It's not always easy to do what's best for yourself. But living healthier doesn't have to be impossible. Here are six fast and easy ways to put your well-being first.
One of the great ironies of being a modern-day physician is that you spend all your time advising patients on how to live healthy, but you work so much that you rarely have time to take your own advice. It's not always easy to do what's best for yourself. But living healthier doesn't have to be a daunting drain on your time. Here are six fast and easy ways to put your well-being first:
1. Stay hydrated. Even mild dehydration has been shown to increase stress and lower immune function and mental concentration, so make sure you are drinking plenty of healthy fluids each day. No, coffee and soda don't count. Water is the best choice, so consider clipping a reusable water bottle to your lab coat for easy access.
2. Skip the snack machine. Is lunch often an afterthought? Are your late-afternoon stomach growls drowning out your patients' voices? Rather than rely on the vending machine for a quick bag of chips or a candy bar, think ahead. Come to work prepared with healthful options like nuts, fruit, or a granola bar. This will help fill you up and give you the right kind of energy to get through your day.
3. Get your exercise on the go. An hour in the gym or a leisurely jog may be pipe dreams considering your busy schedule, but that doesn't mean you have to give up exercise entirely. Get creative. Try taking the stairs or walking the long way to the clinic. If you find yourself with a few free minutes, a brisk walk around the block (or building - just get outside!) will do a body good.
4. Don't forget to breathe. We all take it for granted, but deep breathing can help ease your stress and clear you mind - which can go a long way to keeping you healthy. Here's how: Close your eyes, and try taking a slow inhale, filling your lungs and then your belly. Hold it a couple seconds and then release it slowly. Do this a few times a day, and feel your stress levels and blood pressure decrease.
5. Sleep deeply. Sleeping seven to eight hours a night is the ideal, though not often the reality. If you can't find the time to sleep more, at least work on sleeping better. To achieve deeper sleep, implement a nightly 15- to 20-minute wind down routine that tells your body and brain it's time to rest. Start by turning off the TV and computer. Also, avoid caffeine after 2 p.m., and try to go to bed and get up around the same time each day.
6. Make your free time active time. Exercising can feel like one more thing on your long list of obligations that keep you from your family and interests. But a dash of inventiveness can make your free time healthier. Take a walk after dinner with your spouse while you discuss the day. Spend quality time with the kids out on the soccer field or hiking trail. Bike to work rather than sit in traffic. Listen to news podcasts or audiobooks while at the gym. Just a few minor changes in lifestyle can make you healthier and happier for the long term.
Abigail Beckel is managing editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Michael is senior editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Physicians Practice.