Four ways to prioritise your wellbeing (because it’s OK to be selfish!)

In this digital age, achieving the perfect work-life balance is easier said than done. Thanks to the advances of modern technology, we’re constantly on the go and plugged in 24/7. Time has always been the most precious commodity, but when life takes over, why is it so hard to make some for ourselves? With all the best intentions, our well-made plans to work on our own physical and mental wellbeing often slide down to the bottom of our ever-increasing To Do list.

Us Brits are working longer and less productively than our European counterparts, attributing a whopping 49% of sick days to stress, according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 2016/17 stats. Workplace stress is very much a 21st century problem and, left to its own devices, can manifest physically in high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety and more.

With GPs now prescribing parkruns and active lifestyles to patients, it’s clear that making time for your own health and fitness can redress the balance and create a healthier, happier mind and body.

So if time is the most valuable gift you can give yourself, let’s look at four ways to prioritise your wellbeing and fit more ‘you time’ into your busy schedule.

“Meditation and mindfulness might not be something you’ve ever thought of before but it’s something anyone can do"

Start your day right

If you’re giving yourself the gift of time, you might as well start first thing to set the tone for the rest of the day. Swap the snooze button and rushed morning commute for an energising fitness session, or leisurely walk or cycle to the office.

“Treating yourself to some extra time in the morning (and it really does feel like a treat!) will see you arriving to work calmer, happier and more productive throughout the day”, says Clare Evans, Time Management and Productivity Coach.

You’d be surprised at how much you can fit in before 9am, just by getting up that little bit earlier!

Schedule in ‘you time’ like a meeting

Our work and family schedules are often meticulously organised, so why not do a bit of self-care admin too?

Schedule in some weekly ‘you time’ into your calendar and treat it like an appointment you can’t afford to miss. Whether it’s booking a massage, enjoying a spa day, attending an exercise class, or simply meeting a friend for a lunchtime walk, if you’ve got people to meet and a date/time set, you won’t want to let them (or yourself) down.

“The key here is to make it a time that works for you,” says Evans. “If you’re not a morning person, make your wellbeing date an evening one. It has to fit easily into your life to become a habit.”

Recharge with regular breaks

No matter what job you do, taking regular breaks away from your screen or whatever you’re doing to rest and refresh is really important.

“A sedentary office worker is only likely to achieve between 3000 – 4000 steps per day when they spend most of their time sitting. Taking regular breaks are good for productivity, boosts energy and recharges your battery”, says Evans.

If you find it difficult leaving a task to take a break, book onto a lunchtime exercise class, so you’re forced to leave work to be there, or leave the stuffy board room for a walking meeting outside.

“Lunchtime exercise, or just stopping what you’re doing to get out into the fresh air, improves both your physical and mental wellbeing,” Evans adds. “You’ll feel better for it and have a much more productive afternoon.”

Train your brain to switch off

Just like the parts of the body we train in the gym, the brain is a muscle, and meditation is strength training for the mind.

“Meditation and mindfulness might not be something you’ve ever thought of before but it’s something anyone can do, with huge benefits for your mental health and wellbeing”, says Evans. “It reduces stress and anxiety, increases focus, productivity, mental strength and resilience – all great things both for the workplace and in daily life too.”

If you’re new to meditation you might find it difficult to quieten your mind at first, but remember to free yourself from any preconceptions or judgement and start slowly from where you are.

Evans suggests setting aside five or ten minutes a day to practice this simple breathing exercise as a starter:

  1. Sit quietly on a chair with your back support or cross legged on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  3. Count your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale through your nose.
  4. Count to four or six with each in breath and each out breath.
  5. Repeat for ten cycles.
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