One side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been disrupted routines. As offices emptied, schools closed and gyms were shuttered to slow the spread of the virus, work-life balance fell to the wayside and levels of anxiety and stress climbed. Research shows a link between work-life balance and health, reporting high job demands can increase the risk of illness by 35%.
However, with the ending of a difficult year, there’s an opportunity to reset for a better 2021. When making resolutions for the new year, it’s important to consider health factors beyond exercise and food. Well-being, for example, takes a more all-encompassing approach including mental health, financial wellness, life balance, a healthy diet and exercise. Plan for a healthier year with these tips:
Establish a better work-life balance. Separating work and personal time for those who work at home can be difficult. This is especially true when the workspace is shared with other remote workers or children learning virtually from home. But there are ways to incorporate balance:
- Find time to de-stress during the workday. Short breaks can boost productivity and decrease stress. Try a meditation break or walk around the neighborhood for 10 minutes.
- Create a dedicated office space. Whether it’s an entire room or small area, this is key to avoid blurring the line between personal and workspaces. Being too comfortable can decrease productivity, so avoid working from the couch or bed.
- Set work hours. Many people find they’re working longer hours from home than they did in the office. One way to rein in this trend is to turn off work phones and computers during breaks and at the end of the workday.
Set all-encompassing health goals. Begin by making sure goals are “SMART” – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. When goals aren’t realistic or achievable, people set themselves up for disappointment, which can also lead to a lack of confidence. Here are tips for setting SMART goals:
- Start with a plan. For example, set a goal of completing one de-stressing activity — such as meditating, reading a book or doing yoga — for 30 minutes at least three times per week until March 1.
- Regularly evaluate goals and progress, and then modify if necessary.
- Create goals around activities that can become sustainable habits, such as daily walks or adding more servings of fruits and vegetables.
- Remember food and exercise are not the full picture.
Making time for self-care allows people to ensure their own needs are met, which ultimately helps them better support and be there for others. Self-care comes in many forms, but it can be accepting help, getting enough sleep and making time for exercise, as well as setting boundaries and spending time with friends. Here are some ways to get started:
- Begin small. Making time for little things that improve quality of life can add up.
- Try not to focus on what went wrong in 2020. Instead, look to understand the obstacles and find ways to work around them in 2021.
- Don’t self-sabotage before Jan. 1. It will only make starting on a new path more difficult.
The most important thing is to not get discouraged and keep moving forward. Positive changes are always possible, not just in January. The key to sticking to resolutions is getting back on track as soon as possible.
Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more tips on lowering the risks of diabetes, visit ahealthiermichigan.org.
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