By Anna Gernert
Happy New Year! As cliché as it may be, a new year truly is a great time to step back and evaluate all aspects of your life. How do you feel? How is your energy level? How are you sleeping? Are you generally satisfied in your work? Do you feel productive? As you are reflecting on various areas of your life, I’d like to share a few tips and tricks that have been especially effective in my life. Full disclosure, I am a lawyer by training (not a doctor, nurse, wellness coach, personal trainer, etc.) so this is not professional advice, but just a few things I personally have found useful.
I know you’re hearing enough of this right now, but it’s because it’s so true! Exercise is SO important in your life. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep, boosts your mood, increases energy during the day, helps you relax, enhances wellbeing – and the list goes on! This does not mean you have to be a fanatic and workout an hour every day, but even just 10 minutes of moving your body. Here are a few easy examples:
- Take the stairs at work and everywhere you go during the day.
- Pace while you’re on the phone.
- Take a short walk around your office building.
- Replace your chair with a stability ball.
2. Food & Alcohol.
You truly are what you eat (and drink)! Really think about that. I have personally found that sticking with a vegetable-based diet, and limiting dairy and sugar, helps me feel my best and gives me the most energy throughout the day. I am also a fan of several small meals instead of 3 bigger ones (a big lunch alone will make me want to put my head on the desk). Cutting out refined sugars, except for special occasions, has not just helped me feel better and increased my energy, but I’ve also found it keeps my skin clear! Once you give it up, I promise you won’t even want it – it truly is an addiction.
If you do drink, keep your intake to a drink a day (for women) and two drinks (for men). I know this can be hard, but realize this is not just for health reasons, but also keeps you sharp and out of the brain fog the next day! I personally stick with a dry wine (usually sparkling) or spirit with soda water and a lime or lemon. If you need that something extra, instead of asking for a vodka cranberry, try vodka water or sparkling water with just a splash of cranberry juice. While 100% juice is better than sodas, it is still loaded with sugar!
After a good break for the holidays, getting back into the swing of things can be tough! Some advice a former colleague taught me when I first started to work was “worst first” – do the most difficult task, or the one you are dreading the most, as the very first task of your day. It helps to get it off your to-do list before all the distractions come in (emails, phone calls, meetings, etc.) Here are a few other helpful tips:
- Keep a checklist and prioritize your tasks – what are the 1-2 most important items on your list (that will move your business along, close the deal, etc.)? Focus on completing those items and anything else for the day is gravy.
- Keep your desk organized.
- Create uninterruptible time – put your phone away, shut your door (or put in ear plugs) and don’t check emails or take calls for at least 30 minutes at a time. Each time you have a distraction, you’re interrupting your work flow and losing your core concentration.
- Keep decisions outside of work to a minimum.
- Pack your lunch before you go to bed.
- Have just a few work outfits in rotation.
- Pre-set your coffee timer and pack up your things the night before.
As simple as this sounds, it is your own attitude and thoughts that make you feel happy (this blew my mind when I first heard this idea!) YOU are in charge. Try to focus on the bright side. If this is new to you, when you find your mind wandering to negative thoughts, stop and write down at least one positive thought on a notepad or in a journal. It does take some time, but after a bit you will train your mind to focus on the positive.
Try to read and reflect on uplifting material, and all the things in your life you’re thankful for. I started keeping a gratitude journal, and write down 3 things each morning that I’m thankful for – this will start your day out on the right foot and your mind in the right direction! Sometimes they are more meaningful, but often they are pretty basic – a great cup of coffee, a sunny day in the winter, a good call with my sister the night before, a positive response to a difficult email, etc.
You can also be happy at work (and of course if you’re not, call us). Even as simple as creating a comfortable and clean work environment can make a difference. Practice being present at work each day, rather than focusing on your future or past stresses. Reward yourself for your progress – even something small, like drafting a great email, pat yourself on the back and recognize your job well done. Learn new skills and keep growing in your job – take an interesting CLE, or join a new group or association that has interesting lunch-and-learns.
One of my favorite podcasts is Happiness Podcast by Dr. Robert Puff. He has fantastic examples and ideas on how to focus your mind on positivity and bring happiness into your everyday life.
Like exercise, the benefits of meditation seem endless – reduces stress, controls anxiety, promotes emotional health, increases self-awareness, lengthens attention span, etc. I am certainly no expert on mediation, and have not advanced past a minute or two each morning, but even that little bit helps me get my mind right for the day ahead. Here are a few steps to get you going:
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe naturally – do not try to control your breath.
- Focus your attention on your breath and how your body moves each time you inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders, bring it back to focus on your breath.
- Start with just a minute or two, and then try for longer periods of time.
Do you have any other tips and tricks that help you feel your best? We’d love to hear about them in a comment below!