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'Be selfish': Olympian’s tips on how to stay healthy at work

Nicole Livingstone knows what it takes to succeed at work. Pictured at Medibank Sydney event, and with with gold medallist Susie O'Neill after winning silver in the Womens 200m Freestyle during the 1994 Commonwealth Games held in Victoria, Canada. Images: Getty, Medibank

When it comes to work-life balance, Australians are far from winning gold medals, with one in two of us working more than 50 hours a week.

And more than two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese.

This is why maintaining wellbeing at work is essential, Olympic swimmer and AFLW chief executive Nicole Livingstone told Yahoo Finance.

"Work now makes up such a big portion of our day-to-day lives, so not having overall wellbeing working for you at work just means that the scale of balance would be completely tipped in the wrong way," she said, before speaking at a Medibank Thought Leadership event in Sydney on Tuesday (10 September).

"Making sure that you are feeling well at work, and you have the flexibility, and you have the support at work to be able to look after yourself I think is vitally important."

Over her varied career, Livingstone has learnt that the ability to look after yourself comes down to being selfish.

“You take a little bit of that athlete mindset, that you do put yourself forward and give yourself a level of importance when it comes to your physical health, your mental health, and your overall wellbeing,” the three-time Olympic medallist said.

Being an athlete is a role that requires a high degree of selfishness to succeed, and while that level of care for yourself may not be feasible in other industries, there are ways to incorporate a bit of selfishness into your life, she added.

“Selfishness is finding your snippets of time to focus just on you. There are many ways that you can do that.

“[It could be] starting the day before you actually get up into the craziness, setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier and doing some meditation or some stretching.”

Team sport at lunch time or social exercising are also great ways to spend some time on yourself and get away from work for a short while.

“There are lots of options there, but you just have to be motivated to do it.”

For Livingstone, who works full time and is the patron of the Ovarian Cancer Australia charity and on the board of Swimming Australia, in addition to raising twins, it’s easiest to do a couple of 10-minute bursts of exercise throughout the day when she works from home.

Goal-setting critical for getting, and staying healthy

One thing that professional athletes know all about is goal-setting.

Olympic gold-medallist Kerri Pottharst famously surrounded herself with images of gold - down to only showering with gold shampoo and brushing her teeth with gold toothpaste.

Not all athletes use visualisation in the same way as the former Australian volleyball player. However, Livingstone said athletes “don’t survive without goals”, and are used to setting, recalibrating, achieving and refocusing on the end-game as a way of life.

That’s more difficult for Australians who don’t have that competitive experience, but it’s still critical that goals are worked into wellbeing routines.

“In everyday life, you do still need to set goals, and you do need to have a plan on how to achieve those, and then you need to review them and update them as well,” Livingstone said.

“For me, it's making sure that you are actually thinking about those kind of things as well, because that does set you up for overall success and contentment.”

It’s about finding the strategies that work for you, whether that’s getting up earlier, getting out at lunch, or doing it in short bursts, and focusing on the goal.

“And again, not putting those on the back-burner, to actually think about what you need, not only to survive, but to thrive.”

Her words coincides with a Medibank survey finding that 39 per cent of Australian adults are finding it more difficult to find time for themselves.

However, 84 per cent also agreed that even small actions can make a big difference to how they feel.

The Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit will take place on the 26th September 2019 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. Check out the full line-up of speakers and agenda here.

Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit