Newly-appointed civil service wellbeing champion Sarah Healey has spoken of her personal approach to wellbeing and revealed that hot yoga and long lunches with friends are part of a regime she takes “very seriously”.
Healey, who became permanent secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2019 and was named civil service disability champion last year, made her observations in a blog marking her latest “champion” role.
She said that despite being “one of those people who intensely disliked sport at school”, she had been converted to regular exercise in her 30s after having her three children.
“I joined some friends at a fitness class in the park on a Saturday morning,” Healey explained. “I progressed from that to working out at least five times a week . I often don’t feel like it – but I always love it afterwards. I maintain my enthusiasm by trying new sports – my latest is hot yoga.
“I am truly terrible at yoga, but that’s no reason not to do it! Exercise makes me feel happier, makes me feel like I can accomplish hard things and makes me resilient.”
Healey, who is also a Peloton devotee, added that long lunches with family and friends were another key component of her wellbeing regime.
“Nothing makes me happier than enjoying a big lunch with my friends and family on a weekend, stretching into early evening,” she said. “ I missed that so much during the pandemic.”
The perm sec acknowledged that Covid-19 had been a major wellbeing challenge for many people. She said she had replaced her usual routines with long walks accompanied by a single friend, in line with lockdown rules.
“Whilst it wasn’t quite the same, I discovered a walk is a good way to properly catch up, fulfils a bit of my exercise needs, and is a great way to discover beautiful local places which you may not otherwise have explored,” she said.
“We all have different ways of looking after our wellbeing – some of which have been quite hard to keep up over the last 18 months.
“Everything I do to maintain my own [wellbeing] are things which I find a lot of fun, but when it comes to making sure they happen, I take it very seriously indeed.
“If you’ve never exercised before, or let it slide in lockdown, it’s worth trying to find something you enjoy and can take part in.”
Healey said she was planning to meet senior representatives from departments across Whitehall to discuss what her priorities as civil service wellbeing champion should be over the coming year.
“An area of continued focus will tackle mental health and working through the anxiety experienced by many following the events and challenges over the last 18 months,” she said.
“I will also be taking part in this year’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference, taking place 4 to 15 October. It looks to be a fantastic conference with some excellent speakers – Anxiety UK, Channel 4, Sir Anthony Seldon from Action for Happiness and Ruby Wax – along with civil servants sharing their own experiences.”
Healey’s blog can be read in full here.