Our professional lives sometimes play out as endless days of meetings, deadlines, and com-mutes, leaving little time for fun, let alone an opportunity to focus on our health. Despite crammed schedules and demanding jobs, it’s important for busy professionals to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
There isn’t one simple definition for healthy living. It varies based on body type, medical history, and mental health, among other factors. Achieving optimal health involves getting proper rest, eating right, exercising on a regular basis, and finding ways to reduce stress. For most, it’s not enough to simply eat fewer carbs. It takes a holistic approach to feel better and lead a healthier life.
Some healthy-living tactics might seem obvious, but even minor changes can provide results like better health, less stress, and more energy.
Daily Healthy Meals
The quality and quantity of our meals has an impact on our everyday lives. It starts with breakfast, where meals packed with fibre and nutrients can effectively fuel a day. The last thing busy professionals want is to feel hungry half an hour into their workday, so be mindful of what you’re putting in your body first thing in the morning.
Lunch is the trickiest meal with respect to health. It’s usually where busy people opt for something quick and loaded with carbs and fat. It’s also the meal most likely to be eaten while hunched over a computer. By substituting lighter fare, you can feel less sluggish throughout the afternoon. The safest bet is to make your lunch. If time is an issue, try making one big meal on Sunday, and then portion it out in three to five servings to be enjoyed throughout your busy week. Remember, you can make bowls, salads, or a healthy chili or stew with five ingredients or less.
A great tip is to plan your dinners a week in advance and let that guide your grocery shopping. Include some variety every week to avoid boredom. Also, try to include at least one vegetarian meal. Use a slow-cooker or crockpot to ensure that a hearty and piping hot meal is ready for you when you get home. Healthy meals can reduce snacking, provide ample energy, and help contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
Don’t Ignore Mental Health
In the last few years, there has been a real focus on mental health in the workplace. Beyond the obvious advantages, research suggests that taking care of our mental and emotional states can increase productivity and result in greater professional satisfaction.
One way that people can care for their mental health is to develop coping mechanisms to handle work stress in a positive way. A method that has proven effective for many is weekly or bi-weekly therapy sessions. Even if you don’t think you’re a candidate for therapy, it never hurts to have someone to talk to in a confidential setting. Many group benefits cover therapy sessions so be sure to discuss with your administrator or provider.
Employers should encourage employees to speak with their managers about any issues related to stress, anxiety, or feelings of depression. They should also promote work-life balance to help their employees reset during non-work hours.
Respect the 9-5 Workday
Healthy living isn’t just about jogging once a week or replacing a hamburger with a salad at lunch. People also need to create distance from their professional lives and learn to disconnect. The advent of communication technology has expanded the nine-to-five workday. We’re constantly connected to our bosses, co-workers, and deadlines via email and smartphones.
The problem has gotten so bad that France instituted a ban on work-related emails outside of business hours. This ban wasn’t just to protect busy professionals, it was based in a belief that people are more effective workers if they have sufficient downtime. These labour laws ask employees to think twice before hitting “reply” and encourage companies with over 50 employees to implement measures to restrict time spent working to business hours. Now, Ontario has moved toward similar right-to-disconnect laws.
In 2012, Volkswagen took an interesting route to help its employees untether from work. Volkswagen’s management and the company’s work council agreed that the company servers would not send emails 30 minutes after the end of the workday and would only start relaying emails again 30 minutes before work was set to start. The company took the decision to leave work at the office out of the hands of employees.
Professionals shouldn’t wait for third-party intervention. Each person should carve out enough time to make sure they can relax, enjoy friends and family, and pursue their health and wellness.
Become a Joiner
It’s easy to ditch the gym after a long day of work in favour of relaxing in front of the TV. By joining a team or signing up for a fitness class before or after work, you can alter your routine to accommodate healthy living.
If you don’t want to participate in a physical activity, then choose something that will reduce stress or provide a pleasurable or creative outlet. It could be a cooking class, an art class, or even a book club. Health is as much about your mind and your emotions as it is about your body.
While labour laws are helpful, professionals must exercise self-discipline to enjoy healthier lives. Turning down fatty foods or a late night out might not be easy and making use of that gym membership might not be the most pleasant way to start or end your day, but they are necessary. After some time, you will see the benefit from making healthier decisions and be motivated to continue the journey.
Healthy living takes commitment, determination and a holistic approach that includes more nutritious meals, ample downtime, regular exercise, and activities that can help balance the stress of work. It’s always worth the effort.
Rob Shapiro | Contributing Writer