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A new normal has been thrust upon us over the past 12 months. We’ve had to learn to adapt to working from home which has been ideal in some ways but not ideal in other ways. I have noticed during my clinics that people have lost some of their health focus because their daily routine has been thrown off. Where we may have walked to the station or gone to the gym before work, now for many, simply moving from bed to laptop, maybe missing breakfast, or surviving on endless coffee, or barely achieving 1000 steps per day has contributed to more stress and weight gain. Set routines are great because they give us focus and predictability but if disrupted can leave us with a lack of direction and discipline.
Now the tables are turning yet again as we are encouraged to get back to the workplace. So how can we redirect our energy back to working away from home in a healthy and sustaining fashion? Below I will offer some pragmatic advise to maintain or re-establish a healthy approach to working away, as well as some behavioural and emotional advice to find that all important work/life balance.
Often underestimated but crucial to ensuring you feel restored and well rested when you wake up earlier than usual because you now have a commute to faction in. To ensure you get a restful sleep avoid stimulants such as caffeine after 1pm the day before. Try to eat lighter in the evening so your digestion isn’t overburdened before you head to bed. Keep your devices out of the bedroom. Blue light disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm and fools the brain into thinking it’s daytime. Read before bed to calm the nervous system down and prepare you for sleep. Aim for 7-8 hrs of sleep per night. To achieve this you may need to ensure you go to bed earlier than perhaps you have done during lockdown.
Getting this right sets you up for the whole day. It balances your blood sugar levels helping to sustain and maintain essential energy for the entire day. However, coco pops aren’t going to cut it. Opt for foods that release their energy slowly. These will be foods that contain Protein, Healthy Fats and Fibre. For example – Jumbo Oats topped with blueberries, nuts and seeds, or 2 eggs on granary toast, or Yogurt topped with low sugar granola, nuts and seeds and chopped apple. I often hear people say ‘I don’t have time to eat breakfast’. It takes literally 10 mins to prepare and sit down and eat first thing. The energy you gain from eating a balanced breakfast far outweighs the energy you perceive you would gain from that additional 10 minutes hitting the snooze button.
Again, there is always time for lunch. If you have made a delicious tray bake of vegetables the night before, make more and use leftovers as part of a healthy lunch to take with you to work. Add it to a salad construction made up of – salads (variety is key) plus hummus, leftover veg, feta or poached salmon, kimchi, olives, sprinkle of seeds. Make it as colourful as possible. Dress with a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar (avoid sugar-laden pre-made versions). Prep this the night before and it will save you money and nourish you with protein, fats and fibre and will sustain you until dinner.
If we are stuck working at our desk all day, it is imperative to find moments throughout the day to try to move more. Walking to the station or workplace is paramount if you have a chance. Get off the bus a stop or 2 earlier and walk to work. Parking furthest away from the workplace or station entrance forces you to walk more. Taking the stairs rather than the escalator. Walk to a park and sit in nature to eat your lunch rather than at your desk being distracted by answering emails. Going to the gym before, during or after work. Research suggests that we will receive better health benefits if we try to achieve 30 minutes of movement, 5 days per week. Please remember though that if you are going to steal your essential health-restorative sleep to work-out, it is actually more beneficial to your health to get the correct amount of sleep than hit the gym at 7am.
Adopting these fundamental lifestyle choices will help to manage emotional health as well as support resilience to perform better at your workplace.