Ah yes, here we are, in the middle of a work week again. With the exception of Cinco de Mayo, this week most likely looks about like any other. Although your workload may be heavy and the meetings may just keep piling on, it’s important to remember to take some time for yourself. While you likely don’t have time for a spa day or weekend getaway, there are still plenty of things you can do to rejuvenate your mind and body during a busy weekday.
This one seems so easy but is such a game-changer. I started consistently drinking close to 64 ounces of water a day (the contents of my water bottle twice) and have felt such an incredible difference. There are innumerable benefits to drinking water from leading to healthier skin to reducing headaches and joint pains but one of the biggest is that it (obviously) prevents dehydration. Dehydration is a huge health and productivity stealer and is especially frustrating because it has such a simple fix: drinking water! When you are dehydrated, you may feel tired, irritable, sleepy or thirsty. So, basically, you know that lethargic feeling that sometimes hits in the middle of the afternoon? Try drinking water. There is no set formula for exactly how much your body needs per day, but starting with 64 ounces a day is a good place to begin. This tip isn’t so much a habit you have to take time out of your day to do as much as one you will need to incorporate into your existing workday structure.
Get up and walk around.
Again, at the risk of coming off as overly simplistic, this one is also really, really easy but really, really worth it. If you have a Fitbit or Apple Watch, you most likely have already heard this advice, but walking for just a couple of minutes every hour is a great way to do self-care during a busy week without a lot of effort. The benefits are both physical and mental. Physically, you break up large chunks of sedentary time which aren’t great for our bodies and are connected to greater risks of obesity, hypertension, and other health conditions. Studies have shown walking for 2-5 minutes each hour to be linked to a longer overall life too. Mentally, similar studies show that walking each hour is connected to a better mood. This isn’t surprising because you are giving yourself a break, albeit a small one, to step away from your desk and whatever stressors you are currently facing. Walking every hour or so is also a good reason to do those little things you always need to do around the house if you are still working from home, like putting laundry in the dryer or letting the dog out. (It can also be a good time to walk to the bathroom after all the water you just drank.)
Have a work cut-off time.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic is establishing boundaries between school, work, and personal time. I don’t think I’m alone in this either as multiple friends and family members have expressed the same sentiment. When you do most things in the same room, it’s hard to differentiate what “mode” your brain should be on. However, even if you are back in the office or classroom, it can still be hard to set effective boundaries between your professional and personal lives. One option that has worked well for me has been establishing a work cut-off time. This is a time at which point I cease doing anything work-related and instead move into personal time. That includes brainstorming for future projects, freelancing, homework, studying, all of it. For me, it’s been 10:00pm this semester but I’m hoping to move it backwards a bit over the summer. If you work a more traditional 8-5, this time for you might be as early as 5:00pm or perhaps closer to 8:00pm is when you stop checking email and leave work for the night. Perhaps your schedule doesn’t lend itself to a specific time. That works too, just make sure to block out time that you don’t spend on work. As the saying goes, “Things take as long as you give them,” meaning that the more hours you force yourself to sit in front of the computer working on that project, the more hours it will take. Take some time right now, and think about where you can block off your work-brain today and schedule in some personal time.
Go for a walk or take a drive.
These two are both great options. If you’re going for the health side of things, I’d recommend a walk outside. However, if the weather is bad or you just aren’t feeling it, a drive can fulfill a similar self-care purpose. There’s something therapeutic about getting out of the house or the office and walking or driving somewhere with no purpose at all. Breathe in the outdoors as you walk and avoid hopping on your phone. Allow yourself to be a little bored and people-watch or nature-watch or just take in the sights in general. Not only does this clear your mind, you’re also getting some much-needed Vitamin D and exercise. As for driving, try to drive somewhere you’ve never been. Maybe there’s a peaceful neighborhood you could go drive around for a few minutes or perhaps you have never taken a left turn out of your office parking lot and want to see what’s down there. No matter what, the self-care principle is giving yourself a break from the mundane and experiencing something new and refreshing. If you’re someone who loves listening to music, you can do that here too. It’s also found to be an effective form of self-care. This doesn’t need to be a long experience. Even a 10-15 minute walk will help and ditto for the drive. That means you can improve your mental health and treat yourself in the same time it takes you to go to the Starbucks drive-thru or catch up on Facebook.
One last tip for your busy workday and week is to take time to stretch. This might look like practicing yoga or just some basic tension-relieving stretches like these for a few minutes between meetings or tasks. Sitting all the time isn’t great for your circulation or your neck and back and can lead to pain as well as long-term stiffness and effects. However, if you want to make stretching go from less of a chore to more of a self-care activity, add in a little dancing. Turn on a few peppy songs and dance. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not because nobody is around and this is just for YOU. Just moving your body and having some fun will do wonders for your mood and help you press on with your day.
(Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash)