Tips For Staying Healthy When Things Are Hectic
Timo Topp shares his tips for staying healthy when busy and avoiding burn out.
Do you struggle to look after yourself because you are too busy? You know you need to be doing more for yourself but you just don’t have the time? Do you feel tired, stressed and overwhelmed?
Finding a balance between your health and hectic schedule is not as difficult as you might think.
Warm up, workout and live well
We exercise to be physically fit. The ‘Well for Work’ method is your ‘workout’ to be well at work. It is not about exercise, it is simply my analogy for a method that helps you invest in your wellbeing at work. Like a workout there is a ‘warm up’ – what you do at home before work, the main ‘workout’ – what you do at work and the ‘cool down’ – what you do at home at the end of the day.
The Warm Up – Before Work
Before you workout, you warm up. Before you go to work there are a few pillars of wellbeing that you need to be doing, to set yourself up for a healthy, energised, positive day.
Thoughts of gratitude Set yourself up for a positive day before your feet hit the ground running. Spend a few moments thinking about what is great in your life and what is going well. Focusing on what is wonderful in your life a powerful way to enhance emotional wellbeing. The very beginning of the day is the best time to do it, to literally start your day off on the right foot. Gratitude helps nurture a positive outlook, reduces stress and build resilience for the challenges and busy day that might lay ahead.
Drink a glass of water Absolutely the first thing you should consume in the morning, before you eat or the first cup of coffee, is a glass of water. After being asleep for 6-8 hours, you obviously haven’t drunk any water so your body is in a state of mild dehydration. Water is so important for health, energy levels and even managing your appetite so the first thing you need to do, is drink a glass of water.
Have breakfast Being busy, it’s easy to skip breakfast and head straight to the office. It is worth spending a little extra time to have or at least take something with you to have a little later. You couldn’t drive a car on an empty fuel tank so you can’t expect your mind and body to perform without food either. Breakfast is going to give you the energy for your brain needs to perform. Did you know the brain utilises 25% of your resting metabolic rate energy (the energy needed to run your whole body) even though that it only weighs 4% of the body. It needs glucose to function which you get from carbohydrates. The best breakfast to have is a bowl of oats or muesli however add some protein from either LSA, almond meal or yoghurt or alternatively have an egg or two on toast. This is a powerhouse breakfast for energy and it’s proven you will eat less throughout the day. If you really are running low on time something is better than nothing but making the time for either of these breakfast options will keep you on the road for longer.
Exercise Exercise takes time and effort but absolutely sets you up for a positive day. The biggest hurdle to exercise is time, so one of the best ways to salvage more time for exercise is to get up a little earlier. Also, you do not have to exercise for one hour, you can get a great workout in 20-30 minutes. Something is always better than nothing. I guarantee, if you make the time and effort for a little morning exercise, you will feel and perform so much better during your day.
The ‘Workout’ – At Work
Here is your 5 step ‘workout’ plan for investing in your wellbeing to have more energy, feel better, work more productively and not let work overwhelm your wellbeing. You have probably heard the tips before. However, the key to success, like any award-winning meal is putting all of the ingredients together in the right formula – and do it consistently– to deliver the best result.
1. Take some deep breaths The breath is life. Eastern practises such as martial arts and yoga are founded on breath work. Deep breathing is the simplest and easiest way to invigorate, energise and reduce stress. Most people breathe very ineffectively, into the top part of the lungs and stress compounds poor breathing habits. Deeper, abdominal breathing allows for more oxygen exchange. So become more conscious of sitting up straight and breathing a little deeper. At moments of low energy, a stressful event or before an important meeting power up with 5-10 deep, slow abdominal breathes.
2. Drink more water Yes, you have heard it before but are you drinking enough? Drinking water is the easiest and simplest way to invest in your health and energy levels. A small percentage drop in hydration will cause you to feel lethargic and under perform and stimulate the appetite to crave sweet, high calorie snack food and overeat. Since your body is almost 70% water, it should be your main beverage of choice. All other drinks are literally a luxury to be enjoyed sparingly. Keep tea and coffee to no more than two per day as they have a diuretic effect causing you to lose water. Have water available by keeping a jug on your desk and carry a bottle for when you are out and about.
3. Get up and move NASA Life Scientist Joan Vernikos sums it perfectly in the title of her book ‘Sitting kills and movement heals – simple every day movement will prevent pain (such as aching muscles and back pain common at work), illness and early death. Moving enhances energy levels and sitting for long periods causes lethargy. It is not a natural state for the human body to be sedentary so we now have to exercise to stay fit and healthy. However, three workouts a week is not enough to counter a life time of sitting 8-10 hours per day in the office. You need to move regularly and exercise. Not one or the other – you need to do both. Aim to get up and move around for 1 to 2 minutes every 60 to 90 minutes.
4. Sit up straight and stretch Not moving causes fascia, a connective tissue that holds all of your muscles, bones and organs together, to become stiff. Healthy fascia will allow for ‘glide and slide’ – support and movement. Unhealthy fascia forms cross-links that start to limit movement and this manifests in stiffness which overtime, leads to discomfort, pain and then injury. Fascia stays healthy with regular movement – hence the need to get up and move – and stretching. Stretching will also help re calibrate poor posture that occurs after sitting for long periods of time. Poor posture causes poor physiological function. Sitting for long periods impacts on effective blood flow and digestion which are both important for your energy levels. So, when you get up and move throw in a few stretches such as a gentle torso twist, gently reaching for your toes and a big stretch up. Dehydration is also a cause of unhealthy fascia so there’s another reason why you need to drink water.
5. Have a snack Blood sugar levels must be kept stable for optimal energy so you need to make time to eat regularly, ideally every 4-5 hours. You cannot possibly perform at your best: think creatively and analytically, solve complex problems, strategise or handle stress if you are low on energy. You must fuel your brain to keep it performing optimally. So, if you don’t have time to stop for lunch or you miss other important meals the next best thing is to have snack. The best snack in the world, which is also portable, is a piece of fruit and a small palm sized serve of raw nuts. This is like a mini meal because it contains all three macronutrients: protein and fats from the nuts and carbohydrates from the fruit.
The Cool down – After work
After a workout you stretch and ‘cool down’ to prevent unwanted aches and pains. After a long day there are a few things you should do to unwind and optimise your energy and wellbeing for the next day.
Have a healthy meal Hopefully this is something that you are already doing but when you are busy and get in late it is easy to skip a proper meal in favour of snacking or less healthy take away. The key to eating well when busy is planning and preparation. Pre-prepare some meals you can heat up when you get home so you don’t have to spend time and effort cooking. Have food available in your fridge and cupboard so you can cook something healthy otherwise you will be ordering Uber Eats.
Do some stretches Muscles get tired and achy after a long day at the office, particularly the lower back. I highly encourage all office athletes to do two key stretches: a lower back twist stretch and a hip stretch. You do the lower back stretch lying down, hug one knee into your chest and then gently twist your leg over and across the other leg and reach the arm in the opposite direction. You do the hip flexor stretch by kneeling on the floor, take a big step forward and reach the hand on the side of the knee on the floor high into the air. Hold these stretches for 30-60 seconds and repeat 1-3 times.
Mentally unwind After a long day it’s easy to switch on the tv or scroll through social media. To help settle an active mind it’s important to have some quiet – downtime – to help you truly relax and prepare yourself to sleep well. Try to avoid screen use an hour before bed, don’t do any more work either! Dim lights, play soft music, have a relaxing bath, do some meditation or quiet sitting, drink some herbal tea. You need a routine to help you get to sleep and stay asleep so you can wake feeling rested, energised and refreshed.
About the author:
With 25 years of experience in helping people make a difference to their fitness and wellbeing. Timo Topp is on a mission to make a difference in the world by helping people to live a better quality of life.
‘Work well, live well and love life’