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AIA Wellbeing Survey: Your health is your wealth, the importance of recovery

Financial advisers are managing stress better than they were two years ago but more support is needed for them to thrive.

Friday, March 15th 2024, 6:39AM 2 Comments

by Andrea Malcolm

The results of AIA’s second financial wellbeing study has found that stress is still one of the biggest issues affecting adviser wellbeing and recommends that they step up their recovery activity - taking time out of their day whether at work or home to recharge.

“Recovery is an unseen metric with a long return. We tend to put ourselves last and don’t see its value until we snap or burn out,” says AIA Vitality Coach Aaron Gilmore. “No-one intends to make lifestyle choices that are bad for them.”

The second of AIA’s financial adviser wellbeing surveyed 366 Kiwi financial advisers and found sleep was the leading concern affecting 41%, followed by the risk of taking stress leave (19%), seeking medical support (17%) and using alcohol to manage stress (15%).

Gilmore says recovery allows people to show up for themselves, their family and their work. It helps with the right amount of sleep, allows you to recharge and builds optimism.

“How can your lifestyle drive your business? What allows you to perform and be at your best? It’s very variable. Often the word wellbeing is overused but your health really is your wealth. It should be modelled and explored. It should be something that’s a cool topic. What you can achieve and how you can look after yourself.”

The study shows advisers are generally proactive around using recovery and self-care, both at work and home. Around 61% exercise ‘often to very often’ and 54% do a hobby or other interest ‘often to very often’. Those who do so report having more energy for work, while their health and wellbeing has improved since 2021.

Gilmore who is a professional dancer and movement coach says physical movement of any type has a high return.

“The body produces wonderful chemicals and the actual cost is really a little bit of a wiggle.” In particular, he’s a fan of myokines which are chemicals secreted into the bloodstream when muscles contract. Referred to as “hope molecules” these small proteins travel to the brain and act as an antidepressant.

“Movement is free. It’s about how you interact with the world and you can have fun with it.”

However exercise has dropped in popularity since 2021, with advisers saying their most frequent recovery activities during working hours or lunch time are taking short breaks (31.6%) and engaging in social interactions or social media (20.8%). Least used is meditation or deep reflection. Meanwhile, walking or other exercise has fallen off. The report’s authors think this may be partly due to the end of pandemic restrictions.

In contrast, for recovery outside of work hours, walking or exercise (57.9%) are the most frequent activities, followed by hobbies or other passionate interests (51.9%) and social media and social interactions (46.0%).  Again,  meditation or deep reflection are the least used.

Since the last study the main change in recovery at home is the increase in social media and social interactions, which balances the decline in other activities. Again the report authors think the end of pandemic restrictions might have a role to play here.

Gilmore says the mental challenge is that we’ve stopped thinking about how we move our bodies. “At school we had a playground and play time. Now movement has almost become thought of as a luxury whereas it’s a necessity.

“Often people think recovery is about rest and being still but light movement can be recovery. WHO recommendations tend to be 30-45 mins per day of medium exercise. That’s more for maintenance, if we want to move the needle, we need more.

“People believe themselves to be time poor but you can double the value of your time by doubling up. If you’re  watching TV, do a little bit of stretching. There are lots of roads to Rome.”

Some advisers reported wanting to exercise but being held back by pain.

“There are different ways of moving,” says Gilmore. “For example you can move in water, maybe go for a gentle bike. Or do you need to get rehab?”

Fellow AIA Vitality Coach, personal trainer and nutritionist Katie Hunter says we do a lot of incidental movement - our Apple watches show us that, but it’s important to lock some time out to do so.

The three Rs of Recovery

Exercise isn’t the only part of the equation.  Hunter talks about the three Rs of Recovery - rehydrate, rest and refuel.

“Rehydration is a really important one”, says Hunter, “especially, first thing because we wake up dehydrated.”

On how much water we should drink, she says, the formula is 0.035 x body weight, per day - so that’s 2.8 litres for an 80kg person. “Just carry a drink bottle - and know that you need to drink and refill about three times a day.”

Her top tip is to swap the coffee, which is a diuretic, first thing in the morning for a glass of warm water, a little lemon juice and a pinch of salt. The lemon aids digestion.

Rest is crucial to our wellbeing and yet 41% of advisers who took part in the study are not sleeping well and yet it’s crucial to our wellbeing, says Hunter.

Her top tip is to have a really good evening routine starting 30-60 minutes before bed to signal to the body that it’s time to wind down. This includes cutting back on blue light by ditching the devices. Night mode is OK if you must but no screen time is better.

Other ideas for a routine are a hot drink, a bath or shower, journaling or writing out your thoughts on the day, making a ‘to do’ list for the next day, laying out what you’ll wear or meal prep so you’re ready to go in the morning.

On the importance of refuelling, a study by Southern Cross found that 64% of Kiwis eat unhealthy food when stressed, says Hunter.

Advisers can have a highly stressed environment so be aware, says Hunter. “Have good snacks (such as nuts and fruit) on hand. Fruit on its own is a burst of sugar so pair it up with a protein.

“For healthy nutritious meals, make sure your plate has fat, carbohydrate and protein and eat them together. Protein makes us feel full and fat leaves us satisfied.”

Consumption of high sugars is a big concern, it’s in so many foods on the supermarket shelves so Hunter’s top tip to avoiding processed foods and eating natural is to shop in the outside aisles of the supermarket. “And when you get to the checkout, scan what’s in your trolley.”

Reframe

Gilmore likes to add another R - reframing, which is about motivation and staying on track.

“When you think about all this, if you start from the mindset of compromise, you will have a negative experience. Instead, think about how these disciplines will make you feel better. “Values and belief tend to drive your behaviour. If you’re hungry you get food, if you’re hungry and you value yourself, you go for better food. Value what it does and let that be the driver. “And if you find you’ve fallen off, that’s OK. “It’s great when people recognise that,” says Hunter. “It’s just about getting back into something. What meals can I prepare, when will I put time in my diary? Don’t chastise yourself, just dust yourself off and reset.”

Advisers have also found value in AIA Vitality, a science-backed health and wellbeing programme which can be added to eligible policies.

AIA partners with the Mental Health Foundation on the programme which encourages a healthy lifestyle through activities, services and support.

Another initiative, AIA MyCare offers advisers a second medical opinion on any medical diagnosis, and provides access to a range of medical experts, including those specialised in mental health. From mid-March, AIA MyCare will also have a new  nutrition offering.

Tags: AIA

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Comments from our readers

On 14 March 2024 at 7:06 pm Aggressively_passive said:
My three Rs

Reduce. Regulatory. Ridiculousness.

and my bonus R

Rhetoric - which is about the constant, persuasive marketing of the need to "be compliant". Turns out it was all a sales pitch, and it has been the root cause of much of my stress over the last few years.

The 2017 FMA Statement of Intent says this:
Our statutory purpose is to promote and facilitate the development of fair, efficient and transparent financial markets.
We want to:
• Strengthen public confidence in financial markets.
• Promote innovation.
• Support the growth of New Zealand’s capital base.
• Balance costs and benefits.

So, how's all that going then?
Or is our mental health just the price they are willing to pay?
On 25 March 2024 at 9:12 am Steve Wright said:
Aggressively_passive, I suggest you no longer see 'compliance' as a stress because you got it sorted.

Compliance is not a 'sales pitch' in my view. The legal framework FAs and FAPs now operate in is significantly different now. Much more is expected of advisers, and this requires adaptation and learning.

When I get stressed it's usually because I suspect I might be operating out of my skill/knowledge zone, be it detailed product understanding, or anything else I'm not 100% on top of.

The solution for me is to do the work/get the help needed to get on top of it. When I'm 'knowledge confident' the stress of the uncertain goes away.

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