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Healthy Eating and Mindfulness for busy professionals

Enhancing Mental Wellbeing
BY Violet Koh


  • Accountants are often identified as having high stress levels.
  • Mindful eating can help optimise health and wellbeing.
  • Webinar participants want to apply mindfulness in three priority areas: personal, immediate family and workplace.
  • Scientific concept of mindfulness is to observe and just watch, without passing judgement.

Professionals lead increasingly stressful and hectic lives, juggling a myriad of commitments and responsibilities in their respective capacities as an employer or employee, a parent, child, and so on. With the growing pace of change brought about by the shorter economic cycles, advancement in technology and drastic climate shifts etc, professionals have to also ensure that they constantly upgrade their skills to align with prevailing mega trends in order to sustain their livelihoods. There are other stress triggers, such as those caused by inflationary pressures on the economy.

Accountants are among a group of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who are often identified as having high stress levels. These are caused by a mix of factors including tight reporting deadlines and a shortage of manpower, which result in long working hours. According to an annual study conducted by tech company Kisi, the Global Work-Life Balance Index 2021 revealed Singapore to be the second most overworked city in the world (Figure 1), standing just a few percentage points behind Hong Kong in the top spot. Based on the same study, the country’s ranking for work-life balance was at number 18. As a whole, the index considered four key factors, namely, work intensity, society and institutions, city liveability, and COVID-19.

Figure 1 Top Overworked Cities in the Ranking

Source: Kisi (2021). Cities With The Best Work-Life Balance 2021.

Of these four factors, COVID-19 was notably the newest addition. It has catalysed massive and prolonged periods of work-from-home and social isolation due to lockdowns and safe management measures. As the pandemic extended beyond its two-year mark, the spotlight was also shone on mental wellness of populations. A World Economic Forum article in August 2020 reported people across 10 high-income countries experiencing stress, anxiety or sadness, which they had difficulty coping with alone. Based on a survey published by the Commonwealth Fund and research firm SSRS, approximately a third of respondents from the United States, and around a quarter of respondents in Canada, the United Kingdom and France, reported suffering challenges with mental health due to the pandemic.

Greater scrutiny was also placed on the mental wellness of professionals, resulting in numerous initiatives developed and launched in recent years by governments, social enterprises, employers and industry stakeholders, to address different facets of mental health for different groups of impacted individuals.

As the national accountancy body of Singapore, ISCA is committed to supporting our members and the accountancy community at large in enhancing mental wellness for holistic wellbeing that contributes towards a vibrant, healthy and productive accountancy sector. 


In April 2022, an expert speaker from Pure International was invited to share on nutritional eating for optimising wellbeing. A group of more than 300 participants tuned in virtually for the session. A trained nutritionist, Maya Rolston premised her sharing on the fundamentals of nutritional eating. She wove in techniques to build awareness and infuse intention into the process of eating and snacking so that each individual can achieve his/her own health goals.

By juxtaposing examples of mindless eating with mindful eating, she discussed the benefits of the latter, which included the ability to tune in to the body’s hunger and satiety signals that support us in making sensible decisions to avoid stress eating, overeating and mindless snacking. This would in turn help us in sustaining our energy levels and cognitive function to avoid burnout. Mindful eating thus enables us to draw out the best in ourselves both mentally and physically for optimal performance.

Through The Hunger Scale (Figure 2), Ms Rolston delved deeper into the various stages of hunger so that participants got a better idea of how to identify the different zones of hunger when practising mindful eating.

Figure 2 The Hunger Scale

She recommended pausing and checking the Hunger Scale to assess how we feel before, during and after a meal, and savouring food by paying attention to the tastes and textures. These actions would help to sustain our bodies longer and minimise the need for snacks. While snacking has often attracted a bad reputation, participants learnt that it is not always bad. Snacking can be a good tool to keep hunger at bay – it tides us over to the next meal and prevents us from becoming overly hungry, which may result in poor food choices at the next meal. The key thing to note when snacking is to determine the trigger for snacking, and then make the right snack choices to address the trigger.

Ms Rolston introduced the specifics of nutrition and discussed the elements that constitute a balanced diet. She provided practical tips on how this can be achieved for busy professionals, who may not always have the time to prepare homecooked meals and who may encounter challenges in making healthy choices when eating out.

This was evidently a part that resonated with many participants, who seized the opportunity during the question-and-answer segment to clarify their doubts about the different kinds of fad diets and their benefits and effectiveness, food myths, as well as how they can make better food choices. They also asked about the ways to take small but intentional steps towards eating more nutritionally while balancing a busy work and social life.

With this awareness of the benefits of mindful eating, we may start to wonder, “What exactly is mindfulness and how do we go about practising mindfulness?”


In a separate webinar that continued the focus on wellness, also held in April 2022, mindfulness took centre stage as yoga coach and telemedicine provider Koh Su Hock guided participants through both the conceptual framework and construct of modern mindfulness practice first popularised by Jon Kabat Zinn.

The webinar began with a series of breathing exercises to help participants get in touch with their breath as well as observe their sensations and thoughts; cues were provided to guide them towards the initial “grounding” activity.

Based on a quick poll of the participants after the activity, those who reported facing difficulties with maintaining concentration formed the largest group (44%) (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Poll 1

Figure 4 Poll 2

Among the priority areas where participants would like to apply mindfulness to are: personal, immediate family and workplace, respectively (Figure 4). Mindfulness techniques, as Mr Koh explained, can apply in different areas of our lives including something as routine and simple as having a meal. The techniques just need to be contextualised for the appropriate area. Given how it can benefit us, mindfulness is a good life skill to acquire and practise.

Mr Koh dove deeper into the concept of mindfulness – what it is and is not – illustrating through relatable day-to-day examples and sharing simple steps on how we can become more aware and attuned to our thoughts and emotions. He invited participants to mull over the statement, “Typically, reaction tends to escalate any situation we are in, whereas responding, especially a mindful response, can often diffuse or help to mitigate a situation and make it less severe.”

While we may have often read and heard about how mindfulness is “being in the present” or “living in the here and now”, many of us may have struggled with the buzzwords surrounding mindfulness and wondered about how we can put that into practice. Through the rest of the workshop, the scientific concept of modern mindfulness was comprehensively broken down – to observe, making a deliberate effort right now, and to just watch; this enables participants to train themselves to look inwards and observe what arises internally without passing any judgement or ascribing to them terms like “good” or “bad”; instead, participants should just let them come and dissipate on their own without intervention.

Figure 5 Outcomes of Mindfulness

With practice, we would be able to achieve consistency in being mindful, which has the beneficial effects of minimising negative states and even reducing chronic stress (Figure 5). However, stress factors will continue to surface in our lives, exacerbated by our storytelling minds that form mental habits (Figure 6). These distract us from the present, which makes it even more important for us to learn techniques to manage them.

Figure 6 Six Mental Habits

Mr Koh next discussed four practical techniques, one of them part of Jon Kabat Zinn’s mindfulness training (the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction technique), which can be used to deal with physically and emotionally challenging situations.

Essentially, these different techniques offer easy-to-apply steps that can help us reframe the mental narrative to stay objective in a difficult situation. They also enhance our mindfulness practice which improves how we calibrate our reactions towards whatever happens to us.

Mr Koh will take the mental wellness discussion further in an upcoming article in the August issue of this journal. Do keep a lookout for it.

More mental wellness resources

Since 2020, ISCA has been maintaining a dedicated microsite on Mental Wellness where upcoming and past events are listed, along with useful resources on relevant topics that the accountancy community can tap into. As we continue to strive towards improving the holistic wellbeing of our members and the accountancy community, we have in the pipeline more targeted initiatives and events to enhance mental wellness. If you would like to join us in these events, please check our e-Events page for regular updates.

Violet Koh is Associate Director, Government Engagement and Member Support, ISCA.

Personal Development and Wellness
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