Five Manageable Tips for Busy Workday Self-Care

Let's face it. Over the last several months, we've all been through a lot. Balancing the constant pandemic anxiety with economic concerns, remote work transitions, workforce turbulence, and family responsibilities including child care and schooling needs has been a major undertaking. To help gain a sense of self back in your hectic life, see the following five self-care tips to manage your strained work-life balance, starting with breathing exercises.

  1. Do breathing exercises with screen-free breaks
    When pushing through a hectic day, most people rarely think about their active breathing, but doing quick breathing exercises twice a day can help recharge energy and rebuild mental focus. They can also help with insomnia. Consider the popular 4-7-8 method.

    • Breathe in quietly through your nose for four seconds.
    • Hold your breath for seven seconds.
    • Breathe out through your mouth for eight seconds.
    • Repeat steps #2-4 for four cycles.

    Utilize these exercises as a start to screen-free breaks. According to Pew Research, 70% of Americans said they need a break from Coronavirus news. Instead of checking social media during breaks, get up and move around. Perhaps take a short walk to clear your mind.

  2. Concentrate on what's in front of you
    With so much going on in the world, it's incredibly hard to stay focused during work. A big part of that is alert fatigue from emails, social media notifications, co-worker internal instant messaging, pandemic breaking news, and more. This is amplified with remote work, balancing household tasks with caring for children or other family members. To combat this, block out time in your schedule dedicated solely to priority tasks for 30 to 60-minute slots. Place that time on your work calendar, so it's designated, and as hard as it is, refrain from external distractions. Work through team and individual prioritized task lists to make projects more manageable.

  3. Get moving!
    It's easy to slump into the couch after work, whether you've been working a long hospital shift or building eye strain from remote work on a computer for hours. However, you need to dedicate time for regular exercise to not only balance mental health as an outlet for stress, but also to maintain your physical health for yourself and those depending on you. Getting at least 30 minutes of activity in a day can really make a difference toward your strength, energy, and stamina. If you need a distraction, time your workout with a favorite podcast or Netflix episode. Look also to free virtual fitness class offerings, like Women's Health Magazine's daily Instagram Live workouts. Whether you want to focus on lower body, core, HIIT, or other training, see the weekly schedule postings of workout type, equipment needed, time, and instructor. Find a routine that works for you, and make it a habit.

  4. Listen to music
    Music can be a highly effective tool for quickly managing moods. Faster music is linked to alertness and concentration, upbeat music helps boost optimism, and slower music can help loosen muscles and calm the mind. According to research published in Trends in Cognitive Science, music improves the body's immune system function and relieves stress, while listening to music has been found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery. Consider this application in your daily life by utilizing Spotify sleep playlists or getting a sound machine.

  5. Get enough sleep
    Sleep is the foundation of good health. Yet, pandemic anxiety is a major villain against restful sleep these days, which directly pulls from your daily productivity, responsiveness, mood balance, and overall immunity. No one can be a superhero 24/7, especially with lack of sleep linked to long-term health issues including heart disease, obesity, depression, and dementia. According to Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, most people now get an average of just 6.5 hours of sleep a night, and when someone loses significant sleep, the brain doesn't work on a credit system to make up for that lost time. His top five tips for better sleep are

    • Maintain regularity in your sleep schedule.
    • Keep your bedroom dark to help release melatonin. Stay away from screens, and dim lights around the house at least 30 minutes before bed.
    • Keep a cool bedroom temperature.
    • Don't lie in bed awake too long. Your brain will associate being in bed with being awake.
    • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. The concept of a "night cap" is ineffective.

We hope you find these five tips helpful in refocusing your mental and physical health. Stay tuned for additional health tech workforce tips. Make sure to check out the COVID-19 resource hub for additional pandemic insights.

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