See Search by ABC

Health (incl smoking policy)

The University of Twente attaches great importance to our staff members being able to perform their work with pleasure, in safety and in good health, in a healthy and safe working environment. This is why we have implemented a number of measures. Our working conditions policy, for instance, lays down regulations for workplace examinations, risk assessments and sickness absence counselling. In addition, we have passed various regulations on the topic of safe work. 

With a view on improving our staff members' health and well-being, the UT also offers a variety of activities, including company sports, training courses, health checks, health weeks and a chair massage. We also have made a wealth of information available on living a healthy lifestyle. 

The UT takes its health and safety responsibilities seriously. Our hope, and expectation, is that our staff members will act responsibly with respect to working in a safe and healthy manner and making use of all the university has on offer.

Would you like to change your lifestyle? This website provides a wealth of information on healthy lifestyles and what you yourself can do to live a healthy life.

Alcohol

Even with a plethora of alcohol awareness campaigns, still not everyone is aware of how much alcohol they can drink before consuming too much. This site provides a wealth of information on responsible alcohol consumption and helps you determine whether you may have an alcohol problem.

Alcohol addiction

One does not become addicted to alcohol just like that. It takes a long time. Alcohol addiction cannot be recognized by the amount consumed per day, either. Some addicts can go weeks without so much as a drop, only to start drinking heavily again afterwards.

There are some signals, however, that alcohol might becoming a problem. For example:

  • You desire alcohol increasingly often;
  • You find it increasingly difficult to reject the offer of a glass;
  • You increasingly look for situations that allow you to have a drink and avoid situations that don't;
  • Someone from your surroundings has recommended that you reduce your drinking, or made some remarks on your drinking behaviour;
  • You make sure to always have alcohol in the house;
  • You are more often involved with (near) accidents at work and are less productive;
  • You have said or done things you regretted afterwards while under influence;
  • You sweat more heavily, are more prone to forget things, are more anxious, have difficulty sleeping and increasingly suffer from head or stomach aches.

Of course, these are also signals to look out for in people you suspect are drinking too much alcohol.

If you answer any of the following questions with yes, you might want to start thinking about your drinking habits.

  1. Have you ever felt you needed to start drinking less?
  2. Have you even been annoyed by other people's comments on your alcohol use?
  3. Have you ever felt guilty about your alcohol use?
  4. Have you ever consumed alcohol in the morning to feel fit for the day?

Alcoholic beverages form part of our social life. Important and fun events as a matter of course go hand in hand with a drink. Neither availability nor price form a reason for the Dutch to stop drinking alcohol. And stop we do not: over 80% of the Dutch population aged between 15 and 60 regularly consumes alcohol. As long as this concerns a drink every now and then, there's nothing wrong with that. However, some 8 to 10 percent of Dutchmen aged over 15 has problems due to their alcohol consumption. This applies to both men and women. 5% of employees may even be considered a problem drinker.

If alcohol consumption starts causing trouble, it's time to do something about it.

Alcohol use

Even with a plethora of alcohol awareness campaigns, still not everyone is aware of how much alcohol they can drink before consuming too much. Due to differences in weight and size, some people can tolerate a bit more alcohol than others, but in general, the following rules for responsible drinking apply:

  • For women, two standard units per day;
  • For men, three standard units per day;
  • So as to prevent drinking becoming a habit, it is important to not consume any alcohol at least two days a week;
  • Do not drink when you're tired or in response to stress or other personal problems.

EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

Proceeding via the oesophagus, stomach and large intestine, alcohol enters the blood stream and is transported throughout the entire body. As soon as it has reached the brains, you feel more relaxed and cheerful and are less inhibited in talking for the first two units or so. When consuming more, you start caring less, have more difficulty assessing situations, your response time decreases and your muscle coordination is affected. Consuming even more may lead to your cheerful mood souring and you becoming depressed or aggressive. The better your physical and mental health, the more alcohol you can tolerate.

Women are more easily affected by alcohol than men. This is because they on average have less bodily fluids and, therefore, more quickly raise their alcohol levels.

Alcohol promotes fluid loss through increased urine production. This loss of fluids is responsible for various characteristics of the hangover: the dry mouth, feeling weak and tired, and probably the headache. In addition, alcohol irritates the gastric mucosa, which may lead to nausea and bouts of vomiting.

'Binge drinking' (every now and then consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period) is a health hazard, too: it may cause acute renal failure, heart conditions and brain damage. In the long term, binge drinking may damage the nervous system and cause brain damage.

Drinking 15 units of alcohol in one go once a week is definitely unhealthy; consuming 2 to 3 units five days a week is not necessarily so. For alcohol affects various organs, like the stomach, the liver and the brain. The more alcohol absorbed by the body in a short timespan, the more damage it may cause to these organs. Examples of such damage include gastritis (infection of the stomach) and liver cirrhosis (damage to the liver). If you do drink too much every once in a while, it's best not to drink any alcohol for at least two consecutive days. This allows the body to recuperate.

EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL OVERCONSUMPTION

Drinking too much for an extended period of time may have serious consequences. Physical consequences include infections of the mucosa of the oesophagus and stomach, liver damage and damage to the brain and nervous system. A clear connection has also been proven between alcohol and certain forms of cancer, in particular mouth, throat, laryngeal and oesophageal cancer.

In addition to physical consequences, alcohol abuse also impacts your functioning within society. Problem drinkers are absent six times more often than others and they are more prone to be the victim of a work-related accident. Fifteen percent of all traffic deaths are due to an accident involving alcohol. When drunk, people easily turn aggressive: thirty percent of all instances of abuse of women can be traced to alcohol abuse, for instance, and problem drinkers often end up socially isolated due to becoming aggressive and fighting often.

Links

The sites listed below provide more information on alcohol consumption and help with alcohol addiction.

Sites listing links to other sites with information on alcohol and alcohol consumption include:

If you have questions, you could also ring the

Alcohol Info Line, 0900 – 500 20 21 (€ 0.10/minute). You can reach staff on work days between 9:00 and 17:00. Information on alcohol is available 24/7. The Alcohol Info Line is there for anyone who want to know more about alcohol or wants to have a confidential conversation. You do not have to provide your name.

GP: Your GP can advise you when you have alcohol-related problems and could possibly refer you to other institutions able to help you.

Jellinek Preventie: tel. 020 – 626 7176. Alcohol and Drugs Info Line, available Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 13:00 to 17:00.

Helpful tips on responsible alcohol consumption

THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME HELPFUL TIPS ON RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION:

  • Feel free to take a drink, but know when and how to say no or stop;
  • Do not drink too much: men should have no more than three units per day, women no more than two units per day;
  • Do not drink too much in one go;
  • Drink to enjoy the drink, not to get drunk;
  • Alternate drinks: try some water or soda in between alcoholic drinks;
  • When drinking, eat something: a full stomach reduces the speed at which alcohol enters the blood;
  • Do not drink when feeling tired or ill;
  • Do not drink when driving, before or during sports, and before or during work;
  • When thirsty, drink something that quenches first, like mineral water;
  • If you want to start drinking less, set clear rules for yourself and follow up on them. E.g.: I will only drink in the weekends and on special occasions;
  • Stop drinking completely or for a couple of days: this will help break the habit;
  • Ask yourself why you are drinking: do you have a good reason for it, or is it because you can no longer do without it?

If the above tips do not help you keep your alcohol consumption at a responsible level, ask an expert for advice.

Exercise

It's a well-established fact by now: getting plenty of exercise means you feel more fit and is important for your health and well-being. For the less sporty among us, there is good news: getting your 30 minutes of exercise a day doesn't mean you have to take up sports! This site provides you with more information on how much exercise you need, how to get it reasonably easy, and what facilities are available at the UT to help you get it.

30 minutes each day

Did you know that 40% of people at work get too little exercise?

A sizeable share of the working populace spends too many hours sitting behind their computers/desks. Starting to feel better requires little in the way of exercise. Research has proven that 30 minutes of moderate to fair exercise per day already is enough to have a positive effect on your health and well-being. A brisk walk or riding a bicycle count as a 'fair' amount of exercise. You do not have to be active for 30 consecutive minutes: taking three sessions of 10 minutes or two bouts of 15 minutes is also fine.

It sounds so simple, but a full 60% of Dutchmen fails to keep to this recommendation! You don't have to suddenly start doing sports intensively or make extra time to start exercising to get your 30 minutes per day. your daily routine usually provides plenty of opportunities for 30 minutes of moderate to fair exercise. Travel by bicycle instead of by car, for instance, or take the stairs instead of the lift, walk up to your colleague to ask your question instead of sending them an email, etc.

Activities like cleaning the house, gardening or dancing also count, as long as it involves a fair bit of exercise, you need to breath more heavily and your heart starts beating faster. You will have to determine for yourself what 'moderate to fair exercise' means to you. Someone never riding a bicycle will have a fair bit of exercise maintaining a speed of 15 km/hr. If you travel by bicycle daily, however, you will need to hit 20 km/hr for the same amount of exercise. The rules of thumb in the below table can help you determine what 'moderate to fair' exercise means.

It means something different for everyone, but these rules of thumb apply to anyone. You're properly exercising when:

·       you need to breathe heavily;

·       you still get plenty of breath to talk by;

·       your heart starts beating faster;

·       you don't need a long time to catch your breath after your exercise.

If you would like to take up sports to start losing weight, it's best to opt for less strenuous sports like hiking, swimming, aqua jogging, fitness, cycling, dancing and gymnastics. Taking up these sports will boost decomposition of the fatty tissue. The below table shows how much energy you use when doing various sports at various levels of intensity.

Sport

Specification

Kjoules*

Kcal*

Hiking

4.0 km/hr

12.6

3

6.0 km/hr

16.8

4

Jogging

8.0 km/hr

33.6

8

10.7 km/hr

46.2

11

14.4 km/hr

63.0

15

Cycling

16.0 - 19.2 km/hr

16.8

4

19.2 - 22.3 km/hr

33.6

8

25.6 - 30.0 km/hr

50.4

12

Tennis

Singles

33.6

8

Doubles

25.2

6

Swimming

Breaststroke

42.0

10

Crawl 45 m/minute

34.0

8

Football

Match

37.8

9

*per kg of body weight per hour

Fitness advice

Would you like to take up fitness but could do with a bit of advice? Schedule an appointment to receive exercise advice. Ingrid Bosscha, fitness coach, will draw up a programme perfectly suited to your personal goals while taking full account of your physical limitations. To make an appointment, or if you have questions, contact her by emailing bedrijfssport@utwente.nl.

Please note! Participation is for UT staff members only.

Self exercise

By choosing not to take the easy and lazy route as frequently in your daily life, you will find that it is easy to get your 30 minutes of exercise a day.

  • Walk or cycle to the shops and supermarket;
  • Travel to work by bicycle instead of by car or public transport;

You can encourage each other not to take the car whenever it's convenient by 'pooling';

  • If you cannot get to your place of work other than by car or public transport, park your car a bit further away or get off the bus a stop early, so you still have to walk for a bit;
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift;
  • Don't eat your lunch in front of your desk, but take a walk through the campus with your colleagues.

YOU'D RATHER TAKE UP SPORTS?

If you prefer to get your exercise by taking up sports, the following tips might be of use:

  • Various sports, exercise courses and cultural courses are offered on campus during lunch and after work hours. For more information, check the websites of company sports, the Sports Centre and the Vrijhof Culture Centre.
  • Start easy and build up your exercise/sports routine slowly. If you go all out at first, you're bound to be disappointed and lose all desire to do sports or exercise.
  • Listen to your body. It will warn you in time if you're overdoing it;
  • Heavy exercise and training aren't necessary per se: duration is more important than intensity when practising sports. Exercising for a bit each day is more effective than doing heavy exercise one day per week.
Why exercise?

Exercise has a positive effect on your health and well-being, both in the short and the long term. Exercising strengthens your muscles and improves blood circulation. Your body will take in more oxygen, making you feel better. Exercising means helping your veins and heart stay in shape. Exercising regularly will make you feel more fit and energetic. More specifically, exercising has the following benefits:

  • reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases;
  • reducing your blood cholesterol;
  • lowering your blood pressure;
  • positively affecting your immune system, ensuring you're better able to fight off infection;
  • reduces the incidence of diabetes;
  • keeping your weight in check;
  • improving bone and muscle strength;
  • improving digestion;
  • reducing the incidence of various forms of cancer;
  • reducing accident and injury.

Apart from these physical effects, exercising is also beneficial in the following ways:

  • you feel more relaxed;
  • you're less likely to be afflicted with stress or depression;
  • you will sleep better;
  • you feel less tired.

So there's plenty of reason to find out how you can make sure you get your 30 minutes of exercise per day. And don't forget: don't make it harder than is necessary. Any type of moderate to fair exercise is fine!

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in all UT buildings, both in public areas and in the workplace. The smoking ban also applies outside of office hours and in all buildings which are not in active use due to redevelopment. The building's head lessee (Dutch only) is responsible for ensuring that the smoking ban in the building is complied with. The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority will fine the employer for every violation of the Tobacco Act. The UT recovers the fine in full from the individual perpetrators.

All buildings display signs at their entrances indicating that the smoking ban is in effect within them. If a smoking area is available within or near to the building, the sign will state where it is.

The building's head lessee can designate areas within and outside of the building where smoking is allowed. Smoking areas are to be constructed in consultation with the Facility Department. All appurtenant costs are for the account of the head lessee. Smoking areas may never be used as workspaces. One requirement of smoking areas is that no smoke nuisance may be caused outside of them. In practice, this means that smoking areas within a building need to be sealed (for instance, by fitting the doors with door-closers) and that the air inside them is drawn to the outside, so no smoke nuisance can be experienced outside the smoking area. For smoking areas outside the building, this means that such spaces in general may not be located close to the entrance or to any windows that can be opened.

Quit smoking

Smoking has a heavier impact on one's health than most people realize. Not only does it affect the heart and blood vessels, but it also causes or worsens asthmatic symptoms and bronchitis and may cause lung cancer. In addition, smoking increases the risk of developing other cancers (of the kidneys and pancreas, for instance) and negatively impacts the procreative system. Apart from these health reasons, there are various other grounds to quit smoking: family, friends and colleagues are bothered by the smoke; ugly nicotine stains develop on your fingers, teeth, ceiling and curtains.

There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking. However, you will only be able to quit if you're fully behind your decision to quit. The reason quitting smoking is so difficult for most smokers is due to them being physically addicted to the nicotine and mentally addicted to the act of smoking, of having a cigarette in one's hand. In addition, as is true for many other affairs, picking the right time to quit is crucial. When times are stressful at work or at home, you are likely to really want that one, relaxing cigarette. You're much more likely to succeed in quitting during a less strenuous time.

WHAT MAKES QUITTING SO DIFFICULT

The reason quitting smoking is so difficult for most smokers is due to them being physically addicted to the nicotine and mentally addicted to the act of smoking, of having a cigarette in one's hand.

Nicotine addiction

Nicotine only needs seven seconds to affect your brain after every pull on your cigarette. Once in the brain, nicotine causes you to feel energetic and relaxed. This effect is what makes nicotine so addictive. Nicotine levels in your body drop by half about an hour after you've had your last cigarette. The drop in the nicotine level make you feel ever more anxious and in need of a smoke. If you do not light one up, you will start experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Because the body quickly gets used to not having nicotine, such symptoms quickly fade, and will be completely gone in a few days. By using a nicotine patch or nicotine gum, you can slowly cut back on your need for nicotine.

Mental addiction

Smokers get used to smoking in various situations. The act of smoking, then, fulfils various functions: reducing stress, coping with emotions, making things more lively, concealing unease, etc. This means that certain moments just go with a cigarette. When hitting the pub with friends. Or that one cigarette with your first coffee of the day. Mental addiction has turned these situations into ones in which you find it hard not to light one up. Your best bet of avoiding this temptation is to change those situations you associate with having a cigarette.

The first two to three months after quitting are the most difficult in kicking this mental addiction, in particular the first few days. If you're able to get through these first three months, it becomes easier to permanently do without smoking.

Weight gain

Quitting smoking often leads to weight gain. Contrary to common wisdom, this has nothing to do with any effect smoking has on the digestive system. Losing this effect will at most see you gain a few hundred grams. The main reason is that the body desires a replacement of the nicotine (see nicotine addiction) that makes you feel equally good. So, after quitting smoking, you are likely to start eating and snacking more and differently, opting for the calorie-heavy foods. By minding what you eat and exercising more after having quit smoking, you'll be able to stop your body from piling on the weight. As an aside, some 90% of people quitting smoking do not gain more than 2 to 3 kilos.

Doubt

Doubting you'll succeed in quitting smoking is a primary reason for many to not even try. Which is a shame, for over 100,000 persons a year do succeed. Why not be one of them? Even if you fail the first time, this doesn't mean you won't succeed in the end. Perhaps you were insufficiently motivated, or you quit at the wrong moment.

The right moment

As is true for many other affairs, picking the right time to quit smoking is crucial. When times are stressful at work or at home, you are likely to really want that one, relaxing cigarette. You're much more likely to succeed in quitting during a less strenuous time.

QUITTING

  • Analyse your smoking habits. When and why do you feel you need a cigarette?
  • Be prepared for those situations you are most likely to miss the smoking. Make sure you have something else to do instead.
  • Make a list of all the reasons for quitting smoking, including all expected benefits.
  • Determine a date for quitting smoking and put it in your agenda. Be determined to quit entirely on that date, as this is easier than to try and cut down gradually.
  • Throw away your ashtrays, cigarettes and lighters on that day.
  • Tell your family, friends and colleagues you're quitting.
  • Try and find someone else who also wants to quit, so you can support each other.
  • Keep yourself busy, so you won't think of lighting one up.
  • Change your daily routine. For the first few days after quitting, don't walk past that one store you always buy your cigarettes from. If you're used to having a smoke during your lunch break, or when you're in the pub with friends, go someplace else or do something else.
  • Make sure you have something else on hand to replace your cigarette for the first few days. If your hands feel empty, hold a pen or pencil.
  • Change your eating and drinking habits for the first week: drink a lot of water, eat a lot of fresh fruits and avoid beverages that have an uplifting effect like coffee and alcohol.

KEEPING TO IT

  • To quit smoking you must remain motivated to do so. Be aware of the benefits you experience from not smoking, regularly remind yourself why you want to quit, and be proud of still being able to resist the temptation.
  • Exercise more often. Exercise is relaxing, makes you feel more fit and boosts your morale.
  • Only think one day ahead. This way, you won't have to start thinking about how you can manage to get through the rest of your life without a cigarette.
  • Avoid places with a lot of smokers.
  • Treat yourself for every period (e.g. every week or month) you managed not to have a smoke.
  • Giving in to temptation and lighting up once does not mean you failed completely. Consider it a minor relapse and continue your attempts to quit smoking.

If you find you have difficulty quitting, various forms of support are available. More information on (quitting) smoking can be found on: https://www.rokeninfo.nl/publiek/info-over-stoppen (Dutch only).

Your GP is able to advise you on quitting smoking and may refer your to other institutions that can help you quit. Many healthcare insurers will reimburse part of the associated costs.

Stress

Everybody suffers from stress once in a while. We have to deal with stress at work, when sitting an exam, in our family life, and in almost all other facets of our life. Stress does not have to be negative. Most people are familiar with the feeling of getting a so-called adrenaline boost, helping you perform better: you always write your best pieces right before the deadline and you always play your best game right before the critical moment of the match.

When you experience too much, too little or unpleasant tension, however, you're dealing with unhealthy stress. Unhealthy stress is the result of a disruption of the balance between work and private life and of tipping the balance of what you can personally deal with. This website provides you with more information on stress: what is stress, and what can you do yourself to prevent unhealthy stress?

Causes and consequences

Everybody suffers from stress once in a while. We have to deal with stress at work, when sitting an exam, in our family life, and in almost all other facets of our life. Stress is actually one of the great mechanisms of our body: the moment we are threatened, our body produces hormones which prepare our body to respond adequately to an emergency. They raise our blood pressure, quicken our heart beat and tense the muscles: our body is now fully prepared for fight or flight. A bit of stress also helps increase one's performance and enjoyment of life and work. Most people are familiar with the feeling of getting a so-called adrenaline boost, helping you perform better: you always write your best pieces right before the deadline and you always play your best game right before the critical moment of the match. So why is stress so problematic at other times?

HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY STRESS: CAUSES

Healthy stress is the type of stress or tension that provides that one boost to help you perform and is gone afterwards. When you experience too much, too little or unpleasant tension, however, you're dealing with unhealthy stress. Unhealthy stress is the result of a disruption of the balance between work and private life and of tipping the balance of what you can personally deal with. The notion of stress often conjures up an image of a very demanding job overburdening someone. The Netherlands has one of the highest per hour production levels in the world. This puts a great deal of work pressure on many people. But a job that is not challenging and involves too little responsibility may also lead to unhealthy stress. The various causes of work-related stress are the following:

  • The work activities: work pace too high or too low, monotonous work, dangerous work, few opportunities to schedule in work performance yourself;
  • Working conditions: reorganization, flex work agreements, job insecurity, distorted balance of working and free hours;
  • Labour relations: bad management, insufficient social support, sexual harassment, lack of public participation.

A lot of people working for the UT will be familiar with high work pressure and insecurity as to whether they will keep their job or their future within their unit. This does not become a problem for everyone. As long as you continue to enjoy your work, it is unlikely you will suffer stress-related complaints. Some are better able to take such situations in stride than others.

Usually, those staff members who are more motivated, show more drive and are devoted to their work are the ones that will come to suffer stress and burn-out symptoms. It is exactly their drive and sense of responsibility that pushes them to continue those tasks that cause stress - be it their work, volunteer work, or social commitments - even when they start to suffer the first symptoms of stress.

CONSEQUENCES OF STRESS

When suffering from an excess of ongoing stress, the body is unable to recuperate and remains in an alert and active state. The body will prioritize maintaining this state over other bodily functions like the digestive and immune systems. This may cause all sorts of physical and psychological complaints. In addition, work behaviour changes:

Physical complaints: increased blood pressure, raised blood cholesterol level, sleeplessness, palpitations, muscle aches, headaches, constant weariness, bad appetite, decreased resistance to diseases, and gastrointestinal diseases.

Psychological complaints: depression, losing the ability to enjoy life, testiness and vexation, decreased interest, indecisiveness, feelings of powerlessness, agitation, being very emotional, and anxiety.

Behavioural changes: eating too much, smoking more, drinking while on medication, problems concentrating, constant talking, complaining a lot, cynicism, bitterness

At work: decreased production, more error-prone, indecisiveness, decreased motivation, increased short-term absence, internal friction and conflicts

All these complaints are alarm signals. The sooner you recognize the complaints and start taking measures to tackle their cause, the smaller the odds of becoming overworked. Take these complaints seriously!

Note: these complaints are not always caused by work-related stress. There are many causes for stress. So also try and look for solutions outside of your work environment. The 'burnin' website allows you to take various tests to find out if you're suffering from unhealthy stress.

STRESS IN THE NETHERLANDS

There has been a marked increase in the number of work-related psychological complaints (stress, burnout, tiredness, being overworked) these past few years. Of the seven million Dutchmen with a paid job, 1.7 million frequently have to cope with high work pressure. So one in four are in danger of becoming overworked or suffering a burnout. This makes work-related stress a common problem, one suffered in all sectors and all occupations.

Some 30,000 people are declared unfit for work due to stress or being overworked each year.. About a third of all people receiving invalidity benefits suffer psychological complaints, often due to work-related stress. 10% of the working population in the Netherlands suffers from burnout symptoms. Sixty percent of Dutch employees suffers from stress to some extent - or 15% more than the EU average.

Course - Centre for Training and Development (CTD)

Working people need to find a proper balance between work and relaxation. Some people are better at this than others. Failing to find this balance may in the end result in (long-term) sickness absence.

To prevent this from happening, the University of Twente offers a variety of training courses, which are free of charge for UT staff. The Centre for Training and Development website provides an overview of all courses on offer.

Doing yourself

Stress is caused by the piling up of irritation and frustration, and by being faced with a number of external circumstances. A few minor tricks are often enough to reduce the stress levels of many circumstances:

IN GENERAL:

  • Take time to relax and schedule fun things. When planning to do things with others, you're less likely to cancel.
  • Do not compare yourself to others. It's about you doing your work and everything else in your life your way, not about how others would do it.
  • Clearly define your limitations and learn to say 'no'. If you find you have difficulty doing this, do not immediately say 'yes' or 'no' when asked something, but ask for some time to think things over.
  • Learn to listen and respond to physical and psychological signals.
  • Learn to recognize typical stress signals, make your choices and act on them.
  • Not everything has to be perfect: when it's good, it's generally good enough.
  • Concentrate on one thing at a time and do not try to do everything all at once.
  • Find out which tasks take more energy and which make you feel more energized.
  • Learn to 'have' to do less. Many people 'have' to do a lot only because they themselves believe it has to be done. They set high requirements for their work and themselves, unnecessarily raising the pressure they put on themselves.
  • Live a healthy life. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of exercise, go to bed on time: this all helps you keep your body in shape, which in turn makes you better able to cope with stress. Just thirty minutes of exercise a day makes a huge difference. Sleeping pills, tobacco, caffeine and alcohol all seem to solve the problem at first, but only worsen it in the end.
  • Enjoy life.

AT WORK

Reduce the stress level of the day by:

  • Scheduling in moments to relax;
    • drawing up a list of priorities in the morning;
    • leaving some time open in your agenda to deal with unexpected issues;
    • not putting off difficult tasks;
    • alternating work activities;
    • making it clear when you do not want to be disturbed, e.g. by having a 'do not disturb' sign on your door;
    • taking a break halfway through your day and going out, doing company fitness or taking in some culture;
    • doing one thing at a time.
  • Not doing everything by yourself:
    • Inform your colleagues and managers when you have too much on your plate or your work is too chaotic. Most often, others don't realize this is going on, especially when they are used to you being able to do everything.
    • You're usually not the only one faced with certain problems at work or related to the working conditions. By talking about it you can exchange your experience with others and look for a solution together.
  • Doing relaxation exercises at fixed times during the day: Concentrate on your abdominal breathing. Continue doing this for a few moments and check whether you feel any tension in your body. If you do feel tense, flex your muscles at that spot for a bit and unflex them right after. Repeat this, but do ease up on the tension slowly until the muscle feels relaxed.

WHEN ALREADY SUFFERING FROM CHRONIC STRESS

  • Do something about it quickly. The longer you continue to strain yourself, the longer it will take for you to recuperate.
  • Look to those near to you for support: your partner, your friends, your manager and/or your colleagues.
  • Relax and learn to let go of your work.
  • Seek out those activities you used to enjoy and take them up again.
  • Recognize you have a problem that needs solving.

If you are unable to get a grip on the situation and the solutions yourself, approach your GP or company doctor for professional help.

Food

Seven servings of fruit and vegetables a day, go easy on the fat and don't overdo it with the sugar: everybody knows how to eat healthily. And most people do think they do so. This just makes it clear how difficult it is to properly assess your own eating habits.

In the last ten years, the number of overweight and obese (severely overweight) people has sharply increased worldwide. In the Netherlands, some 4 in 10 men and 3 to 4 in 10 women, or some 3.5 million adults, are overweight. This means they suffer from an increased risk to develop cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. But eating healthily is also important to people of normal weight.

But what exactly does constitute 'healthy eating'? Most people think of bland meals when considering healthy foods. A shame, because healthy foods can be very tasty and varied. Have a look at the voedingscentrum (Dutch only) website for tasty and healthy recipes, for instance. Eating healthily doesn't mean you can never gorge yourself on something delightfully unhealthy like a burger or a box of chocolates.

Wondering if you're eating healthily? You can test yourself by taking all sorts of food tests (Dutch only) (e.g. the fat test, the fruits & vegetables test, the snack test).

To find out if you're at a healthy weight, calculate your Quetelet index.(Dutch only).

Consequences of unhealthy eating

Scientific research has proven that losing just 5% of your weight already reduces the risk of contracting all sorts of health problems. But eating healthily is also important to people of normal weight. Our bodies need energy from food to get going. In addition, food is a major source of vitamins and of nutrients that serve as building blocks for the body's tissues. By eating healthy and varied meals, you ensure your body gets all the energy, building blocks and vitamins it needs.

  • 2 in 10 Dutchmen believe they eat too much fat, but it's actually 6 in 10;
  • 1 in 10 Dutchmen believe they eat too few vegetables, but it's actually 8 in 10;
  • 3 in 10 Dutchmen believe they eat too little fruit, but it's actually 6 in 10.

What's more, when eating too much food, or the wrong sort of foods, you stand the risk of cholesterol building up in your arteries, causing them to narrow and limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood into your heart. This means your heart needs to start working harder. You don't notice any of this happening. For high cholesterol levels in your blood do not cause any physical symptoms, but it can lead to heart and brain infarctions in time. Eating a varied and healthy diet (in particular, going easy on the saturated fats) ensures your blood cholesterol remains at the normal level and your arteries remain free of build-up. In addition to the risk of cardiovascular disorders due to high cholesterol levels, there are other clear links between certain types of food and developing (or preventing!) health problems. Salt raises blood pressure. Too high a blood pressure increases the risk of having a stroke, for instance. Positive relationships exist as well: eating unsaturated fats lessens the risk of developing cardiovascular disorders. Vegetables and fruits are known to have a positive impact on, for instance, the heart and blood vessels.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance the body requires to build its cells. It also forms the basis for certain hormones and bile acids. Our bodies produce some 70% of the cholesterol it needs. The remainder is absorbed from our food, in particular from animal fats. This is why the blood cholesterol level depends on the amount of fat you eat - in particular, on the amount of saturated fat in your diet. The body converts this fat into cholesterol. Estimates are that some 15% of all Dutchmen has too high a blood cholesterol level. In addition to food, smoking and lack of exercise also influence the blood cholesterol level.

What you can do yourself

Healthy eating boils down to making the right choice from the wide selection of available foods. We have provided some tips to help you out.

1. DO EAT WHAT YOU LIKE

Do not eat healthy foods you dislike. You won't be able to keep it up and it's also really not necessary. It is always possible to have a tasty meal that is also healthy. What's more, don't think you can never have that deliciously unhealthy burger: a snack every now and then won't harm you if you do generally have a healthy diet.

2. EAT VARIED MEALS

You need a healthy diet to obtain all the nutrients the body needs: carbons, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibres and fluids. No one single product contains all these nutrients in a sufficient amount. By eating varied meals you ensure that you obtain all the required nutrients.

So make sure you eat one product from all of the below four food groups each day:

  • bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, legumes;
  • vegetables and fruits;
  • milk, dairy products, cheese, meat, fish, chicken, tofu;
  • margarine, low-fat margarine, oil.

Required daily intake for adults:

  • 5-7 slices of bread
  • 5 grams of low-fat margarine per slice of bread
  • 1-2 slices of cheese
  • 1-2 cold cuts
  • 2-3 glasses of milk
  • 3-5 potatoes
  • 200 grams of vegetables
  • 100 grams of meat (or egg, fish, chicken, tofu or meat replacement)
  • 15 grams of margarine or oil to cook the hot meal
  • 2 pieces of fruit
  • at least 1.5 litres of fluid consumed as drinks

3. MIND THE FAT

Minding the fat in particular means going easy on the saturated fat. Saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol levels, which may result in cardiovascular conditions. So use low-fat margarine on your bread, opt for low-fat dairy products and meat, and go easy on the sweet and savoury snacks. When cooking, use sunflower or olive oil instead of butter. Or make use of a pan with a non-stick coating, a wok, a grill or the microwave: in all cases, you don't need much in the way of oil or margarine.

Eat fish instead of meat more often. Many types of fish are low in fat (e.g. cod and whiting), while the fat of fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, etc.) is unsaturated.

4. EAT PLENTY OF VEGETABLES, FRUIT AND FIBRES

Vegetables and fruit are the main sources of vitamins, minerals and fibres. In addition, eating more vegetables and fruit helps reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. No more than 200 grams of vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit are required. Other foods containing a lot of fibres include whole-grain bread, potatoes, legumes, (whole-grain) pasta and (hulled) rice.

5. GO EASY ON THE SALT

Salt raises blood pressure. It's better to season your meal with herbs and spices.

6. DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS, BUT GO EASY ON THE ALCOHOL

Drink at least a litre and a half of fluids each day. Water, milk, (herbal) tea, yoghurt, soup, juices are all fine. However, do not drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol per day, as an excess of alcohol may increase the blood pressure.

7. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR WEIGHT

As being overweight may lead to all sorts of health complaints, it's important to keep track of your weight. The best way to do this is to eat a varied diet that's low on fat, sugar and alcohol, while getting plenty of exercise.

8. READ THE LABELS

If you want to mind what you eat, read the labels. They list, for instance, the amount of saturated and unsaturated fat in the product.

More information

The following sites provide you with more information on healthy eating: