There is an indisputable connection between our wellbeing and our mental health. As the saying goes, "healthy body, healthy mind." Our minds have a powerful effect on our physical health and vice versa. If we don't listen to our bodies and commit to a wellbeing protocol, we very easily can drain our resilience and eroded our inner strength, capacity for creativity, and ability to sustain effort for extended periods of time.

Heavy workloads, stress and challenges most directly impact our resilience. Lowered resilience is caused by feeling threatened over an extended period of time - or months of high risk and high challenge without enough support or recovery time. A wellbeing protocol will help us in all of those areas and is particularly important for our resilience. There are three essential components to our wellbeing: physical, emotional and mental fitness.

Physical fitness: Exercise is a significant performance-enhancer, supporting mental and emotional fitness. The same system we use to recover from physical exertion - the parasympathetic nervous system - is used to recover from mental and emotional pressure. If this recovery system is sluggish, life's setbacks hit us much harder.

Regular exercise and good sleep are key. Exercise rebalances cortisol, boosts serotonin and releases mood enhancing endorphins. Extensive research supports the view that exercise is a cure for depression and responsible for improved cognitive function and health. We need to get our heart rate up and down through physical activity at least three times a day. We can do that with small changes - climbing stairs to your office, power walking to the station, running with the dog. All of those build physical fitness, which will enhance mental and emotional fitness. Lack of exercise decreases supplies of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is responsible for the growth of new neurons. Lack of sleep prevents neurons from reinsulating their outer myelin (fatty) sheaths, weakening the electrical impulses passing between neurons. It is important to keep up with physical exercise because it helps your brain grow. Pay attention to sleep quality and quantity - sleep is essential for full waking brain power. Our emotional and mental states are significant factors in sleep disruption.

Emotional fitness: Unease, worry and doubt drain energy, whereas self-awareness, naming emotions, asking for advice and taking charge give us energy. If we are emotionally fit, we can produce enough cortisol to rise to challenges, but not so much that we go into overdrive when the levels of the other resilience chemicals, especially serotonin, suffer. Letting go of disappointments and learning from your mistakes is important, as well as developing supportive and giving relationships that nourish you. Dwelling on problems drains energy and can lead to high cortisol levels. There is often a residue left by intense physical, mental and emotional experiences, especially when we are on a learning curve and things around us are changing. Consciously thinking through events in our minds can help to process our learning, but ruminating, letting them interrupt sleep patterns and thought processes, is unhelpful and unnecessary. Find someone you trust to talk through things and commit to letting them go.

Mental fitness: If our mind is filled with chatter and noise, then we are using up energy on unproductive types of thinking. The constant stream of data from the today's world can lead to distractions and overload; we need to be able to focus. Our breathing patterns mirror our emotional, mental and physical state, and they change depending on our feelings, thoughts and the type of activity we are engaged in. Stability and consistency under pressure rely on robust nervous and endocrine systems supported by good breathing. The brain is a high consumer of energy and needs a good oxygen supply, which means that effective breathing practice leads to a fit and healthy mind. Paced breathing (breathing diaphragmatically in through the nose and out through the mouth with a steady count on each in- and out-breath; in and out counts don't have to match) and meditation are particularly helpful for mental fitness. Meditation also strengthens our immune system.
In addition to effective breathing, we need time for reflection so that we can make conscious decisions going forwards. How we interpret events affects our outlook. We can learn to generate realistic optimism, a proactive state that creates optimal mental and emotional health. Research indicates that optimists have higher-paid jobs and will persevere for longer on tasks than pessimists; they also have stronger immune systems. Beware though - extreme optimists are also more likely to smoke and are less likely to prepare adequately for important events or save funds for the future.

In today's challenging work environment, too many people spend long periods of time in overdrive, with their foot flat on the accelerator, draining their adrenals - and their wellbeing. If you drive a car hard, foot flat on the accelerator, then slam on the brakes, then accelerate quickly, the car will break down faster than if you accelerate/decelerate smoothly and service the car regularly. The same is true of our adrenal glands. When we need to perform, our adrenal glands produce cortisol enabling us to rise to the occasion with confidence. To recover quickly, they need relaxation. Otherwise, cortisol levels remain too high for too long - leading to adrenal fatigue (burnout). At its most serious, burnout can be life-threatening. Thankfully, most of us only ever experience mild burnout, an increasingly common condition given today's increased pace of change at work and home. Keep an eye out for early warning signs of low resilience: high blood pressure, low level anxiety, mood swings, inability to cope well with change, feeling regularly fatigued, going into over-drive, obsessing over things, and being short-tempered. Each week and especially after intense effort, block time for rest and recovery.

The key is to create a wellbeing protocol centered around physical, emotional and mental fitness. That's relatively easy if you focus on and prioritise it. Allocating time for your wellbeing will help you manage stress at work and at home. To borrow a line from the flight attendants I met during my travels, "Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others." In other words, by committing to your own wellbeing protocol, you'll be in a better position to recognise the need for enhanced wellbeing in your colleagues, family, and friends.

Establishing a wellbeing protocol that addresses physical, emotional and mental fitness will create a solid foundation that you and those around you can use to achieve more, stress less, and live and work more happily.