Although the term “Hygge” is not a new concept, it became an especially big buzzword in North America over the past few winter seasons. Now, when you hear the expression you probably immediately think of ways to stay warm and cozy during the cold and bleak winter months. However, even though the cold and dark are finally gone (for now), you can still create a Summer Hygge Vibe for yourself throughout the sweltering months.
The thing is, even though you may associate Hygge with warm fuzzy blankets and rich hot chocolate by a fireplace, it’s about more than keeping a chill at bay. Hygge is also about enjoying life in simple joyful ways and that is definitely not specific to any one season!
Let’s create a summer hygge vibe!
I hear a lot of people saying that they find it difficult to take time to relax and enjoy themselves. I personally have no problem doing that because I consider self-care a vital part of my fight against stress and anxiety so it’s a bit of a priority and I refuse to feel guilty about taking some time to be totally unproductive sometimes. Here are some tips on how I bring Hygge into my summer that you can try in order to have an easier time slowing down and enjoying life instead of just rushing from one task to the next all the time.
Light some outdoor candles!
You know how it’s a cozy feeling to sit wrapped up in a warm blanket in December with your living room full of candles lit and flickering away? Well, I ditch the blanket but keep the candles. Yes, candlelight may heat up my home a bit more than I’d like on a sweaty night, but then I can just take them outside and still enjoy that deep-down-inside warmth without overheating. I like to sit out on my back deck with some lit candles; I can spend hours outside sipping a beverage while the night drifts on by.
Bonus: choose to use a few citronella candles among the others and you’ll keep the bugs away too – win/win!
Get the fire pit roaring and bust out the s’mores.
I don’t actually have a fire pit yet, but I have wanted one for several years and it’s on my list. I think a fire pit in the backyard is the perfect way to create a summer Hygge vibe because it’s cozy even if the daytime temperature drops over the course of the evening, it brings out the obvious desire to bust out a guitar and sing some songs, and it’s perfect for one of the most comforting treats on the planet – S’mores!
Whenever I get the chance, I love to toast some marshmallows over an open flame, place them on top of some milk chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers, and enjoy the nostalgia of my campfire youth.
I don’t have the greenest of green thumbs but I do happen to have a front garden that pretty much takes care of itself. We have hostas that attract the oh-so-important bumblebees so we can sit outside and watch them happily buzz from one plant to the next, pollinating the world. We also have a hydrangea plant and lily of the valley plants growing by the truckload. The hydrangea look beautiful while the lily of the valley flowers smell like a delightful perfume all along our front steps.
And that’s nice outside BUT I also regularly bring in some of the Hydrangea flowers – they go into a vase and even when they dry out they still look enormous and beautiful. I also clip some lily of the valley flowers and set them in tiny glasses around the house to spread their beautiful scent. It’s such a simple way to bring the outdoors inside with you.
Go for a picnic!
Nothing says cozy quite like a soft blanket spread out on the grass in a park with some delicious sandwiches. (Or, you know, if you don’t want to sit on the ground, you can just use a picnic table as they are found in most public parks.) It doesn’t have to be fancy. Pinterest can show you all kinds of high-end picnic baskets filled to bursting with feasts and treats. And if that floats your boat then definitely go for it! But you can create a beautiful Summer Hygge vibe without straining yourself.
Keep it simple if that makes it easier and more attainable for you. Believe me, my picnics are not fancy. There is nothing wrong with a stack of PB&J sandwiches, some bottles of water, and a selection of easy fruits. Also, if you want to know the truth, a lot of times when we do our picnics – whether it’s on a hike or at the beach – we bring our small cooler with some ice and we pick up pre-made cold cut sandwiches at the store on our way. Talk about easy!
Invite family and friends over for BBQs
For me the appeal of Hygge is sharing that comfort with people you love. One of our favorite things to do every summer is to have people over on the weekend for a delicious BBQ. We hang out on the deck with some refreshing drinks and some easy snacks (i.e. potato chips or just some quickly sliced cheese served with crackers!) and when our stomachs start growling we fire up the BBQ and make the neighborhood envious with the smell of grilled food. George makes amazing burgers but sometimes we just get a selection of sausages and keep it simple; often we’ll serve whatever we’re eating with pre-made potato salad and pasta salad, with a big green salad on the side.
The point is to enjoy a meal with great people, so make what you love and enjoy the conversation over the grub you serve up.
Speaking of refreshing drinks at the BBQ… For the most part we stick with our usual favorites regardless of the season. That means beer for George and red wine for me. Sometimes it’s nice to switch it up a bit and a fun summer cocktail brings that Summer Hygge Vibe right in to the hot, hazy days. When it gets really hot, I like to sip a cold mojito with a big sprig of mint on top (and to save time I buy it pre-mixed at the liquor store so all I have to do is add ice and mint at home!). If you’re like me and usually drink a full-bodied red, try a cold white Chardonnay or a light rosé wine instead. Even a rum and coke on a warm summer night can hit the spot if it’s not something you normally drink.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. A summer cocktail may end up being your new favorite go-to drink!
Lazy days in the backyard
Life gets so busy sometimes, especially from Fall through Spring when there are school activities, extra-curricular activities, and work. Some days I feel like I spend all my time rushing. Do you recognize this? You rush to work, you rush through your lunch, you rush to catch your bus back home, you rush to have dinner, you rush to get ready for bed so you can repeat it all again the next day. Yeah, me too. You know what does NOT say Hygge? Rushing.
When I have a nice quiet summer weekend or a vacation day, I resist the urge to rush to get a bunch of things done in one short period of time. I’ll take a few hours to be lazy out in the backyard – get out the sunscreen, relax in a chair or on a towel, pop up the umbrella on the deck table, get one of those summer cocktails, and grab a good book. Let’s save the rush mentality for another day and enjoy some lazy down time – and DO NOT feel guilty about it, because we deserve it!
I also love to meditate in my backyard. It definitely helps to slow things down!
(No backyard? No problem. If you’re in an apartment and you have a balcony, you can have a lazy oasis out there too. At one point when we lived in a fourth floor apartment, we had a small inflatable pool that I filled with a big pot carrying water back and forth from the kitchen – the kids sat in it and I put my feet in it while reading at my little bistro table set. And if you don’t even have a balcony, pack up some essentials and head to the nearest park. You probably can’t bring the cocktail unless you’re really sneaky but you CAN pack up that picnic and just spend a few hours in the shade of a big tree.)
Hit the water!
And yes, I do think you need to stay hydrated too (especially if you want something with a bit of alcohol in it later – drink lots of water first!). But what I really mean is get your whole body IN to some water. I will swim just about anywhere – pools, lakes, the ocean. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I love the ocean-side beaches that surround my city, but the water can be cold and the waves make actual swimming a challenge. That’s what will send me to the lake instead where it’s easier to get in because it’s warmer and not as rough. And then other days I really will hit up the local pool and splash around in the chlorine instead. As long as I am refreshing myself in some water, I’m happy. Hygge = comfort and for me water = comfort. (And honestly, sometimes even a cool bath or shower will do when none of the other options are available to me!)
I just kind of find I’m still like a toddler – when a toddler gets cranky or overheated, you can pop them in a bath and they cool down and become happy. I’m much the same way. I can’t be cranky when I’m floating or wading in the water. Find out what swimming options are available near you!
Those are some of my Summer Hygge Vibe ideas.
What about you? What are some of your favorite ways to bring a little bit of the “cozy” we long for in the winter into the hot summer months?
I’m a bit of a bookworm. I always have been, ever since I first learned to read. I was always that kid walking around with her nose stuck in a book – and I mean that literally too. My dad always warned me I was going to hurt myself doing that. Knock on wood, so far so good with remaining reading-injury-free. (I’ve just jinxed myself, of course.)
I also tended to read more than one book on the go. Whatever we were supposed to be reading for high school English had a high chance of not being that interesting to me (curse you, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!) so I would read the mandatory book because I had to while simultaneously reading whatever *I* wanted to enjoy.
A few years back I managed to get in contact with my favorite English teacher from high school and in his email he mentioned that he seemed to recall quite clearly that whenever my work was done I would whip out a paperback copy of something or other and read quietly at my desk.
These days I don’t read quite as voraciously as I used to and I don’t have the brain space to read two or three books all at the same time (if I try that I tend to forget what’s going on in which story). I do still love to read though and I tend to be a little bit panicky if I don’t have something that I actually WANT to read on hand.
Some people have been known to make fun of me for reading ebooks instead of “real” books and there are a ton of book snobs on the internet who turn up their noses at digital book options. I don’t care. First I had a Kindle, then when that died I moved on to using Google Play Books to read digitally instead. And you know, sure, I do love to hold a book in my hands and read the old fashioned way but there are a few reasons I choose digital over print much of the time.
Why I read ebooks instead of “real” books (most of the time)
I can carry around multiple books at once without weighing myself down
Have you ever tried to pack 25 books and carry it around on the off chance that you might suddenly want to read one? Yeah, good luck to you and your shoulders. Even though I carry a backpack to work, I really wouldn’t want to be carrying multiple books in there. It’s a little bit much. But right now I have about 30 books sitting in my digital library. I can carry them all in my phone and/or my tablet and they don’t weigh any more than the device they are stored on. That’s pretty nice. (This is also useful if you’re moving; I have moved an insane number of boxes of books in my life. This is way easier to lug around.)
If I give up on my current book, I probably have at least ten more right there
Once upon a time I used to really try to force myself to finish a book even if I hated it or thought it was boring as hell. It probably stems from my hopeless optimism that maybe a craptacular book will suddenly become amazing by the next chapter. Many years ago I realized that this is incredibly stupid. If you’re not being graded on it in English class then it’s just not necessary. Life is short; I don’t have the time to sit and slog through a book that is not interesting to me. I have a to-read list that is enormous and grows bigger rather than smaller all the time. If a book is not working for me, then I’m done with it.
It’s nice for me to be sitting at work on my break and to be able to stop reading a shitty book and start a new one in its place on the spot instead of having to wait until I go home.
I can hear about a book, decide I want it, order it, and start it immediately
People who love to read also seek out other people who love to read. When we do, we talk about what we’re reading and more than once I have thought, “ooh, I must read that too!” I also work upstairs from a book store (this is not healthy for me) and I look at the books on display at least a couple of times every week. I almost always come away with a title that I want to read.
In either of these cases, I can go online and order that book, download it straight to my device, and start reading it all within a matter of mere minutes. It’s fantastic.
I can borrow books from the library without worry
I’ve been using the Overdrive app lately which connects to your local library (I believe it works in North America, but may be available in other parts of the world too). I can log in to my library and seek out a book to read from their digital collection. If it’s available I “check it out” and download it immediately. Once I’m done I can simply click to return or else it will just disappear once it expires. If the book isn’t available on the spot then I can place a hold on it. Whenever it’s ready for me I get an email advising me that such-and-such a book has been automatically checked out for me and I can go grab it. I never have to worry about a fine because I don’t have to physically take anything back, and I don’t have the inconvenience of having to rush to the library for a pickup because a hold comes in at an inopportune time.
I use the app now for my library books AND for my own collection.
It is SO much easier on my eyes
This is probably the big one for me.
I love holding a book in my hands and turning the pages. I really do. But I’m not getting any younger and neither are my eyes which were always bad to begin with. I just hooked up my laptop to a 32″ screen TV recently and I’m already marveling at how much easier it is to read and write on such a large screen. See, books are static. If the type is really tiny it makes it much harder for me to read. This is especially true at night after a long day – and that’s when I tend to do most of my reading, at night in bed with a cup of tea, before going to sleep. If my eyes are tired then I end up squinting and often give up and stop reading sooner than I might like.
On the other hand, if I’m reading an ebook on my tablet then I have the option to increase the font size. Yes, it makes me feel really old to have to bump up the text and to have to “turn the page” more often because fewer words now fit on the page, but I don’t care. At least I’m reading. Which leads me to my next and final point.
Reading is reading is reading
I don’t see any reason to feel bad about not reading a physical book. I’m still reading. The method may be different but the story is still exactly the same whether it’s ink on a page or e-ink on a screen. I still get the same start, middle, and end to the book as someone with a paperback copy.
I can think of other reasons to enjoy digital reading too, to be honest
It’s cheaper. As much as I might want to support an author that I love, I am not made of money and ebooks are almost always cheaper.
I hate hardcover books. They’re heavy and cumbersome to hold, but if I want to read a book that’s brand new I’m probably stuck with hardcover. But not if I purchase a downloadable copy! (Also, hardcovers are way expensive, see point above.)
Some people think there’s a bit of a separation between slow living and digital living but I don’t. By using ebooks to get access to books quickly and easily, I’m more readily able to curl up in bed with a great story any time I want. That sounds like slow living to me!
(And holding a tablet to read in bed when you’re tired is much easier than holding a heavy hardcover!)
How about you? Are you a fan of ebooks or do you refuse to read them?
PS I’m currently reading The Child Finder on my library app and it is pretty good. My favorite books so far this year were the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman (all four books in the series were AMAZING and I liked them more than The Hunger Games or Divergent – yay dystopian series!) and They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera. Despite the spoiler-iffic title, I’ve been recommending the latter to everyone who enjoys reading in any capacity.
I know, it’s funny for ME of all people to be talking about the bright side of winter.
Anyone who has known me for more than a few minutes knows that I’m a die-hard summer fanatic. I love the sun and the heat and even a little bit of humidity (I was less enthused about humidity back when I lived in Montreal where it can be utterly disgusting in the middle of the season; Halifax makes it way more bearable!). I’m also that one person everyone knows who is always cold. I’m currently sitting at my laptop while wearing thick jogging pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, a pullover hoodie, and I have the space heater humming beside me. Even with all that I’m still side-eyeing my grandmother’s quilt and wondering if I can navigate typing if I drape it over my shoulders.
The struggle is real.
So obviously I’m not exactly thrilled when we enter the long winter season. It gets dark so early and the temperatures drop, we often get long stretches of grey skies, and we either get rain or snow. This winter we’re actually getting a boomerang back and forth between them, going from snow to freezing rain to rain to flash freezes to dry roads to snow, and lather-rinse-repeat.
All that to say that I am counting down to the warmer months when I can go to the beach and drink my weekend morning coffee on the back deck and sit outside until 10 pm without getting shivery. All that being said though, yes, there ARE some bright spots in the otherwise bleak winter, I just learned that I have to look a little harder for them sometimes.
Here are some things that make MY winter a little bit brighter.
Really enjoying a hot cup of tea.
Cold days, hot tea
Obviously you can drink hot tea at any time of year. In fact, even in the hottest days of summer I will still drink hot coffee in the morning and hot tea at night. I’m not a big fan of iced coffee or tea to be honest. But there’s just something extra cozy about a steamy cup of tea on a cold day at any hour. The feeling of wrapping my chilly fingers around a hot mug is so satisfying. It’s just something that isn’t quite as full of anticipation when it’s a sweltering hot summer evening.
Curling up with a bunch of fuzzy blankets and a book.
Reading and blankets, the best combo!
In the summer my favorite place in my entire home to read is my back deck. In the winter my deck is often covered in snow or ice so it loses its rank for obvious reasons. At that point my two favorite places for reading are my living room (in the recliner chair) and my bed. They’re tied because both work well with a pile of blankets and whatever I’m reading. Bonus points if I’m in my fleece pajamas and have a cup or the aforementioned tea. (And extra bonus points for cute mugs!)
Soup! So much soup!
One giant bowl of soup please and thank you!
I can’t speak for everyone but I know that I almost never eat soup in the summer. It’s just less appealing unless I happen to catch a summer cold. In the winter though, I can eat soup for any occasion. Sick with a cold? Soup. Recovering from the flu? Soup. First day eating after a fun bout of gastro? Soup. Wednesday afternoon? Soup. I love it, especially if it’s nice and thick (versus something more broth-like). In fact I had a whole can of split pea soup to myself today for no reason other than it was a friggin cold winter day. It helped. And no, I did not share.
Time for play!
Attack of the snow zombies
Okay, personally I prefer to play around when it’s not below freezing but if there’s snow down on the ground anyway, I must admit it’s fun to put on the snow pants and thick gloves and head out for a little goofing around. Breanna and I made this silly scene of a snowman zombie attack and it was so much fun that we made one in the back yard AND one in the front. I hope the one in the front yard brought a chuckle to anyone passing by.
Creative photoshoots in the snow
As someone with a photo-taking compulsion it would be really tempting for me to put a big fat hold on any kind of photoshoots until the weather warms up. And admittedly, it’s not always easy to set up a shot when it’s snowing, the wind is blowing, and your fingers are freezing as you fiddle with buttons and timers. But it’s worth it because some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken of myself have been out in the snow. The trick is to use a self timer, find something to prop up your phone safely (like a glass) or use a tripod for your camera, and have a sense of humor.
Slightly insane yogi
And also a sense of crazy. That helps a lot too.
Winter is so beautiful
Well, usually anyway. It loses its beauty a bit when it starts turning to slush out on the streets and it’s hard to see how pretty it all is when you’re shoveling the end of your driveway for the 5th time because the plows keep pushing the snow back in every time they go by. But there’s a lot to be said about how rich a blue sky looks in the winter or how the snow sparkles. Even after a bout of freezing rain you’ll find the trees shine like diamonds. It truly is a beautiful season when you can look at it with the right frame of mind.
Bring back summer
I am still looking forward to summer. My sandals and my shorts and my bathing suit are all waiting. I know it’s coming. Eventually. But in the meantime I will try to punctuate my countdown with a little bit of gratitude for this harsh season.
I have not been a fan of this year, health-wise. It’s not like I’ve had any major health issues; I haven’t been hospitalized or even had to go to the ER this year (*knocking furiously on wood because this damn year is not over yet!*). But honestly, I think my immune system has gone on vacation somewhere warm and sunny without me because I have used up every single sick day I have available to me and then some. It’s ridiculous.
Granted some of my sick days are taken up by other people like, you know, my kids. If one of them is sick and needs me I will call in. Even with that being said though, I have taken way too many sick days for myself in the past 365 days. I’ve kind of had enough and I’m doing some reading to see what I can do to boost my immune system besides wearing a mask at all times or enclosing myself in a bubble.
(I work in an office with over 400 people, not to mention the public transit that I use for commuting purposes every day. I am exposed to a ridiculous amount of god-knows-what germs every damn day.)
In the meantime though, I’ve gotten the whole concept of surviving a sick day practically down to a science. Here’s how I get through sick days, as recently as last week, in no particular order.
I mean, I’m a big fan of soup in general so it makes sense for me to turn to a big steaming bowl of goodness when I’m not at my best. When I’m sick though, I just really crave it and sometimes it’s all I want – or can – eat. If I’m SUPER sick with a Cold From Hell then I might want some chicken noodle soup but that’s pretty desperate for me. It’s not one of my favorites so if you see me slurping up noodles and little slivers of poultry from a bowl of yellow liquid, you know there’s something wrong. In fact, my taste buds may not be working. For the most part though, I lean towards my favorite sick day comfort soup – a can of French-Canadian split pea soup with plenty of cracked black pepper on top. I prefer it without the ham (though I can eat it if that’s the only one I have on hand) and sometimes I like to throw some cooked rice in there too. Mostly though, just give me a bowl of the soup and enough black pepper to make you sneeze.
2. Nap time!
I am not a napper. In theory I would love to take naps because I’m often tired due to my inability to maintain an early bedtime. But here’s the problem – naps make me really groggy and SUPER cranky. They always sound like a great idea but the execution usually leaves me feeling worse than I did before. The only exception to this is if I’m not feeling well. If I’m sick then I just kind of want to be unconscious because then I can’t feel what’s going on in my head/sinuses/throat/stomach/whatever. I don’t usually make my way up to my bed but I will frequently spend a sick day with the recliner chair pulled out, a blanket over me, totally conked out for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour at a time.
3. Questionable, but easy television.
One of the bright sides to calling in sick is getting to turn on some of the daytime talk TV that I love. If I stay home from work I will hurry back home after taking Breanna to school, then I hop back into my pajamas (or my onesie*) to curl up on the aforementioned recliner. I will snooze during the remainder of the morning news, then I’ll watch the opening segment of Kelly and Ryan because I have loved Kelly Ripa for years. Then I might snooze some more and eat some soup and feel pitiful until several hours later when I watch The Social which is my FAVORITE daytime talk show of all. In between I often put the nature channel on so I can alternate between whining and dozing while looking at waterfalls or fields in Tuscany.**
*No I’m not kidding, a onesie. It’s the best thing ever when you’re shivery.
**Okay, seriously, I also do a lot of this on random vacation days or holidays too.
4. A hot steamy shower.
I would say a bath but I’m not really a bath fan. I’d rather just shower and stand in the steam because sitting in a hot bath just makes me feel sweaty and gross. Maybe if I had whirlpool jets or an abundance of bath bombs I’d change my mind, but I’d really rather hit the shower. The thing is, if I’m sick I’m tired and cranky and I don’t want to bother, but if I’ve learned anything being a parent it’s that putting a tired and cranky person into warm water helps everything. If I’m stuffed up, the steam helps clear things out a little. If I’m just feeling icky and achy, the hot water is soothing. Eventually it just feels great for a little while, and when I get out I’m all mellow and usually resort back to tip #2. Often while still wrapped in my towel even, but I digress.
(I don’t recommend washing your hair on a sick day unless you must because then you’re stuck with cold damp hair and the effort of using a blow dryer and really, screw that.)
5. Gentle yoga + meditation.
And I do mean gentle. This isn’t the time to bust out fast-paced, sweat-inducing Vinyasa flows or to try to nail a headstand. This is the time to quietly fold this way and that way, holding poses for longer than usual. No, no one who is sick really wants to exercise per se, but gentle Yin yoga poses will coax out all the aches and pains and relax even the most exhausted body. Meditation is good because I’ll use some visualization techniques to picture the illness/virus being removed from my body with every exhale; as woo-woo as that sounds, it feels better. Even if I’m exhausted I’ll try to at least do a few yoga moves and meditation minutes, even if I have to do it right on my bed. It’s especially nice to do it at night after the hot shower because it leads to the next tip.
If you do want to try some yoga in bed, I have a video with a simple beginner-friendly drift-off-to-sleep routine that you can do!
6. An early bedtime.
I’m not a morning person. I don’t go to bed at 9 pm and rise with the sun. At least not willingly. I am – have always been, and probably always will be – a night owl. On work nights it’s a miracle if I’m in bed before 11 pm and on weekends I’m frequently up well past midnight or even 1 am. Granted I fall asleep quickly 99.99% of the time but I am not early-to-bed-early-to-rise. When I’m sick though, you can tell because you’ll see me make a hot cup of tea (I could have dedicated a whole point to that too, come to think of it – tea is a bit of a miracle), crawl into bed to drink it, and then I’m passed out by 10 pm. There’s no denying my health is not up to snuff when that happens, but it helps so much if I can get 8-9 (or 10!) hours of sleep instead of my usual 7-8 hours.
7. If all else fails, whine
No. I know. It really doesn’t help. It doesn’t do any good in general and it just annoys everyone in the vicinity. But you know what? Tough. If I don’t feel well, you’ll know. Because I will whine and fuss and kick things and tell you.
Sometimes that’s all I need, is just a little vent, and then I follow steps one through six and get on my way to feeling better.
How about you? How do you cope with a sick day? What’s your favorite personal remedy to feel just a little bit better?
And if you have any immune-boosting tips that you swear by, I’d love to hear those too, because this year is almost over and I am damn well determined to have a better health season next year! Leave me some comments down below to let me know!
This isn’t quite what you’d call a motivational confession but – I love being unproductive.
If you pop on to Pinterest or just about any large magazine-type site you’ll find a ton of articles all about how to squeeze the most productivity out of your day. How to fit in some kind of breathtaking bit of brilliance in between supper, washing up, prepping lunches, and getting to bed. How to multitask so that you can clear out your to-do list while simultaneously folding laundry and showering.
That’s great! Sometimes life is busy and you really do need to get 37 things done between the time your alarm wakes you up and the time your exhausted head hits the pillow.
But does every moment really need to be spent doing something productive? What happened to relaxing and just breathing and not doing anything in particular? I think there’s a pretty good argument in defense of being unproductive, to be honest!
There’s a great British expression (and once again I’m reminded that I wish I was more British than just by the ancestry gene pool because there are so many great expressions that you just can’t say outside of the UK without sounding like a bloody wanker – see what I did there?) called “faffing” and I want to adopt it as my personal motto.
The definition of faffing is essentially to waste time by doing useless or unnecessary tasks. It’s the exact opposite of the culture of busy-ness or productivity. Faffing is a very delightful albeit lazy way to spend a day to recover from being productive 40+ hours per week.
Obviously I can’t just lie around drinking tea and flipping through the pages of a book all the live-long day every day. I do have a job that requires me to leave the house and you know, do something from 10 am to 6 pm every Monday to Friday. I also have certain evenings where I might have to rush home from work straight to one of the schools for some kind of event that the kids have going on, and on Saturdays I take Breanna to dance class, then we usually run errands before getting home.
However, I have definitely embraced the concept of slowing down when I don’t have to be go-go-go all the time. I consider it a survival necessity to be honest. If you never ever stop and let yourself do “nothing” then your stress levels are eventually going to explode. I can’t let myself get to that point.
Every single weeknight I have the same ritual. After I’ve cleaned up the kitchen (George cooks most of the time so I wash the dishes), prepped the lunches for the next day, had my shower (yes, I’m a night shower person, I have no interest in getting up earlier than I already do), and said good night to everyone I go into the kitchen. I make myself a cup of tea and scrounge up a small snack like a couple of cookies or a chocolate bar. Then I take it all up to the bedroom and I either enjoy it while reading a book in bed or perusing the internet at my desk in the corner.
Tea and snacks in bed.
Is there something else I could be doing with that evening time? Oh, probably. But why? If I’ve been on the go since I rolled out of bed at 7 am, why on earth do I HAVE to be productive at 9 pm too? Hell no. That’s unwind before bed time for me, no exceptions.
I also focus on a slow living approach on the weekends. I try to spend a good deal of it in a state of non-productivity. Of course there are things that still need to get done. It’s easier to get some housecleaning in on a Saturday, and I also do laundry on the weekend. If I have some freelance work to do I will usually do that on one of those two days as well; I try to do it in the evenings throughout the week sometimes but my brain is often pretty fried by the time I get to sit down and work on anything.
Aside from those things, I generally fit in a whole lot of down time. I’ll read whatever book I have on the go, catch up on TV shows that we’ve missed during the week, wander about outside, take photos of whatever catches my eye, or just put my feet up. I think it’s important to have quiet moments in between the absolute necessities.
But I don’t WANT to be productive all day long
There seems to be a guilt trip with productivity and people are so fond of using “oh my GOD I’ve been SO BUSY LATELY” as a badge of honor. I don’t know why. I am definitely not a member of the Culture Of Busy no matter what the first part of my domain says. After all, it’s “Busy ZEN Life” right? If I’ve learned anything about myself it’s that if I have too much busy time and not enough “faffing” time I get cranky, run down, and stressed out. It’s not a good combination. It almost always leads to me dealing with anxiety or getting sick. Or both.
I don’t believe in feeling guilty for choosing to relax and have a slow afternoon. It’s like the oxygen mask on the planes. If I don’t take care of myself when I need to then I’m not going to be much use for the other tasks in my life. It’s not a guilty pleasure – it’s a necessary break that we all need.
Do you feel guilty about being purposefully unproductive? Leave me a comment and tell me if you do! And if you’re already a slow living pro then tell me your favorite way to just chill out.
There are a ton of reasons why we should get to bed early – or at least early enough to help us land in the coveted window of 7-9 hours of sleep. I often fail to get inside that window, or if I do it’s just hovering around the 7-hour mark. I can’t help it though. I’ve tried, believe me. I chronically stay up too late over and over again. And every time I get into bed – whatever the clock says – I feel so amazing that I think to myself, “you know, I really should get more sleep more often!” But I fail over and over again and here are the reasons why.
I am a night owl by nature.
It doesn’t matter that I live by a schedule that says otherwise. I work the shift I do (10 am to 6 pm) because it fits my life. I have two kids who need to be roused from sleep to go to school and one still needs to be walked to school. I also like to be home in time to eat supper with my family and spend some quality evening time with them.
When I worked 1 pm to 9 pm for awhile the worst part was missing out on those meals and family time (the second worst part was I still had to get up early to take them to school even though I didn’t have to leave home myself until 11:30 each morning). That’s why I was so happy to switch to my current shift; I still had to get up early but at least I finished early enough to be with my whole family when I got home.
That doesn’t change my own natural rhythm though. Unless I have seriously burned the candle at both ends or I’m coming down with a cold or virus, I will almost always get a wake-up boost in the early evening. Even if I was falling asleep on the commute home from work, odds are very high that I will be wide awake by 8 pm.
Then cue the whole thing to cycle again tomorrow. I can’t help it. It’s how I’m wired.
Getting to bed early is tough for night owls - and so is getting up in the morning! Click To Tweet
The late evenings are when I do stuff.
As noted above, I’m not a morning person. I am in awe of people who wake up at 5 am (or earlier!) in order to workout, meditate, write, I don’t know what else. I also know I’m not going to be that person. I prefer to run after work, not before. If I try to meditate at the ass-crack of dawn, I’m going to fall asleep two minutes in. Writing? I can barely talk when I first get up, I can only imagine the absolute gibberish that I would write in the dark morning hours.
So I do those things in the evening. If I want to run I’m out the door by 7 pm for a 5K or so. My meditation can pop up at multiple times of the day but I do most of my concentrated zen in the evening when the house is quiet(ish). My writing may pop up on the weekends at varying hours but most of it happens after 10 pm. It’s just when I have the time to do it.
Would I love to write at 2 pm so I don’t have to do it at 10 pm? Well sure, but seeing as I’m at work at that time, I have to do what I can when I can. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell me I should go to bed. I KNOW I should but when the hell will I ever get anything done?!
It’s my ME time.
When I get up in the morning I get myself and the kids ready for the day (George can handle himself). Then I get on a bus and head downtown. These days, traffic in Halifax is so ridiculous that I tend to get there with just enough time to grab my coffee and get into work to start my shift. I work for eight hours (usually squeezing in Instagram work on my breaks, though I save lunch for reading). I sit on a bus and come home.
After arriving at home, if I’m not running (and let’s be honest, these days I am a horrible slacker) then I sit and have a glass of wine and chat with George. We eat supper as a family, and since George usually makes supper during the week, I take care of cleaning up the kitchen. Once that’s done it’s a whirlwind of prepping/packing lunches for the next day, hopping in and out of the shower, and maybe watching a TV show with everyone.
And then it’s 10 pm so everyone goes to bed. George usually goes to bed at that time too, and although Hayley usually stays up, she’s in her room and Breanna is sound asleep within minutes. This leaves me with a whole block of time that is just for me. Because I need to work so I can afford to live, and I love to spend time with my family, but I also need time where I just do whatever I want to do.
Sure, I could sleep, but is sleep really ME time? No, it’s sleep time. And while I need that sleep time to stay healthy, I also need me time to stay sane(ish). And it really doesn’t matter what I do. Sometimes I use that time to follow an online course that I’m doing, sometimes I watch videos on YouTube, sometimes I read, sometimes I write, sometimes I scroll through social media. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m being productive or whether I’m just faffing about, as long as I’m having my nightly cup of green tea and enjoying myself, that is ME TIME. And I need it.
The evening is my ME time
Eventually I will get so tired that I go to bed earlier.
Usually, anyway. Sometimes it hits me during the week and I run into a solid brick wall of Tired. Or I catch whatever fun germs are floating around my office (or whatever equally fun germs the kids bring home from school for me) and I have to go to bed early. Often I am able to make it through the full week and I just sleep a little longer on the weekends.
The thing is, I know that those 7-9 hours of sleep are really important. I do. But I get up at 7 am on weekdays. At best, I could go to bed at midnight (and I often do) and get seven hours. If I want those NINE hours of sleep, I’d have to be in bed by 10 pm. That means I’m not doing anything other than the daily routine with no time for anything else. That’s just not going to happen.
What is your sleep like? Do you get as many hours as you need? Are you a morning lark or a night owl? And when are you getting stuff done? Let me know in the comments!
I’ve done a lot of things over the years to work on managing my anxiety and also the stress levels that create even MORE anxiety. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to anxiety and panic attacks, less is truly more!
I started off by learning to do yoga in my living room back in 2010. In 2012 I added running – something I used to do on the cross country team back in high school. I also worked on meditation in fits and spurts. Right now I am at 207 consecutive days of meditation.
All of these things have helped. I find yoga works great as an overall prevention method, running is perfect for burning off stress (I’ve had some of my most epic runs after a rough day), and meditation is a good way to help keep anxiety at bay while also being a useful tool for dealing with it in the moment.
That being said, there are also some books that I’ve read that have really helped me on my journey as well and I wanted to share some of them with you, in no particular order.
(*Note: Links are affiliate links which means you don’t pay a penny more but Amazon will give me a percentage of your purchase. I also received the book The Fearless Path for review purposes but all opinions are strictly my own. All other books were purchased by me or given to me as gifts. Onward!)
Books that have helped me on my anti-anxiety journey:
1. Journey to Joyful – Dashama Konah
Dashama was my very first yoga teacher. I had been toying with the idea of trying out some yoga for a long time partly because of a perpetual ache in my legs and partly because of my constant anxiety levels. One day I couldn’t take any more leg pain and I searched for a simple routine on YouTube. The only term I really knew was “Sun Salutation” so I looked for that and lo and behold, I came across Dashama. I practiced yoga with her online daily for a really long time and even though I don’t practice the physical asana of yoga every day anymore, when I do feel like following a routine I still look her up.
Dashama’s book Journey to Joyful is her very simple and easy to follow breakdown of how to use physical yoga, meditation, diet, movement, and perception to create your own joyful life – whatever that looks like. I’ve read it multiple times and still like to refer to it from time to time. Because yoga helped so much in my personal journey with anxiety, reading Dashama’s expansion on yoga on AND off the mat really struck a chord with me.
The whole book is just as down to earth as she is in her videos.
This book was sent to me by Leah’s PR representative and I was interested in checking it out to see what it was about. It is a really great and approachable method of using chakras and meditation to help heal trauma, fear, and heartache. I’m lucky enough to not have dealt with much trauma in my life nor have I been heartbroken in a long time, but fear and anxiety go hand in hand so it was a handy read for me.
Admittedly I am already very familiar with chakras due to my years of yoga and meditation practice. I was extremely skeptical the first time I heard of them – invisible energy channels in the body? Really? Whatever. Except the first time I ever did a chakra meditation I was blown away by the experience. Suffice it to say that I’m a full blown believer in the chakra system.
What’s fantastic about this book is that it was still an interesting insight for me even with my experience, but it’s also written in a way that makes it very easy to understand if you are just wading into the chakra waters for the very first time. (And if you’re a skeptic like I was, pick up a copy, set aside your doubts, and give chakra healing a try. It’s more powerful than you might believe right now!)
“Be Here Now” is practically the be all, end all of meditation mantras isn’t it? It’s in our nature to stress about things from the past and worry about things that may possibly happen in the future, but at the end of the day we can really only – yes – be here now. Ram Dass wrote about his experiences of transitioning from a Harvard professional to a man experimenting with the transcendental powers of LSD to wandering through India learning from holy men.
I know, I know. Acid. But this isn’t the story of someone getting high and then calling it spiritual. This was a man actually studying the brain and meditation and so much more.
It was a fascinating book to look through and it’s also beautiful. Once you’re done reading the first section that recaps Ram Dass’ life, it turns into a notepad of sorts, printed on brown paper sharing the insights that he learned over time. It’s fascinating, whether to actually take anything away from it in practice or not.
(Please don’t turn to LSD. You can just meditate, I promise.)
This story absolutely FASCINATED me. Dan Harris was reading a news segment on a live broadcast in front of millions of people when he had a panic attack, couldn’t continue, and threw it back over to his colleagues who feared he’d had some sort of stroke or other medical emergency.
He became determined to get on top of what he soon learned was anxiety and panic attacks but was extremely skeptical of meditation. However, when nothing else worked for him, he decided to give it a try and to his surprise it began to work.
This book is possibly the least woo-woo book on meditation that you will ever find. Dan sticks a lot to the science of meditation and explains his experiences as well as how and why they worked. He’s also a pretty funny guy – the description of his time at a silent meditation retreat had me giggling more than once.
It’s perfect for the person who rolls their eyes at spirituality but still wants to get in on the brain-changing powers of meditation.
It bears mentioning that Rebekah is someone that I have been following online for many years and who has now become someone I consider a friend. That doesn’t mean this is a biased review though. I came across Rebekah when I started doing her fitness videos on YouTube an eon ago. Over time, she shared less about workouts and more about her spiritual side and my interest in her videos and blog posts grew even more.
Rebekah is the queen of getting your “OM” done in four minutes of time. She’s too busy as a mom of five and an entrepreneur to sit for hours on a mountain top chanting. Instead she has helped to heal her own anxiety and depression by carving out small spaces of time – yes, even four minutes – to practice meditation.
Her book uses a beautiful combination of personal stories – many of which you have not come across online – and easy-to-apply meditation techniques to cover everything from stress to anxiety to grief. If meditation scares you because you think it’s too complicated, this is the book for you.
Those are some that have helped me tremendously. Now it’s your turn!
Please tell me some of your favorite mind-shift books that have helped you to reduce your stress or relieve your anxiety. Hey, even if it’s more of an overall personal development book, I’d love to know too!
Leave me a comment below so I can make sure I’m not missing out of an amazing, life-changing book!
Any time I get stuck dealing with anxiety or a panic attack, there are a few things that race through my brain every single time. They include things like:
“Can anyone tell this is happening? I don’t want anyone to know.”
“Breathe, breathe, breathe, I’m okay, breathe, breathe…”
“I hate anxiety, this is so STUPID, what is wrong with me?!”
And so on.
There’s also one other thing that almost always pops up in my head during these moments: “How can I make this stop?”
After a bit of research and experimentation, I found one thing that works really well at stopping anxiety really fast is using something that is easily accessible – my five senses.
How I stop anxiety fast using my 5 senses
Yep! Sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. They have helped me derail a panic attack before it starts more than once. Here’s how it works for me.
I will look around me and ask myself, “what do I see?” Instead of going for the obvious of, say, “a white wall in front of me,” I will try to seek out something less in-my-face. I’ll tell myself, “I see a purple candle” or “I see a red car out the window.”
“What do I hear?” If I’m at home, I might say, “I hear George playing guitar downstairs and Breanna dancing in the living room.” If I’m mid-commute on my way to work, I can tell myself, “I hear the revving of the bus engine running.” Whatever sounds are around me, I might try to pick out up to three distinct ones. At work that could mean, “I hear my co-worker talking on the phone, I hear someone laughing down the hall, and I hear the quiet hum of the air conditioner.”
I’ll take a deep breath in through the nose (which is good for calming anxiety and stopping the hyperventilation effect anyway) and ask, “what can I smell?” Ideally the answers are all pleasant ones but even if they’re not, I’ll acknowledge them. “I smell vanilla from the candle that’s burning on my shelf.” Maybe “I smell fresh air blowing through the window.” Even the unfortunate, “I smell diesel exhaust from the car in front of me.” Good or bad, I just name what it is.
Okay. Next, “what do I taste right now?” This is easy if I’ve just eaten something or have a candy in my mouth. “I taste the curry from my lunch.” “I taste the peppermint from this minty candy I popped in my mouth.” Even if I haven’t eaten anything in particular recently, every mouth has a taste so I might have to seek out the right description but even, “hmm, my mouth tastes metallic” or “I sense a weird bitter taste” will work.
Finally, “what can I touch?” I don’t just go with simply saying that I can feel the table or my sweater, I describe it to myself. “I am touching a smooth, cool desk.” If I put my hand on my arm I can say, “I am touching a really soft, plush sweater.” Anything that I can reach out and touch or hold in my hands is a good option. I carry a Worry Stone of sorts in my purse, along with a mala so sometimes I will grab them and I am able to say, “I am touching a hard, smooth stone” or “I am touching my tiger’s eye mala and it is really cold.”
6. Bonus – Feel!
Perfect, so now I have covered what I can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. I always try to aim for at least one for each category, sometimes multiple items for each. Now, here’s a bonus sense – Feel.
It’s not the same as the sense of touch. Feel is internal in this case. I will go through all five senses and then check in to ask myself how I currently FEEL.
I especially like to do this as a Before & After trick. Before starting the five basic senses I will ask myself how I feel and I might answer with something like, “I feel dizzy. I feel out of control. I feel scared.” It almost sounds counter-intuitive because often a first instinct is to try to ignore those things. If I refuse to acknowledge them, they’ll go away, right? Well, sometimes but not always. Naming those feelings actually creates a feeling of control and power.
Then once I have named how I feel and gone through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, I ask myself again – “How do I feel?” Hopefully by this time I can say, “I feel calmer. I feel grounded. I feel safe.”
Even if it’s not a perfect drop from Level 10 on the Anxiety scale to Level 1, at least I am usually at a lower point of stress and panic that I was when I started the whole process. If I’m not satisfied, I will start over, finding different answers to each question.
Why does it work?
It really comes down to distraction. In this case it’s distraction with a purpose because I’m asking myself the questions and seeking out the answers. The amygdala, the most ancient part of the human brain, is responsible for the “fight or flight” mechanism humans have. It kept us all safe at one time and still can, but many of us – myself included – have a broken fight or flight switch. My trip-wire in my amygdala gets flipped on for no good reason 99% of the time.
Luckily, because the amygdala is so primitive, it can’t focus on fear when the rest of the brain is engaged in something distracting or logical. If I force my brain to pay attention to my five senses, the shouting panic of the amygdala can no longer override my reactions and I inevitably calm down.
It has worked countless times for me. I find it has the best and fastest results if I’m paying attention and feel the anxiety building up. If I’m in full-blown panic mode then it’s a bit harder to focus on my senses; it still works but it might take 2-3 cycles instead of just one.
Did you just try it? Let me know in the comments if it helped! Better yet, share this post on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest and tag someone who needs to try this too!
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We’re pretty laid back in this house. Other than a brief period of time where I worried Hayley would never eat a vegetable EVER (now she’d rather eat vegetables than meat), I’ve never really stressed out about food or meal times. We DO have a few family kitchen rules though. See if any of them sound familiar.
Household Kitchen Rules
Don’t talk with your mouth full so you don’t choke to death.
Seriously. No one can understand you anyway because all that pasta is muffling your vocal chords. Also, I really want to eat this meal too, and trying to do the Heimlich or calling 911 is going to get in the way of that. I totally want to hear a long explanation of the newest add-on to Minecraft but finish chewing first okay?
And while you’re eating and chewing and swallowing before you talk, let’s try to make healthy choices more often than not. If I’m being fully transparent, there are weeks where we are So.Damn.Busy that we buy frozen lasagna or Shepherd’s Pie from the store. It’s gross and doesn’t taste as good as fresh, but when you’ve got eight hundred activities in one week, homemade lasagna is NOT happening on a Wednesday night.
I don’t really care for food in a box that’s stuffed full of MSG shit because that’s not good for any of us. Luckily George starts and finishes work early enough that he can make some pretty tasty food most days and I fill in on the other days; we keep it to a minimum for the disgusting (yet strangely appealing) microwaveable meals.
For the love of all that is holy, use your cutlery, you are not a toddler.
Are we having chicken wings or ribs? Then by all means, go to town with your fingers and please try to remember to use a napkin once in awhile. But if we’re having steak or a quinoa skillet or spaghetti, stop picking that up with your hands, were you raised by wolves? Spoiler alert: No, you were not. Use a fork and knife!
Speaking of using your cutlery, how about using that fork to try something before you decide you don’t like it? We’ve always been lucky; neither kid is spectacularly picky but every once in awhile I have heard the, “I don’t think I’ll like that” whine. I am not the kind of parent who will force my child to clear their plate and eat food they can’t stand. If Hayley doesn’t want a pork chop but eats her potatoes, vegetables, and salad, I’m good. But I’ve always asked both kids to at least try a new food before deciding it’s not their thing.
P.S. If you already know you don’t like something, please stick with a “no thank you” or “I didn’t enjoy that last time.” There is zero need for “that is DISGUSTING” unless it’s organ meat, because that is DISGUSTING.
Practice basic etiquette so you don’t look like a wild animal if you’re eating in public some day.
Like I already said, we’re pretty laid back in this family. This isn’t Buckingham Palace. We burp and we laugh and we knock stuff over and that’s fine. We’re real people. But at least some basic etiquette is always appreciated. See point number one about not constantly talking with your mouth full. And chew with your mouth closed. (PLEASE. I do not want to hear you chewing.) And don’t wipe your mouth on your sleeve, that’s why we have napkins on the table*. I don’t care if neither one of my kids can identify a salad fork vs a main dish fork or knows what a “palette cleanser” course is. I do want them to be able to eat in front of other people without looking like they were just rescued from a deserted island though.
And once you’ve got those basic table skills locked down, maybe expand on the “try it first” rule and swap it out for “try it again”. Sometimes you need to try something more than once to decide you like it. Now, I tried blood pudding once and I 100% assure you that one time was plenty and no, I do not want any ever again, thank you so much. On the other hand, I used to think I hated mashed potatoes. What was I thinking? I must have been in a weird childhood phase because clearly mashed potatoes are delicious and go with any occasion. Had I never tried them again I would have missed out on one of the best food ever. (Also, I’m part Irish, what was wrong with me?!)
This rule has backfired sometimes though. My kids didn’t like scallops but then they tried them again, and now I have to share my damn scallops with them. Sigh.
*We may not actually have napkins some nights. That’s when we bust out a fresh roll of toilet paper. Classy.
We aren’t your personal servants, get up and clear your plate.
Seriously. I am your mother. That guy over there is your father. Neither of us is paid to be your wait staff. Last time I checked, you have two functional arms and two functional legs, EACH. Clearly there is no reason for you to be unable to get up, clear your plate off, and deposit it into the sink. And hint: You can also put condiments and whatnot back into the fridge just because you want to help, you don’t have to wait to be asked. Yeah.
The family pitch-in to help clean up after supper is doable because we also try really hard to have family dinners most of the time. Breakfast is sort of grab-as-you-can. George is usually gone to work before I’m out of bed, and during the school year Hayley prefers to eat something simple once she gets to school so Breanna eats cereal at the table and I eat toast while I catch the news. Our lunches are scattered too. But other than the occasional event, not much gets in the way of our family dinners.
When I first started working outside the home I got put in a 1 pm – 9 pm shift and it killed me to not have supper with my family all week long. Now that I’m on a 10 am – 6 pm shift I’m home pretty much every night to eat with everyone and we don’t take it for granted. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it’s silly, and sometimes it’s laid back, but I always love eating with my whole family.
Don’t hog the conversation (one family member is still working on that, won’t name names but it may rhyme with Breanna).
Those family dinners I mentioned are great but it’s easy for it to become some sort of situation where one person is practically holding court and no one else can talk. More than once I’ve opened my mouth to speak only to have someone steamroll right over me until I eventually have to shout, “hey, can I talk too?!” It works. Usually. But in all honestly, those times where we’re gathered around the table eating a good meal allow everyone to touch base. It’s where I share some crazy work story, George tells me about something ridiculous that was covered in political news, and the kids keep us up to date on school.
On the other hand, because we DO want the conversation, we keep a tight limit on device use at the table. Sometimes when George would be out in the past, I would announce a “read at the table” night where I would bring my eReader, Breanna would bring a book, and Hayley would watch something on YouTube on her phone. We don’t do it all the time, but once in awhile it’s kind of a fun way to just chill while you eat. Your mileage may vary but I strongly recall when I was a kid, sitting at the table alone with my meal and a stack of Archie comic books so I don’t mind doing it from time to time.
Those are our basic rules.
Some serious, some less-than-serious, but they’re all what work for us right now. If any of them stop working then we will re-adapt as we’ve done over the years.
To be honest, I get stressed out about way too many things (my bus commute, wondering about how insanely busy work will be, worrying whether my favorite Walking Dead character is going to die) to include meal time as one of them. I don’t want to yell and scream at my kids to eat every last speck on their plates. I don’t want to tell them to be quiet and let the grown-ups talk like we still live in the “children should be seen and not heard” era. And I certainly don’t want to look back and remember tense, angry, frustrating dinners.
We are far from perfect in this household but 95% of the time we laugh and have important conversations and create great memories, all around our kitchen table. Even if sometimes that kitchen table is serving up frozen Jamaican patties because we were too exhausted to make anything else.
What are YOUR basic kitchen rules? Let me know
in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!
In the meantime, please share this with your friends to let them know they’re not the only ones who are little quirky and silly when it comes to household kitchen rules, and then let’s keep our conversations going by signing up to receive my weekly updates below!
I think that probably the vast majority of us work in some sort of office space, whether it’s in your home or an office building. This leads to a lot of sitting down all day and letting our health slide. Luckily it’s not hard to stay healthy at a desk job – you just have to put a little mindfulness into it!
When you read some of these tips, you might find that you think, “well duh. That’s pretty obvious.” But then ask yourself how many of them you do consistently. I know that unless I remind myself to do these things, I will sometimes forget. So, consider this my reminder to you. I know that you probably know all of this, but I want to make sure we all remember to actually follow through so that we can be our healthiest selves even when we’re on the job.
In full disclosure, when I first sit down at my desk a few minutes before 10 am, there is no water in sight. At that point I am firmly clutching my cup of coffee. I don’t drink coffee at home before leaving for work because by the time I get the kids to school and commute on the bus to work, my bladder would be in full complaint mode. However, as soon as I arrive downtown, I buy myself a medium dark roast (one milk, one sugar), and bring it into the office with me.
That being said, once I’ve finished that coffee – usually by 10:30 at the latest – I will take my water bottle to the cooler and fill it up. I try to do that twice per shift to make sure I’m staying hydrated. I talk on the phone all day long so sometimes it’s a challenge to fit in the sips I need but at the same time, all that chit chat makes my mouth and throat dry so I’m pretty encouraged to try.
Keeping hydrated will help you to avoid fatigue, headaches, even nausea. Any time I feel a little bit “off” I reach for my water first to see if that’s what the underlying problem is.
First of all, if you’re falling the water advice, eventually you’ll need to take a stroll to the bathroom, so at the very least that will help the cause. Seriously though, it’s really easy to sit in that chair all day long without ever moving because it’s also really easy to get lazy. At the end of your shift though, you’ll be wondering why everything aches so much. Too much sitting. That’s why. Or at least part of the reason why.
Not every job allows you to walk all around the place. I have read advice that says, “instead of emailing your co-worker, walk to their desk and talk to them instead.” That would be great, but it’s not always feasible. I can’t just roam during my shift; many jobs require you to stay at your desk as much as possible, whether you’re working a reception desk, doing customer service, or any number of other similar jobs. If you can’t walk around, at least get up out of your seat. Stand up, wiggle your toes and your fingers, maybe do a few discreet stretches (this is not necessarily the time for a downward facing dog, but some gentle neck and shoulder stretches would be great).
Don’t stay at your desk on breaks.
Similarly, resist the temptation to stay at your desk when you CAN walk around. Break time is absolutely the time to really stretch those legs by moving. Take a lap or two around your office, walk over to chat with a friend, even just going into the break room and standing by the window while you have a little snack is great.
I have to heed my own advice. I do usually leave my desk for my breaks, but too often I walk to the break room (which is really close to where I sit) and then I lounge in one of the chairs in there. It’s not a great habit when you consider I sit on a bus to commute both ways and sit all day while I’m working. Do I really need to sit on my break too? No. No, I do not.
I have also started to develop a bad habit of eating my lunch at my desk. It’s not because I’m working through lunch (and if you are doing that, stop doing that right now. You need to take a break from working! Unless you’re doing it once in awhile so that you can leave early, stop working through lunch!). However, I have been heating up my lunch in the microwave, and then bringing it back to my desk so I can scroll through Facebook or read blogs while I eat. It’s been saving me on using up my phone’s battery charge but it’s not a great habit.
Get out of the office if you can.
Is it a nice day? If you have the chance, I suggest heading outside for at least one of your breaks. It can be hard to come back in when it’s beautiful and sunny, but it really will lift your mood and re-energize you, especially if it’s an afternoon break when you might otherwise be slumping a bit.
If it’s raining but I’m just itching to get out of the office, I’m lucky enough to have some pedways that I can walk through. I almost get the illusion of being outside, but I stay dry. If your office is in a mall, you could walk around that for a little bit, or if it’s a large building you can hit the stairs for a few flights. Either way, you get moving and get away from the buzz of your office space.
Do you work from home? Get out and walk around your block!
Make sure your monitor is at eye level.
We’re always reminded to try to maintain good posture, but do you know how hard it is to do that when you are either looking up at your monitor, or worse, looking down at it? It can easily lead to slouching in your seat and it puts an incredible amount of pressure on your neck. When you’re finished work for the day, do you find that your neck and shoulders are super stiff? Check your monitor height. It should be placed so that you can look straight on at it.
It’s an easy fix if your monitor is not currently at eye level. If it’s too high, lower the stand it’s on or raise your chair and keyboard tray accordingly. If it’s too low and you can’t raise it any higher, try stacking it on something – an actual monitor stand, a box, a pile of books, whatever you need to get it to the height you require.
Look around to rest your eyes.
Speaking of your monitor, that headache you sometimes experience may have nothing to do with dehydration if you’re drinking water regularly. It could be because of eye strain though. If you’re staring at a screen all the livelong day like I do, one of the best things you can do for yourself is look at something else every so often. Turn away and let your vision focus gently on something 10 to 20 feet away. Then look at something really far away. Look out the window, look at a co-worker, let your vision soften completely, or even close your eyes.
The break will do you so much good.
What are you eating?
If you work outside the home there can be a huge temptation to eat out every day. My office is directly over a food court. It would be SO EASY to go buy myself lunch every day. On the other hand, most of the choices aren’t overly healthy, and the ones that are cost a small fortune. I’d either be overspending or eating food that will not serve me well in any way.
The majority of the time I bring my lunch from home. I know that some people do amazing food prep. Just go on Instagram and search for #foodprep and you’ll be super inspired. I don’t do this though. I think it’s amazing but I just have no desire to spend any of my Sunday cooking up a week’s worth of lunches. However, we always have leftovers from supper, so I take some of that in a container to heat up at work. Our meals are healthy more often than not, save for our Friday night pizzas and the occasional busy-night-chicken-strips, so that means my lunch is also healthy.
I do go down to the food court once in awhile to get something as a treat or when we just don’t have any leftovers. Sometimes that means Indian or Korean takeout, sometimes it means a greasy burger and salty fries from Mickey D’s, but since it’s not my everyday experience, it doesn’t blow up my budget or my digestive system.
Those are my tips for staying healthy at a desk job.