How Erasmus Okine Stays Well at U of L

Erasmus Okine, PhD., PAS, FICN

Vice-President (Research) & Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

What does Wellness mean to you?

For me, wellness is a continuum. It means being healthy (both physically and mentally), eating well, making sure you have a work life balance and taking care of yourself.

What physical activities do you do to stay well?

When I was much younger I did track, the 100, 200, and 400 yards, played basketball, table tennis, hockey, and tennis. Those were my sports when I was much younger.

When I went to university I played tennis and table tennis than anything else. I played tennis very competitively in Ghana and did very well. When I came to University of Alberta to get my PhD, my main activity was still tennis and table tennis.

In recent times my knees have begun to hurt so I’ve begun biking; road biking, mountain biking, and the hybrid. I often bike or speed walk with my wife and I want to set up table tennis here.

What mental activities do you do to stay well?

I play Scrabble and do some meditation. I like to solve puzzles and I do a lot of reading, both for work and pleasure.

The most common reason people give for not being active is that they don’t have the time. As a senior leader you have a very busy schedule- how do make the time for wellness activities?

As senior leaders we need to walk the talk and make it a priority to stay healthy and to be well in everything we do, so I try to walk the talk and set a good example. If you take the time to get in physical activity you get a mental rest and come back to work refreshed with more energy. I know it sounds like a cliché but you’ll find that you are more mentally aware, you think more strategically, you don’t get as tired and you have lots of fun.

If I’m not healthy or mentally well how do I expect to do well in my job? And how do I expect those I work with me to think its ok to take time off to be healthy and do well? I have to walk the talk.

Do you have some tips for managing workplace stress?

The best way is through relationships and letting people know where you are at and what’s stressing you out because they can help. If I’m feeling stressed I don’t just close the door, I let people know and they can help me find ways to manage. You can’t let stress get to you, there’s always stress.

The second way is to prioritize your workload. Don’t always be jumping from one thing to another. For me, multi-tasking is stressful so I set my daily priorities and I check them off as I work throughout the day. I have a time to check email, unless I know something important is coming in, so I’m not distracted.

We’re creating an environment where people feel valued. Once you value them, it reduces their stress in their daily lives.