It can be hard to find time to breathe—let alone be mindful of your health—when busy days hit and your focus is on juggling your job, relationships, and potentially caring for a family.
Over time those hectic days can have a big impact on your overall wellbeing—which is why it’s essential to embrace simple daily practices that boost your mental and physical health.
The key word here is “simple.” These don’t have to be huge, earth-shattering moves—and some are even as easy as stashing a water bottle in your bag. Certified trainer Kelvin Gary and Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, offered seven tips to help you feel good (and in control of your health!) even on your busiest days.
Start your day with a quick meditation—even if it’s in the shower.
There’s a reason why so many health experts recommend this: It’s really great for stress management, and you can go through a meditation in just five minutes, Gary says. “You’re working on your body’s ability to recover and adapt to stress.” If you’re not sure where to start, download a few of these guided meditation apps on your phone and see which you like best.
Can’t spare the five minutes? While actually sitting down and focusing on meditation is the best way to go, Gary says it’s perfectly fine to start doing some deep breathing exercises in the shower. “The sound of water actually helps,” he says. This is a good technique, too, for those in need of a calm moment to themselves who may not necessarily be interested in meditating.
Have a mix of fresh and pre-made foods ready.
Feller recommends that her patients keep a balance of fresh and pre-made foods at home. “I’ve seen a lot of patients do well with using healthy frozen foods. They can prepare them quickly and even add in fresh produce, like a side salad, to round the meal out.”
This might mean having a few Lean Cuisine meals ready to go in your freezer— along with the ingredients for a quick and simple side salad to go with it. “Lean Cuisines are well-portioned and conscious in terms of added preservatives,” she says.
Start with Lean Cuisine’s high-protein Savory Sesame Chicken & Vegetables Bowl or Spaghetti and Meatballs and add your veggie of choice or some fruit, and you’ve got a perfectly well-rounded (and fast!) meal you can feel good about. Bonus: all of the Lean Cuisine meals are 400 calories or less.
Shop Lean Cuisine meals
Remember that any movement counts.
Even people who dedicate their life to fitness can’t always find time to do a full workout at once, but as Gary says, “something is better than nothing.” Even taking one minute to do push-ups and sit-ups during your work day counts. “The endorphin release you get, even from mini movements, is important,” he says.
One way to help ensure that you’ll get that movement in on your busiest days? Gary suggests writing down three sets of four exercises that you can do in 30-minute increments during the week. It could be a mix of stretching, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, bird dogs, and planks, or your regular go-to exercise. “You don’t need any equipment,” he says. “You can use your body weight and change the number of reps to make it easier or harder.”
Then, think about when you could realistically incorporate the workouts into your schedule—maybe you’ll wake up 30 minutes earlier on one day or pencil it in during your lunch break. But, Gary says, planning to get it done dramatically raises the odds you’ll actually do it.
Plan out your meals (and snacks).
Planning out your meals in advance—and actually prepping them, if applicable—raises the likelihood you’ll eat well when it’s crunch time, Feller says. “I’ve had some patients that do really well with meal prep,” she says. “I’ve also had patients that do well with a combination of meal-cooking, batch-cooking, and purchasing foods that are already prepared.” Repeat: It’s more than okay to have already-prepared meals like Lean Cuisines on the line-up to help you stay on track.
BTW: Feller says that planning out your snacks is important, too. She suggests stashing items like nuts and popcorn at your desk or in your car if you tend to be driving between meals. “Plan it out,” she says. “Don’t let hunger sneak up on you.”
Stand as much as possible.
Sitting on your butt all day isn’t doing your health any favors, as we all know. “Movement is medicine,” Gary says, which is why he recommends getting up whenever you can during the day. Try standing during a work call or making a point to get up and stretch every hour throughout the work day—it’s also a good way to break up the day!
Always keep a filled, reusable water bottle on you.
Hydration is a crucial part of staying healthy, and having a reusable water bottle handy is a good way to help ensure you’ll actually hydrate, Feller says. The exact amount you need varies depending on activity level and other factors, but the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that women aim to intake about 11.5 cups of fluids a day, from both food and drinks.
Pro tip: If you feel like you’re so busy during the day that you won’t be able to get up to refill your water bottle, start taking it with you when you go to the bathroom—you can fill it in the sink while you’re there.
Get to know the ‘World’s Greatest Stretch’.
This is a real thing, and Gary says it’s exactly what your body needs when you’ve been scrunched at your desk for hours. “It’s a yoga-flow sort of stretch to help loosen your muscles,” he explains.
To do the stretch, step forward with your right leg and lower your body into a lunge. Place your left hand on the floor, making sure it’s in line with your left foot, while your right knee hovers over the floor. Move your right elbow to inside your right foot, and let it rest on the floor. Square your hips and keep your back flat. Then, move your right hand outside of your right foot and twist so that you’re reaching up. Then do the opposite side.
“Literally hop off of your chair, do the stretch, and then get back to your day,” Gary says.
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