The need for work-life balance is more important than ever. Whether you work for yourself or someone else, the hard-driving work culture of today comes with a lot of potential pitfalls that can lead to ill-health, disability and even early death. From long working hours and sitting too much, to sleeping too little and carrying the burden of stress, the sheer physical and mental demands of work alone increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes and depression.
If you’re reading this, you might have your own personal health challenges. Or, you might have general concerns about how to keep yourself healthy. There’s surely good reason for this. Given the intense, relentless and oftentimes inevitable pressures of juggling work and family life, it’s crucially important to prioritize your own health by making the best lifestyle choices possible—And it’s more than simply diet and exercise.
But, luckily, some of the highest impact lifestyle choices require very little time or effort. Here I’ve put together a list of small, manageable, yet highly effective choices that’ll greatly support better work-life balance.
Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene
A lot of people wear sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. Not a good look as prolonged sleep deprivation has been shown to increase the risk of just about every chronic disease. While most adults need 7-8 hours of good quality sleep each night, at a minimum you should shoot for six. Having a regular nightly routine helps. This could include things like taking a warm shower or a bath, reading a book, or performing light stretches just prior to bedtime. It would also behoove you to turn off those TVs, computers and smartphones to avoid overstimulation.
Never Missing a Checkup
Routine checkups are essential for gaining a realistic understanding of your overall health status. The most critical measurements include: A lipid profile to assess your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk; blood pressure measurements to assess your risk of hypertension and stroke; and a blood glucose test to assess diabetes risk. Considering the professional, personal, and environmental pressures of modern life, these numbers can change fast. So, it’s important to know and stay on top of them.
Drinking Water Before Coffee
Your daily ritual should begin with a morning glass of water. Drink it as soon as you wake up or even while the coffee’s brewing. Believe it or not, this’ll set the mood and tone for your entire day. In addition to supporting every single bodily function and life process, drinking water can greatly boost concentration, mental clarity, attention and focus. To keep the juices flowing, aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. In general, pale-yellow colored urine is a good sign that you’re drinking enough.
Enjoying a Brisk Daily Walk
Achieving work-life balance may be just a step away. So, start walking. Walking is easy to perform, requires no equipment, and can conveniently be incorporated into any day-to-day routine. Through its beneficial effects on the heart, lungs and circulatory system, walking inherently lowers the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and numerous other chronic diseases. Brisk is best! To reboot your energy levels and your health, maintain an average walking pace of 3-3.5 miles per hour for at least 20-30 minutes.
Eating at Least One Big Salad a Day
The demanding, intense and unpredictable nature of today’s work culture can make it difficult to consistently plan and prep meals. That’s where you’ll always find a friend in salads. Now, as That Salad Lady, I may be a little biased about this one, but for good reason. Whether you visit a salad bar, or make your own salad bowls at home, salads are one of the quickest, easiest and most effortless ways to get a ton of veggies, quality protein, and other whole foods into a single meal (check out our Five Bowl Basics for some great ideas).
Setting Aside a Minute to Breathe
Work-life balance entails having a little breathing space for yourself each day. In the presence of excessive work and life demands, taking just a minute out of every waking hour to breathe can do wonders for mental health and emotional wellbeing. That simple 60 seconds of stillness can help calm your mind, clear your head, reduce tension, relieve stress, and even help you fall asleep. Simply focus on taking slow, deep, even breaths and, almost immediately, you’ll experience the difference in your mood.
Taking ‘Mini Breaks’ from Media
Totally doing away with all forms of media is next to impossible these days, especially if you’re regularly engaging for business purposes. But it is possible to take frequent ‘mini breaks’. This could include anything from restricting your engagement to certain times of the day or certain days of the week, to turning off push notifications and alerts to curtail distractions, to powering off your phone, tablet or computer a few hours before bedtime to give your brain a break.
Lifting Weights at Least Twice a Week
Everyone needs to make time to lift weights. This means you. In addition to improving muscular strength, endurance and metabolism, lifting weights inherently takes a load off the mind. A single bout can substantially heighten your endorphin, dopamine and serotonin levels which collectively represent your body’s ‘feel good’ hormones. As little as two days a week of whole-body training with free weights, machines, rubber tubing or your own bodyweight is all it takes.
Getting Up and Moving for 5 Minutes
Even if you regularly exercise, there’s still a need to engage in spontaneous movement throughout the day. From a health standpoint, it’s not only the amount of time you exercise that’s of benefit, but also the amount of time you don’t spend sitting. Prolonged sitting puts undue pressure on your legs, which causes blood to pool in the veins. Over time, the veins can weaken and stop working properly. You can easily avoid this by just standing up and moving around for five minutes or so every hour. This is especially important if your work requires a lot of sitting.
Going for a Hike Once a Week
You can improve your immunity and even hasten recovery time from illness by regularly going for hikes (or even long walks) amidst natural forest environments. The trees and plants within these environments emit aromatic compounds called phytoncides. Remarkably, the simple act of breathing in phytonicides helps lower production of cortisol, our most powerful stress hormone. This is an especially positive effect as too much cortisol can wreak havoc on the body.
Keeping a Positive Mindset
Modern work culture comes with inevitable ups and downs. Some days will be better than others. But with a little planning, preparation and positivity you can make every single workday feel like a Friday. It’s all about your mindset. Your mindset can profoundly affect everything you do in the workplace, and in life. Start by simply psyching yourself up every morning by saying that, “It’s going to be the best day EVER!” Do it enough, and most of the time it will be.
Seeking Therapy When You Need It
Work-related depression and psychological distress continue to rise. Whether you’re your own boss, an executive or an employee, it’s important to take heed. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, coping with grief or loss, or just in need of an unbiased listening ear, speaking to a mental health professional can really help. There are many options available, including mental health clinics, therapy apps, and crisis hotlines. Find more information on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website.
So, there you have it – 12 highly effective choices that’ll greatly support better work-life balance. As you can see, making healthy lifestyle choices isn’t all about “structured” exercise in a gym or a tightly regulated diet program. It’s so much deeper than that. And there’s actually plenty more where these came from. As a healthy living coach, I’ve helped many workers reimagine and reinvent their own health and happiness by making subtle but high-impact lifestyle choices and simply sticking with them. These 12 lifestyle choices are an excellent start!