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When it comes to recent events, “adaptable” is one of the more relevant words that comes to mind. Our schedules have been turned upside down as a result of COVID-19. Each week seems to bring new updates and changes to societal expectations, business operations, and etiquette for social behavior.

In the coming weeks and months, we will all continue to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. For many, returning to work is likely going to be amongst one of the biggest changes to our daily routine. However, staying healthy at work might take some purposeful effort.

If you’re wondering how you can maintain your health as your work schedule is pieced back together, read on for some important tips.

1. DO NOT: Skimp on sleep

Recent stress may have interrupted your sleep. If you have not had to deal with a morning commute and traffic, your wake times may be a little later than usual. Or, perhaps you’ve fallen into the habit of bingeing on late-night TV. Either way, it’s a good idea to optimize sleep habits as your routine changes yet again.

Most of us have heard the recommendation to get adequate sleep thousands of times. Because it’s so repeated, the message can sometimes get stale or feel diluted. However, it cannot be stated enough:

Sleep is a non-negotiable keystone for obtaining and maintaining good health.

If prioritizing sleep is one of the things you know to do but have not yet put into practice, consider this:

  • Those who sleep less than seven hours nightly are almost three times more likely to get the common cold (which is a viral infection by nature).
  • A lack of sleep has been associated with pneumonia risk, at least according to one study of women ages 37 to 57.
  • Shorter duration and disturbed sleep have been linked to inflammation and diseases that have inflammatory components, such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • A lack of quality sleep may negatively influence the efficacy of certain vaccines.
  • Poor sleep can negatively impact blood sugar regulation and various hormones, including testosterone.

To read more about the ins and outs of sleep, check out this article, and then consider trying some of my top sleep hacks:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep/wake schedule for both weekdays and weekends and lock down an evening routine. If needed, set a timer to remind yourself to wind down at night.
  • Keep your bedroom cool — for most, this is around 67 to 69 degrees F.
  • Limit alcohol consumption, especially the habit of using it to “wind down” at night. Sedation is not the same as sleep.
  • Reduce exposure to light — especially blue light from electronics — within two hours of going to bed.
  • Ensure you’re optimizing your magnesium status (critical for relaxation) by considering chelated magnesium support each evening.
  • Consider additional options, such as the Restore PM Complex blend, to support sleep onset and sleep depth.

2. DO: Schedule your lunch and workouts 

Resilience and immune system health are near-impossible to maintain without a steady, regular stream of nutrient-dense foods, balanced blood sugar, and consistent exercise. One of the biggest challenges reported from career-driven clients is the difficulty of balancing a busy work schedule with a healthy diet and exercise routine. Sometimes the plan to eat healthy is simple, but not easy.

For many, more often than not, lunch is some version of takeout or convenience food and is consumed while multitasking in a meeting. It seems that getting lunch in on time is a rarity as well. If your work calendar looks more like a game of Tetris than an organized flow of productivity, it’s also easy to skip your workout. 

Heading back to work can provide a great opportunity to break old habits and establish new ones as we all get back into a different routine. Now is the perfect time to set up a system of efficiency instead of rampant, chaos-driven busyness.

A chronically overloaded schedule with minimal productivity can contribute to burnout, which has been officially recognized by the World Health Organization as an occupational phenomenon. Spend some dedicated time thoughtfully setting up your schedule for balanced productivity. 

When your mind is refreshed from healthy food and regular exercise, you can do more quality work in less time. As you set up your calendar, include a dedicated midday lunch to balance your blood sugar. Add in a regular workout time as well.

Exercise can increase energy levels and help manage stress — both critical for efficiency in the workplace. Leaving the office and heading to the club is a lot more likely to happen if you see it on your schedule.

The secret to success is to hold to these commitments with the same regard as a scheduled meeting with your boss.

3. DO NOT: Let up on hygiene guidelines

Many of us are ready to get back to how things once were. As we head back to work, it may be easy to forget about important behavioral adjustments and hygiene practices that have become more commonplace. The social interactions will be welcome, but we still want to take the right steps to stay healthy at work. 

Coughing into the bend of the elbow, hand washing, avoiding touching your face, not sharing drinks and utensils, and staying home to recover when not feeling well should be common sense. Until recently, many of these common-sense practices were not so common.

Lately — and rightfully so — these important habits have weaved their way into social etiquette. 

When you’re back at the office, be sure to establish a new flow and routine for while you’re there. Wash your hands before you eat and after touching high-traffic items, such as elevator buttons or break room refrigerators. It’s also a good idea to disinfect your keyboard, mouse, and workspace a few times per day.

Consider wearing blue light blocking glasses to reduce eye strain from your computer screen and make it less likely that you may inadvertently rub your eyes. Take the safety measures you likely have had at home for the past several months and translate them into your workplace environment. While we want to stay healthy by building resilience, it’s important to remember that reducing exposure is a key component, too. 

4. DO: Build your resilience 

There’s no replacement for staying hydrated, eating a nutrient-dense diet full of colorful produce, and including ample high-quality protein, fiber, and healthy fat at our meals. That being said, no one has a perfect diet. 

Think about nutrient density: Most of us are not harvesting produce from our backyard at the peak of freshness, raising our own livestock, or out gathering nuts and seeds. On top of that, our stressed-out, often over-caffeinated lifestyles increase vitamin and mineral demands. We (collectively, as a society) tend to prioritize foods that are quick, easy, and convenient — which typically means low in nutrient density, but rich in calories.

Our bodies are screaming for us to do better. Providing the raw materials (in the form of vitamins, minerals, and key nutrients) can do wonders to help your amazingly complex metabolic machinery run more efficiently. This is where high quality, well-sourced supplementation in efficacious doses comes into play.

I can sympathize with leeriness about supplements — the industry overall has an understandably sketchy reputation. That being said, do not let a few sleazy, corner-cutting companies that have made negative headlines steer you away from using an effective, quality supplement routine. Optimizing your vitamin and mineral status — with the help of appropriate supplementation — can have a game-changing, positive impact on your health. 

Here’s a philosophy that might be helpful: Work first to replace what you could have a deficiency in. (Even if you’re not overtly deficient, aim to optimize your levels instead of just getting by.) In other words, before ordering a pill marketed as the next miracle berry or herb, start with the basics — and use them consistently: 

It’s no mistake that this solid and supportive collection was mindfully put together into what we refer to as the Foundational Five

5. DO: Have a Plan B for your afternoon 

Without a plan, a return to the office can come with a huge surge in caffeine intake and break room sugar pitfalls. It’s important to find a way to stay healthy and sidestep the vending machine, soda pop, and fancy coffee drinks without having to rely on willpower alone.

Research suggests that sugar can negatively impact the immune system for up to five hours after consumption. Sugar-sweetened beverages have also been tied to lower levels of protective “good” cholesterol and higher levels of inflammatory markers. Think about the trade-off before reaching for that energy drink or latte.

For my clients, the time frame between lunch and dinner tends to be the longest break between meals. Not eating between noon and 6 or 7 p.m. is too long for most. It could be a recipe for disaster when it comes to afternoon or evening cravings, or when trying to fuel yourself for a sweat session after work.

This time of day is made much more convenient with the use of a quick, mixable protein powder as a healthy snack. Here are some tried and true favorites to fuel the back half of your daily routine:

  • If you’re a candy lover: Try a variation of the Almond Joy Shake — and feel free to use chocolate whey or chocolate vegan protein if you’re not detoxing. If you don’t have easy access to a blender, skip the almond butter and use a shaker cup instead.
  • If you love fancy hot drinks: Blend Life Time vanilla collagen peptides with a cup of hot, caffeine-free rooibos chai tea (brewed from a teabag). This healthier version of a chai latte packs 20 grams of protein without the added sugar. Use a handheld frother for convenience.
  • If you’re an evening exerciser: Pair your preferred choice of protein with Generation UCAN Superstarch in a shaker cup. Drink this an hour or so before your workout for a boost of steady energy without the caffeine. Pro tip: Ice cold water helps with the mixability on this one. 
  • If you need convenience above all else: Quickly shake up two scoops of Vegan+ All in One Shake Mix or Whey+ All in One Shake Mix. This will provide 30 grams of quality protein, along with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants for a nutrient and satiety lifesaver that you don’t have to think twice about.

Changes in schedule bring a refreshed opportunity to break free from old habits and set up new ones for health and success. Yes, we all should take precautions to reduce the risk of infection exposure. However, remember that you owe it to yourself to fortify your internal defenses with appropriate rest, nutrient-dense fuel, energy-boosting exercise, and balanced lifestyle strategies. 

As always, reach out if you have questions or need any guidance. 

 

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Training Facebook group.

samantha-mckinney-life-time-training-registered-dietician
Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT

Samantha McKinney has been a dietitian, trainer and coach for over 10 years. At first, her interests and experience were in a highly clinical setting in the medical field, which ended up laying a strong foundation for understanding metabolism as her true passion evolved: wellness and prevention. She hasn’t looked back since and has had the honor of supporting Life Time’s members and nutrition programs in various roles since 2011.

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