How can you stay fit and healthy when you have a million and one priorities all fighting for your attention? Your boss, your family, your friends and other commitments need your time, so how can you possibly make time for anything else?
You know you should exercise and eat well for your overall health and fitness, but when do you have time to fit it in?
You know mindfulness and meditation will help you deal with the daily stress and anxiety that work throws at you, but you don’t have time for that, do you?
Making Yourself a Priority
Before you can start to bring anything positive into your life, you need to start with you.
Before we can start on the journey to increasing your health and fitness, you need to take a little time to reduce your stress levels.
I have already explored in a previous article how you can reduce the amount of distractions you receive everyday which will put you in a more positive mindset, and as that article alludes to, you could also try to introduce a little mindfulness into your day.
I’m not at all suggesting you immediately start meditating cross-legged in a far and distant exotic location. What I am advocating however, is just taking a little time for you, focusing on your breathing, and generally just calming yourself down.
I find Headspace is a brilliant resource for this, but you don’t have to use a paid service, there are many other ways you can introduce a little mindfulness into your day.
Finding Time for Mindfulness
If you find yourself needing some mental clarity in your workday, it can also help to just stop for a moment, close your eyes, and take several slow, deep, breaths.
Meditation is a tool that helps you to practice mindfulness that you can introduce into your day. It can help your body relax and release those tense muscles that form from you sitting in front of your computer all day.
Just a few minutes of mindfulness each day is enough to make a significant positive impact.
Mindfulness at Home
For some, it may seem impossible to find a quiet moment at home, especially if you are a parent, or live with other people.
I personally find that meditation is best done first thing in the morning. Simply set your alarm so that you wake before the other people in your house (this may be your children). You will have the house to yourself for a few peaceful moments, for a calm and focused morning routine, setting you off on the right foot to win the day.
You could also try to involve the family by encouraging small moments of mindfulness throughout the day. Perhaps having each family member say what they are grateful for at mealtimes, or even using a mindfulness app together?
Mindfulness at Work
If you can, I fully embrace and encourage the idea of remote working. I am a remote worker, which means that I can find moments of mindfulness throughout the day on my own terms.
If you work an office job however, some of the following advice may be useful.
Focus on your breathing. You can do this even if you cannot leave your desk. Take deep, rhythmic breaths to help your mind become less distracted. If you own a smart watch or fitness tracker, it may have a setting to help you with this exercise.
If you wish to meditate, it is best to have a quiet, private place to do so. If your building has a multi-faith prayer room, or a quiet room this will be perfect for your needs. If it does not, find an empty conference room, or if you have your own office, close the door for a few minutes.
If you find it inappropriate to do either of the above suggestions, why not take time for mindfulness by simply making yourself a drink, pour the water, being fully in that moment. Let the rest of the world fade away, while you take deep and calming breaths.
Try to incorporate just a few minutes of mindfulness into your day at first and if you can, increase it from there. Any time you can get in will be beneficial in helping to reduce those stress levels.
The Importance of a Work-Life Balance
In a perfect world, work and home life would be equally and perfectly balanced. However we can often find ourselves tipping the scales towards work, neglecting our personal and family commitments, not to mention the impact it may be having on the amount of hours we spend asleep.
To stay healthy and more importantly happy, it is important to get this balance right. Poor work-life balance can lead to health problems, both physical and mental, such as:
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Burnout at work
- Lower immunity and frequent illnesses
- Mood swings
- Increased irritability
- Constant fatigue
- Decreased work performance
If you want to improve your overall mood and increase your performance at work, a healthy work-life balance is crucial.
Although burning the candle at both ends may be a good short-term fix to help you achieve a work based goal, in the long term your work will suffer, meaning that you have to work longer and harder to achieve what you could have in a fraction of the time.
Stop doing your work when your working day ends, if you finish at 17:00, finish at 17:00! That work you have left to do can be finished tomorrow.
By finishing on time every day, no matter what is on your plate, you will find that you will start to have the time and the energy to get all your tasks done by the end of the day.
More importantly your boss (this may even be you, or your clients) will start to stop seeing you as a one-person productivity machine, and will start to have more realistic expectations of what you can achieve. At the moment you are giving them unrealistic expectations, which is why you have the workload of a one-person productivity machine!
Today, why not finish on-time, go home, be with your family and spend a full 7-8 hours sleeping?
Work-Life Balance as a Parent
If you are a parent, you probably prioritise your children over yourself.
While all parents have to make sacrifices for their children, it is important to take care of yourself as well. By neglecting your own health and wellness, you have less to give to your children.
Some parents may feel selfish if they take time for themselves, especially if they are away from their family. However, it is important to realise that time for yourself is necessary to maintain a healthy body and mind.
You don’t have to carve out hours each day for self-care. Just the odd break here and there throughout the week will make improvements to your health.
If you are struggling to find time for yourself, and if you have a partner, talk to them about what you can do together to allow you to make space for yourself.
When it comes to your mental and physical health, a little bit of effort can go a long way. Be mindful about your health and work-life balance, and you will start to see opportunities for mindfulness and exercise throughout your day.
Keeping Yourself Fit and Healthy
Something that contributes to increased happiness and energy at home and work is healthy eating and exercise.
This is not as scary as it sounds, just start to incorporate some healthy practices into your daily routine, and they will become habit.
Before you know it, and especially once you notice how much more energy you have, you’ll be choosing healthier lunches and taking mindful walks on your lunch break.
Every minute adds up and will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on your busy schedule.
Staying Fit at the Office
Food and Drink
One of the things that lets most of us down is the food we eat in the office. We have likely skipped breakfast, and we are rushing around between our daily tasks and meetings. Our body is craving a fast sugary, carbohydrate laden snack.
You can solve these food cravings by incorporating Meal Planning and Preparation into your week, which will not only help you eat better, feel fuller and have more energy, it will also help you to save money.
A meal plan lets you write down the food you are going to eat within the next week, and also gives you a handy shopping list of all the things you need to buy. You can then prepare this food at the start of the week, so in the morning you can grab your food package and go.
Another thing you can try is drinking lots of water. This will curb your feelings of hunger and keep you hydrated. It will also mean that you will need more frequent bathroom breaks, which will keep you moving, and importantly make you stop staring at that screen for five minutes.
Sneak in Some Exercise
Walk to work if you can, or park further from the building to get in some extra steps.
If you work from home, why not ‘walk to work’ anyway. Have a brisk walk around the block when you start, and when you finish your day. This will also give you a physiological break between your work life and home life.
Wear a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. Part of incorporating more exercise is realising how much you already get, and most of these devices make it fun to get more exercise by ‘gamifying’ the experience. An example of this I like is closing the rings on my Apple Watch.
Take regular breaks, at least once an hour and especially when you start to feel ‘hunched’ over your desk. When you refill your water, tea or coffee, take the long route around and checkin with a coworker.
Take the stairs as much as possible. If your office is on a high floor, you will be amazed how many steps you can get in walking up and down instead of wasting time waiting for the lift.
Utilise your lunch break. If you have a short lunch break, take time for a walk around your building. If you have a longer lunch, why not consider going to the gym, or for a run around the block?
Talk to your coworkers, or the people who share your workspace about how they stay fit. They might have the same goals as you, and perhaps you may stumble across an existing walking or running club at your place of work.
Remember you can always talk to your boss or Human Resources department. Your company may already provide schemes and facilities for you to incorporate fitness into your day at work.
There are many opportunities for increasing fitness at work, and it does not always mean busting out the gym shoes. Try several and see which ones fit into your life the best.
Staying Fit at Home
Plan Your Meals
Meal Planning isn’t just for the office. Planning what you eat at home can ensure that you buy the ingredients that you need, and that you eat well balanced, healthy and filling meals (leaving you less likely to reach for the takeaway menu).
I like to make too much food, and freeze the leftovers. This means that I never get stuck for food options, as I always have something healthy in the freezer.
If you know that you will not be eating until late, why not invest in a slow-cooker? When it’s time to eat, the food will just need serving, and the takeaway temptation will be vanquished.
If you are a parent, why not ask your children for help in creating the meal? Children are more likely to eat healthy food when they have had a hand in making it.
Having Fun with Exercise
Do you know you’re neighbourhood fully? Have you explored all the local parks, and recreational areas? If not, why not have a wonder around and see what you find? If nothing else the walk will have been beneficial to your health.
If you are a parent, why not get the whole family on board. See if you can find some workout classes that are kid friendly. These types of classes offer a great way for your family to stay active and enjoy time together.
You can also take your children on a walk to get the entire family moving. To add a bit of excitement, try turning your walks into a game by creating scavenger hunts that will get everyone excited for your walks.
Exercise does not have to be a chore, and it does not always mean doing 100 pushups, or doing a 5k run. Change the way you see exercise and you will change yourself along the way.