologist, author and consultant, says we need to apply “emotional agility”: a process of “holding difficult emotions and thoughts loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to ignite change in your life.”

In her TED talk, The gift and power of emotional courage, David says the worst thing you can do is try to push down your annoying feelings.

“When we push our difficult emotions aside, we fail to learn from them and recognise those difficult emotions contain signposts to things that we value, and if we can pay attention to the data we can adapt.”

David says the first step is to label our emotion, so we can separate from it. She advises using the phrase, “I’m noticing that I’m feeling…”, such as “I’m noticing that I’m feeling sad.”

“Research now shows that the radical acceptance of all of our emotions – even the mess, difficult ones – is the cornerstone to resilience, thriving, and true, authentic happiness.”

When feeling difficult emotions, follow this four-step process from Dr Susan David:

1. Show Up: Face your thoughts or feelings with curiosity and acceptance.

2. Step Out: Label your emotions so you can detach from them. See them for what they are, simply emotions, not who you are.

3. Walk Your Why: Use your core values to decide what to do about the emotion. For example, if you value fairness, you may choose to have a difficult conversation, rather than avoiding it because doing so reflects fairness to the individual, yourself and those around you.

4. Move On: In moving forward, make small, purposeful adjustments to align your mindset, motivation and habits with your core values. Make sure that these tweaks are connected to who you want to be in your life.

1 Thing You Can Do Today

Take a break from your phone

Life without a screen is close to impossible. We use devices to work, connect, and to play.

According to a recent report from Datareportal, worldwide, the average person spends a total of 6 hours and 57 minutes looking at a screen each day – with almost four hours of that on a mobile phone. The younger you are, the longer your daily average screen time.

Research is mounting that “excessive media and phone use is not good for us physically, mentally or emotionally,” says professor of psychology, Mary Gomes PhD.

“It is no surprise that incoming texts, emails and notifications are a near-constant presence for many people. Our moment-to-moment experience is being fragmented on an unprecedented scale,” she says.

Gomes regularly assigns a media fast in her classes, with her students reporting the following benefits:

  • More ‘present-moment awareness’. Students described more presence, sensory awareness, mindfulness and flow.
  • Deepened connections. The full richness of human relationships is best found face-to-face, says Gomes. The students reported improved connections with family, friends and classmates, finding a difference in conversations when phones were out of the way.
  • Productivity and learning. Any work that requires a focused mind will benefit from a media break, and studies have found the more distant the phone, the better the performance: when phones were placed in another room, learning improved notably, more than when they were tucked away in nearby backpacks. In the UK, secondary schools that banned phones on campus saw significant increases in student test scores.

Gomes believes we can all benefit from a fast from our phones, whether it’s a temporary breather, or an opportunity to create enduring change.

Fatigue At Work

In an ideal world, we’d never be tired at work. We’d be alert, energised and operating at our optimal level. We don’t live in an ideal world, and sometimes you might face fatigue at work.

Fatigue is more than tiredness. It is a state of mental and/or physical exhaustion which reduces a person’s ability to perform work safely and effectively.

It’s a real problem for two reasons.

Firstly, fatigue leads to more errors and higher risk of injury at work. This has implications for both you and your team-mates.

Secondly, long-term fatigue isn’t just hard to cope with, it also leads to long-term health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.

Do not ignore fatigue

If you’re feeling fatigued, you must speak up. Don’t try to brush it off, or try to hide it.

In the workplace, you have a responsibility to take reasonable care for your own health and safety and a responsibility to not adversely affect the health and safety of others.


Just as important for office workers

While terminology such as “effective control measures” may sound more suited to blue-collar worksites or shift workers, it’s just as important for those who work in the office.

Factors which may exacerbate fatigue for office workers include:

  • workloads and work schedules
  • work-related travel and work outside of normal hours (for example work a person has taken home to complete)
  • work practices, for example the degree of choice and control workers have over work hours, the pace of work and rest breaks, and the type of work culture.

Talk to your manager about the causes of your fatigue, to identify whether any workplace issues may be adding to the problem, and then work out a plan to reduce these factors.

Remember, fatigue is not weakness. It’s a natural biological reaction to experiencing too much or too little, such as too much exertion, or too little sleep.

Things People Say About Fitness That May Not Be True

Are you guilty of spreading misinformation about exercise and fitness? Here are 5 of the most common things we hear – just how true are they?

1. Sitting is the new smoking

We probably do sit too much, and physical inactivity isn’t good for us, but “let’s not demonise a behaviour as normal as sitting,” says Harvard professor of evolutionary biology Daniel E Lieberman.

“People in every culture sit a lot. Even hunter-gatherers who lack furniture sit about 10 hours a day.”

That said, there are healthier ways to sit. ‘Active sitting’ means getting up every 15 minutes or so to wake up your metabolism, and research shows this leads to better long-term health, Dr Lieberman also suggests that if you sit all day for work, pick a leisure activity that doesn’t involve lots of sitting.

2. Running will damage your knees

We tend to think of our joints a little like a car’s tyres or shock absorbers – that they will eventually wear out with overuse. Even though knees are a common site of running injuries, studies have shown that running, walking and other activities help keep knees healthy, says Dr Lieberman, and runners are, if anything, less likely to develop problems such as knee osteoarthritis.

He recommends learning how to run properly and train sensibly, which means not increasing your distance by too much, too quickly.

3. You can’t be fat and fit

Several studies have found that the association between early death and being overweight or obese disappears when fitness is taken into account. When you are not active, you have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, some cancers, depression and anxiety.

Even though someone who is a healthy weight but inactive may look OK, you can’t assume they are healthy.

“People who are fit and of normal weight have the best health outcomes, so there are still plenty of reasons to try to shed some weight,” says Professor Vandelanotte.

4. If you don’t sweat, you’re not losing weight

Not so. Sweat is how your body cools itself. It’s a biological response that cools your skin and regulates internal body temperature, and people vary considerably in how much they sweat. You can burn a significant amount of energy without ever breaking into a sweat.

5. If you have a chronic disease, you should avoid exercise
“This is not the case,” says Julie Broderick, Assistant Professor of Physiotherapy at Trinity College Dublin.

“Being more active will benefit a range of chronic conditions, including cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Be as active as your condition allows, aiming for 150 minutes a week of moderate activity if possible.”

If you have complex health needs, make sure you consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regime and get exercise advice from a physiotherapist or other exercise professional.

Get Sugar Wise to Protect Your Teeth

“Don’t eat sugar – it’s bad for your teeth.” We heard this as children, and we tell our own children too. Why is sugar so damaging? And how do we avoid it, when it seems to be added to everything?

Sugar is one of the biggest factors that can contribute to the development of tooth decay. Tooth decay is more than a nuisance. It can cause pain and infection, and in children can affect nutrition, speech and jaw development. If left untreated, tooth decay can go deeper into the tooth, which may start to look yellow, brown or black.

How does sugar damage teeth?

Have you ever noticed that sticky film on your teeth? That’s plague, and its stickiness means bacteria can cling to it. When plaque isn’t regularly removed by brushing and flossing, it can accumulate minerals from your saliva and harden into a substance called tartar that can only be removed by your dentist.

When you eat sugary foods and drinks, the bacteria in plaque feed on the sugars, producing acids in the process. It’s these acids that cause problems like cavities (decay) along with gingivitis and other forms of tooth decay.


Where is the sugar?

We know sugar is added to sweet food – confectionary, cakes, biscuits. You’ll also find it in many savoury foods including sauces, marinades, salad dressings, in breakfast cereals, and added to granola and protein bars.

Sugar is particularly easy to overconsume in soft drinks, with one 600ml bottles of soft drink containing 16 teaspoons of sugar. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults consume no more than six teaspoons of free sugar (sugar added to food and drink) a day to decrease the risk of tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain.

How to protect your teeth

  • Read labels. There are over 50 names for added sugar, including syrup, molasses, glucose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, coconut sugar and rice malt syrup. When you are shopping, look out for these on the list of ingredients.
  • Swap out sugary snacks for a piece of fresh fruit, or some plain, unsalted nuts and soft drinks for a glass of water.
  • Brush and floss. Brush your teeth twice a day, and floss daily to remove the plaque between your teeth.
  • Visit your dentist. It is recommended to see your dentist every six to 12 months so any tooth decay or gum disease can be spotted early and treated.