Your happiest, healthiest working day

What does your average working day look like? Whilst this will be different for each of us, chances are it’s changed in the last year and may soon be due to change again. Whether where you work has changed, how you do things at work or simply your routine before and after work, it’s thrown many of us from our usual habits and schedules which can feel like low level chaos at times! This is certainly something I’ve struggled with whilst working from home and this blog aims to highlight some things I’ve found useful or know that others have done to help make their working day as healthy as possible. This can also apply if you’re still going out to work or when you go back, although some are more socially acceptable to do in a work setting than others (dance party anyone? I reckon my colleagues would be up for it to be fair!) Taking regular breaks can help to keep our physical and mental energy topped up so that we’re more focused and productive. Below are some ideas for mini-breaks to slot into your days to support the happiest, healthiest you possible even when you’re working hard!

1) Get moving! – Whether you’ve had to give up your regular gym sessions or you’ve simply become more sedentary as a result of your commute shrinking to rolling out of bed and down to the dining room table, exercise is arguably more important now than ever before! You don’t have to find a huge chunk of time to up your activity levels – could you snooze your alarm once less and do a gentle morning workout? Or squeeze in an energising 10 minutes when you finally shut your laptop? Or take some time to get moving on your lunch break? The key here is to plan in advance – write it in your diary like you would a meeting, set your workout clothes out in advance if needed and choose what you’re going to do ahead of time such as finding a YouTube video and saving it or emailing the link to yourself. The less time you have to waste and the fewer excuses you find when it’s time to move, the more likely you are to get on with it and get it done! You could even create a playlist of your favourite tunes that lasts 10-30 minutes and dance your energy away or plan a circuit that you can repeat for the duration. 

Exercise breaks don’t have to mean getting hot and sweaty either – with many of us suffering from aches and pains after prolonged periods of being at a computer, on the phone or a repetitive manual job, take time to learn a few stretches that can help to reduce effects on specific areas. Common sites of pain and stiffness include the neck, shoulders, back, hips, glutes and legs. Check out gentle yoga workouts or ask a fitness professional for some key stretches to support these areas. Do these regularly to help with flexibility, mobility and posture. You may want to combine your exercise with getting outside for further benefits…

2) Get outdoors! – Whether it’s going for a walk, doing some small tasks in the garden or simply sitting outside, natural sunlight and fresh air have a whole host of health benefits! From boosting vitamin D levels and lifting our mood to waking us up and giving our eyes a break from screens – getting outside is one of the cheapest, easiest and healthiest ways to upgrade any day. Try to leave any electronic devices inside for even a short time to soak up the maximum benefits that nature has to offer. 

Getting outdoors can be a great physical and mental boost

3) Fuel up! – If you’re now working from home then there’s every chance that the timings of your day have shifted. Many of us have more flexibility with when we take breaks which can lead to us wandering over to the fridge or cupboard for a snack each time we put the kettle on or even realising it’s late afternoon and we haven’t stopped for  lunch. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s important to try and set some structure in place. Try to stick to evenly-spaced meals and snacks to give you a steady stream of energy. Make sure to include quality protein sources if you find yourself getting hungry often and consider having healthy meal/snack options to hand so you don’t reach for convenience food when time is tight. Overnight oats, low sugar snack bars, boiled eggs, fruit and vegetables/salads, cooked meats and homemade soups or stews are just a few things that can be prepared in advance or are just ready to grab and go!

Preparing food in advance can help make sure we meet our nutrition needs when busy

4) Connect with others – Working from home can feel lonely and isolating at times and you may feel like you’re the only person in the world struggling to adapt to the huge changes we’ve been through in the last year. Many workplaces are aware of the impact this can have on employees and have encouraged regular video meetings, calls between staff or started other initiatives to keep everyone connected. Makes sure to keep in touch with colleagues, friends and/or family often and talk out anything that’s bothering you. It’s also important to share any positives in our lives in these times so consider a work WhatsApp group or weekly email newsletter to share your favourite moments or photos from the week. 

It’s important to connect with others if you’re working from home alone or need support

5) Massage your hands and feet – If you’re looking for a little more luxury and pampering in your breaks, then self-massage could be for you. Hands and feet are ideal for this as the oils or creams used help to keep skin soft and moisturised. The hands and feet also feature many acupressure points that can be easily worked for specific effects including releasing tension, promoting restful sleep and encouraging circulation. All you need for this is yourself and a medium for massage such as a cream or oil. Check out YouTube for short videos showing some simple and basic hand and foot massage techniques or try searching ‘reflexology hand and foot map’ online. These images will help you to identify the points you may wish to focus on based on what you feel your mind and body need. You could even add in some essential oils for additional benefits such as lavender for calming or a citrus oil for energising but always check with a qualified professional before using essential oils as they can interact with certain medications or affect some health conditions as they have real physical effects on the body. 

6) Meditate – Whilst the word itself often puts people off due to connotations of religious or spiritual practices, the truth is that meditation can be done in many different ways and has a whole host of potential mental and physical health benefits. This may be particularly beneficial if you often feel like your mind swings like a monkey from one thing to another with no clear focus or direction. Meditation is also supported for anxiety and depression and so could be useful for anyone struggling with the uncertainty of the last year or the prospect of the world beginning to ‘return to normal’ soon. You can meditate whilst sat still in quiet, or whilst exercising or out walking simply by tuning in to your breathing or the world around you. Others may find a meditative state doing activities such as reading, drawing or completing a puzzle or jigsaw. If you’re new to meditation or not sure where to start, think of which activities help you to be completely focused and ‘in the moment’ as opposed to worrying or thinking about the past or future. Try to incorporate these into your daily routine even just for a few minutes. You could also try free options on apps such as Calm or Headspace or again, a quick YouTube search for guided meditations. 

As always, I hope you’ve found this blog useful and picked up even 1 or 2 ideas to add to your working or otherwise busy days to help to support your mental and physical wellbeing. I’ll be back next week with another health and fitness/lifestyle blog but for now I’m off to try and practice what I’ve preached above because looking back on today… well, nobody’s perfect right?! ?

Bev Meakin – Personal Trainer/Exercise Referral Officer and Complementary Therapist. Instagram @bevs_life