Stephen is going to roll his eyes when he reads this, and I have no problem admitting that I, well, have a problem. Stephen is a teacher. He doesn't work during the summers. Even during the school year, his work schedule isn't a 9 to 5, it's a 7 to 3. And I remind him of these facts more than I should. But I'm sure many of you out there work a "normal" schedule and deal with the same issues that I deal with.
I'm tired . . . a lot.
I never feel caught up.
My work weeks speed by at a frightening pace.
My weekends speed even faster.
What it all boils down to is: I don't feel like I have enough time in the day. I can't just decide on a whim I'd like to go running. When I actually feel like running, it's usually mid to late morning. I can't just easily whip up an amazingly healthy lunch because I don't have all my ingredients and tools at work. It definitely sounds like I'm whining. Really, I am. Because it's true: Working and being healthy are difficult to do.
But these activities need not be mutually exclusive. Here are some tips that work for me
Eat Breakfast: Sound familiar? Yeah. This to-do is everywhere. When you're working full time and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it's more important than ever. But if you don't have time to cook in the morning, you need to plan ahead. Make a list of easy go-to breakfasts. Maybe for you it's cereal with sliced banana and tea. Oatmeal is another good option. If you're constantly hungry, like me, you might want to carve out a little more time in the AM to fill your gut.
Just a couple extra minutes gives you enough time to cook up a couple eggs, toast a bagel or English muffin, slice some cheese and tomato. Pile it into a sandwich and wrap in foil, and you have a powerfully healthy sandwich that will keep you full till lunch! (Vegans might enjoy this Banana Scramble sandwich as a substitute.)
Pack Lunch: You know you have to eat. But you can make it fun. If you're a foodie like me, the difference between a happy and sad work day is food. There are days I simply don't take the time to pack my lunch, and I find myself scrounging around trying to find something somewhat healthy. I almost always fail. Then I'm hungry again with nothing stellar to eat.
Pack a variety of goods. Even store some dry foods at work as options for when you're in a pinch. I have a jar of peanut butter, oats, and dried cranberries for emergencies. Just add hot water . . . and you have a delicious oatmeal. Packing my lunch (and snacks!!!) ensures that I have enough fuel to keep me going. And I always make time to eat (even if I have to work through) -- keeping my blood sugar consistent just makes me feel good. Plus, I'd much rather munch on yogurt and peach slices than stuff a Snickers bar down my throat.
Stay Hydrated. Again. This is no surprise -- our bodies are more than 50% water. Staying hydrated is critically important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But did you know that hydration is also the key to honed concentration, efficient digestion and weight maintenance, good skin, and more ( Source )?
Your office may not have a water cooler, but regular tap water (water fountain, etc.) in most areas does the job. Just bring a cup or BPA-free water bottle (I snagged this set at TJ Max for under $10!) to keep at your desk. I like to boost my intake by mixing in half coconut water, which has added potassium. In the cooler months, I get my fill with herbal teas. Staying hydrated helps keep headaches at bay, too. So, if you're prone to headaches, your cure may be just a sip away!
Get Our of Your Chair. Phones are great. Email is wonderful. But with more convenient ways to communicate, there's little need to leave our posts during the day. We've all read about the health hazards desk jobs present. Fight back.
Take time at least once every hour or two hours to get up and stretch. Walk around a bit. Take your eyes off your computer. Use lunch as an opportunity to get out and about -- I often walk with friends for half an hour. That way, if my day becomes so busy that working out is impossible, I've squeezed in a mini workout.
Bike to Work . Or find some way to get there that's active. Some days, fitting in an actual workout isn't possible. With deadlines and pressure looming, it may be the last thing on your mind to lace up your sneakers. But if you make it part of your routine (maybe walk your bills to the post office, walk a couple extra laps around the grocery store), you'll be sure to fit in at least a little activity.
Exercise in the Morning. One of my workout downfalls is being totally tired, de-motivated, and stressed after work. I feel enthused on the drive home, but once I park in my driveway, the lure of the couch is too strong. When I exercise in the morning, it's tough, but I get it out of the way. When I return home after work, my time is mine! It's fantastic.
What may also help (if you have this afternoon excuse issue) is taking a group exercise class. Having some structure -- a time and place you must head to -- may be all you need. Plus, if you do it with friends, it's even better. One of the things I miss most about my old job/old city is when my friend Lindsey (above -- remember her from the Nutella Ice Cream post?) and I would leave work together and head to yoga three times a week. Kept me on track, and I got to spend some quality time with my best friend!
Take a Break. I'm notorious for not taking breaks while at work. I get really absorbed into my projects . . . and then it's lunch time. So, even if you're like me -- USE that lunch time to your advantage. Read. Write. Knit . Blog. Do yoga. The list of what you can do with that hour or half hour is endless. (OK. Not really, but you get my point.) If you're lucky enough to have showers and gym facilities, you may want to sneak in a quick workout.
Whatever you do, try your best to disconnect from what's causing your blood pressure to rise (may be as easy as turning down the volume on your phone or closing your email client -- just don't forget to get them up and running when you return from your break!).
Relax. Work days can be stressful, right? How you deal with that stress makes all the difference. You need to find what works for you, but for me -- a walk around the block, whipping up a few recipes, or singing some tunes helps me unwind. Keeping your de-stressing activities healthy is half the battle (and I've been there, stuffing cookies into my mouth all night, believe me!).
But when your treat yourself right -- you reap the rewards. You may even choose to make a post-work ritual (like half an hour of yoga when you return home) to get into a calm rhythm.
Alone time is also important. Even alone time from your partner. Take time to do something for you and just you. For me, running gives me solitude. Time to think. Usually when I've finished a good run (and distance can range from 1 mile to 20!), my worries melt away. Even if only temporarily.
Take a Day Off. I definitely don't have this problem -- I take vacation days like crazy (probably because Stephen is off so much). But I know people who save and save and save those glorious vacation days . . . but never end up using them. Even if it's just one day -- a break from the grind is helpful for your mental (and physical, if you spend it hiking, biking, etc) health.
I often grapple with the whole meaning of life thing. Like, why are we here if we just work our lives away? Even if you can't jet off to some exotic location, take time off to enjoy life. To see what it's like to walk around your neighborhood on a Tuesday morning. To bake cookies at 2PM on a Thursday. To sleep in on a Monday! Even if you don't go anywhere, taking a vacation day to get away from the office is a good way to keep your soul happy. You'll return to work at least semi-refreshed and ready for what your coworkers bring your way.
So, these are just a couple ways I try to stay healthy while also working full time. I'd love to hear your methods and suggestions. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com .