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General Health

No, You’re Not Too Busy to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Can't see the forest for the trees? These lifestyle tips will help reframe your perspective on prioritizing your own health.

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Where did the time go? Many of us find ourselves asking that question every single day. Managing a hectic life felt challenging before the pandemic, but for a lot of people juggling tasks became even more difficult since the onset of the crisis. The majority of workers (60 percent, reportedly) felt that COVID-19 affected their work-life balance. And when life began opening up, society seemed to swell back to the previous pace and beyond.

So when are you supposed to be taking care of yourself? More people are talking about self-care, mental wellness, the importance of exercise, clean eating, and doing things that bolster our immunity. But where is the time to do any of that?

Laurie Watkins, author of Go from Stressed to Strong: Health & Fitness Advice from High Achievers, says it’s a myth that there aren’t enough hours in the day to achieve a healthy lifestyle. “It’s a myth because each of us has developed personal habits as we’ve aged through life. Though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our productivity, financial security, health, and happiness,” she says.

It’s within our power to reset our routines and habits, she says. Here is what you should know about fitting health and fitness into your life, no matter how busy the day feels.

Related: 7 Healthy Habits to Adopt Now

Start with Small Changes for a Healthy Lifestyle

Going from stressed to strong isn’t that hard at all, especially when you break it into small, easy-to-manage tasks. Here are a few examples from Watkins to help get you started:

  • Go to bed an hour earlier. This can provide big results the following morning, leaving you feeling refreshed and energized.
  • Eat a dinner made from whole foods that won’t upset your stomach or keep you up at night from ingredients such as caffeine, sugar, and other preservatives allowing you to fall asleep more easily.
  • Exercise first thing—before you head into the office or drop off the kids in the morning. It will set the tone for your day, leaving you feeling accomplished and strong long before 8 a.m.
  • Do the most important thing as early as possible every day. It sounds simple, but most of us don’t do it. Similar to the tip above, if getting in a run or planning healthy meals for yourself is your highest priority, doing it first almost eliminates the possibility of anything else getting in the way.

Watkins recommends journaling to follow and reinforce your progress. “By tracking the changes and ways you feel as you make these healthy modifications, you are creating data to look at and compare to, as you continue on your new health journey,” she says.

Establish Priorities and Get Good at Saying No

Does this scenario feel familiar? You have a non-negotiable time you need to log off work, say 6 p.m., to meet your run club, but you’re consistently running 30 minutes behind. You haven’t made it to the group run in weeks. It’s your favorite part of the week and you find yourself grumpy and sad that you’re missing out.

In that case, you need to evaluate where in your day you’re losing 30 minutes to something that is not serving you. Don’t allow that overly chatty coworker steal your time, for example, says Watkins. And all those invitations to things that feel like obligations? It’s time to start saying “no.”

“Turn down things that are inconsistent with your priorities,” says Watkins. “Gaining back this time will allow you the opportunity to cook more at home, exercise, and catch up on missed sleep.”

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Meal Prepping

Make Plans for Meals

Eating healthy can be especially difficult if you feel strapped for time. But with forethought, you can begin to rely less on drive-thrus and takeout.

For starters, it helps to plan ahead for when you know you’ll be time-limited. “Every Sunday when I’m not traveling, I create my own personal menu for the week,” says Watkins. “I look at how many nights I will be in town versus how many nights will be spent on the road, and I plan my grocery shopping accordingly.” With this plan of action, she finds that it’s not that much more expensive to eat healthy. “I plan and budget and try hard to buy only the things I need to eat, versus what I desire to eat and won’t have time to eat before my next trip, wasting food and money.”

Here are her favorite time-saving cooking hacks:

  • Make enough dinner to eat as the next day’s lunch and snacks.
  • Cook your proteins in the crockpot during the day.
  • Grill fish and steak a few nights a week and roast whole chickens from time to time just to have meat in a container that you can easily throw into a salad or with your breakfast the next morning.

“Women who exercise and take care of their bodies, allowing that sacred time for themselves are real warriors,” says Watkins. “Along with taking care of your families, co-workers, friendships, and all of your other responsibilities, you understand the importance of balance in order to keep that appointment with yourselves.”

If there are things in your life that no longer make you happy, there is usually a reason. Making time for your health and your energy has the ability to truly transform your life. “It’s important that you trust yourself to make the right decisions. By executing your first ‘self-nudge,’ which starts by changing one thing today, you are on the road to making positive, healthier changes to your road map to life.”

Related: 7 Must-Have Pantry Staples for Busy Weeknights

From Women’s Running