A Guide: Balancing Self-Care and Work in Our New Normal

For many, this time at home has served as a period of relaxation and a chance to abandon their daily routines because they are fortunate enough to work from home.

This new reality has limited the time to go outside and interact with others, leaving a lot of people feeling unmotivated. As a result, many have developed unhealthy habits that can seriously harm them physically or mentally long term. It is important to create and maintain healthy lifestyles immediately for various reasons but, most importantly, to live healthy, long lives post-COVID.

This piece provides guidance for those who are ready to make that change. Note: The tips featured can be applied to our lives even after the pandemic is over.

Tip #1: Create a Daily Routine

The best way to start this journey is by actively forming healthy habits. This can be achieved simply by creating a daily routine that closely resembles the one followed before the virus caused a global shutdown. Brush the dust off of your weekly planner and bring structure back into your life.

This method brings accountability and allows a person to visually see the tasks that need to be completed for work and personal life before the week is over. Feeling really unmotivated? Get specific when planning the daily schedule. Include small details, such as the times of the day you plan to eat, shower, exercise, take a break from work and sleep. Also, it is best to leave room for flexibility in the schedule just in case things do not go as planned on a given day.

Tip #2: Have a Dedicated Work Space

Developing self-control will allow one to remain sane during those hectic virtual days at work. This can be obtained by dedicating an area in the house as the official workspace. One common mistake made is that people tend to log onto work from their beds or on the couch. However, those spots might not be ideal because those areas are regularly associated with feelings of relaxation and tend to make people loosen their guard.

This unhealthy habit can influence the development of poor organizational skills and lead professionals to slack in their work performance. If possible, the workspace should be set up in an area where there are no distractions, i.e. televisions and limited foot traffic from the others in the household. Having a dedicated workspace at home will also reinforce the traditional idea of walking away when finished for the day.

Tip #3: Stay Active During the Work Day

While getting adjusted to the new work area, it is imperative to stay active throughout the day to prevent serious health issues from occurring. Case in point, many of those who are working from home are required to sit about 8 hours a day. Some may even volunteer to skip their lunch break or eat while working in order to get ahead of their afternoon schedule. Instead of sitting through the entire work shift try:

Standing up regularly: Alternate periodically by working while standing. Developing this healthy habit will ensure alertness throughout the day and still burn minimal calories. Up for a challenge?: Try standing for a longer period of time, 2 to 4 hours a day, to see better results. Please keep in mind that time can be divided throughout the day and does not have to be completed all at once.

Taking frequent walks: It is suggested that taking walks throughout the day can also lower any long-term health risks associated with excessive sitting. Include this in the daily routine by occasionally taking a quick 10-minute walk around the house or neighborhood. Up for a challenge?: Replace the above by repeatedly walking or lightly jogging up the stairs instead.

Exercising during lunch break: It is always crucial to take your lunch break daily even if you prefer to eat while working. Utilize 15 to 30 minutes of the break to complete a workout routine. This does not have to consist of traditional exercises, such as jumping jacks or push-ups. Creative techniques that can substitute the basics include following popular free workout videos online or dancing to music around the house. Up for a challenge?: Try HIIT workouts. The acronym stands for, high interval intensity training, helps burn the most calories in a short amount of time.

Tip #4: Develop Better Eating Habits

Working from home can be bittersweet. Although professionals are still expected to serve the same hours at work as before, the pandemic has allowed people to pass the time by binging their favorite streaming services, along with, continuously indulging in unhealthy foods. It is time to take back control and try practicing the following techniques.

Meal Prep: Instead of cooking each meal individually, set aside one day to prep all of the food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for the week. If a person works the typical 9-to-5 hours, it would be best to prepare the weekly meals during the weekend. Bonus tip: Need help with accountability? Include all tentative meal ideas in the planner mentioned in the first tip!

Healthy Snacks: Similar to meal prepping, it is important to decide every single snack planned for the day ahead of time. Making conscious decisions like these will help a person acknowledge what is actually going into their body.

Intermittent Fasting: One major theme in this guide has been self-control. If you are a person who subconsciously binge eats during your workday or loves a midnight snack, here is a soundproof method to curve those habits. Intermittent fasting helps you determine when to eat, rather than focusing on specific food restrictions. This method has been known to effectively help burn fat and keep it off.

Tip #5: Meditate

Having a stressful day? Don’t have the energy to squeeze in a quick workout, or maybe you’re waiting for an important email to appear? Attempt meditating during these resting periods.

Although our last tip might not help people lose any inches during the pandemic, it can help a person remain calm under pressure during the day’s activities and maintain a good mental health lifestyle. This can be practiced during any part of the day and even multiple times a day, depending on how often one needs to regroup. Meditating long-term can produce significant benefits, such as: reducing stress, improving memory, increasing energy, influencing creativity, and perfecting your focus. Meditation is a great alternative until you are ready for a challenge and update your daily schedule.

Briana Richardson-Jones serves as a Justice Department (DOJ) program analyst. Before becoming a federal employee, she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s of Science in criminology with a public policy concentration. She believes she can help prospective and new employees navigate government efficiently while currently doing the same. Briana has discovered creative tips that can help others “work smarter” in the future. She also plans on combining her love for writing and criminal justice to educate readers about current events and community issues affecting people worldwide.

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Avatar photo Blake Martin

These are wonderful tips! I am a big fan of taking several of small walks during the day to stay active and engaged with whatever I’m working on for the day. I think building breaks into your day is a key part of maintaining balance, whether you’re eating lunch or just stepping away from your workspace – which you spoke directly to. Thanks for this great piece.

Briana Richardson-Jones

Thank you for taking the time to read this piece! I agree with your statement. Taking breaks throughout the day is definitely needed to stay sane. Thanks again!

Jacob Hege

Thanks for sharing your tips, Briana! I’ve found keeping active is what helps me with productivity the most, but of course, some days are better than others!