Work-from-home orders and quarantine stress affect everyone differently. From eating and exercise habits, to sleep patterns and screen time use, our normal routine may look vastly different than it did at the beginning of the year. While it takes time to adjust to a new “normal” and deal with the stress and uncertainty associated with a pandemic, the combination of everything might leave you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.
“Chronic stress and anxiety tend to negatively affect the human body and mind due to elevated levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol,” says Carla Manly, PhD, a clinical psychologist.
The good news is there are several simple nutrition and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your energy levels.
Snacking and eating habits may look different now that you are working from home and have constant access to the pantry or refrigerator. While snacks can be important for maintaining energy and stable blood sugar levels, it depends on what you reach for.
If you find yourself gravitating toward convenient pre-packaged foods (which are often highly processed and contain large amounts of added sugar), prioritize more protein-rich snack options like egg cups and chicken wraps. Protein can help balance and stabilize blood sugar, resulting in more even energy levels while also keeping you satiated between meals and preventing overeating.
TAKE BREAKS FROM YOUR COMPUTER
Eye strain from staring at your computer or laptop can contribute to exhaustion, as well as headaches and decreased energy. If your job requires consistently sitting at a computer and staring at a screen, make sure to take frequent breaks. Walking for as little as 5 minutes can make a big difference in counteracting the harmful effects of sitting. Set an alarm on your phone or add it as an appointment in your calendar so you’ll be more likely to follow through come break time. Similarly, it can also help limit other screen time you may be getting from social media, iPads or television.
While you may have been in the habit of taking your water bottle to work and filling it constantly, being at home may leave you feeling less hydrated overall. Remember to drink enough water throughout the day, as it’s essential for functioning at your best.
A good starting point is aiming to drink half of your weight in ounces. If you are experiencing a dark yellow, concentrated urine color, increase your water intake. You can also track your hydration levels in the MyFitnessPal app to make sure you’re consuming enough.
If you’re staying at home more, you’re likely missing out on the benefits of getting outdoors, which can affect mood and energy levels. To fight the anxiety you might feel related to the pandemic (or other stressors), take a walk outside daily or just sit outside to enjoy the sounds and activity of nature. Exposure to sunlight, especially first thing in the morning, helps synthesize Vitamin D in the body, which is associated with improved mood. Moreover, spending time outdoors in natural sunlight can also help regulate your circadian rhythm, which can improve sleep at night.
MAKE MOVEMENT A MUST
Exercise can be a great way to increase energy, manage stress-related hormones and release endorphins, which can help boost mood and energy levels. Make sure to participate in some type of daily movement you enjoy. Join a virtual group workout, spend time walking, running or cycling in nature, lift weights or try yoga or pilates. Aiming for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week can help you feel your best physically and mentally.
MAINTAIN A ROUTINE
As humans, we thrive on routine and a sense of normalcy. Whether that means going to bed and waking up at the same time, following a consistent exercise routine or making time for virtual calls with family and friends, being consistent helps us prioritize our physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Having a routine that includes daily, positive activities is important. For example, block off the same time to work out at home as your regular gym class. Meal prep on the same day each week and make room for self-care to unwind at the end of the day, whether with a warm bath or journaling before bed.
GET QUALITY SLEEP
A lack of sleep is linked to irritability, weight gain and low energy levels. Having a consistent bedtime routine can help you improve your sleep and feel ready to take on the day. To set yourself up for success, ensure your bedroom is cool, put away electronics an hour before bed and avoid caffeine, large meals or exercising too close to bedtime.
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