Your Work-From-Home Wellness Guide

This blog post was written by our resident Health Coach – Catherine Barnhoorn.

Catherine is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and the author of award-winning nutrition and cookbook ‘Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics’. Catherine is deeply passionate about empowering parents to make informed decisions with regards to what they feed their children and themselves, and she firmly believes that food can be the best form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.

Employee Wellness Week in South Africa runs annually from 2 – 6 July. A week when South Africans are encouraged to participate in wellness activities within their workplace.

But at a time where many of us are working from home, remotely and socially distanced… we scrapped our blog post on Corporate Wellness and felt this information on Work-From-Home Wellness would be more suitable.

Working from home is currently a necessity, but it can present several physical, mental, and social challenges. Health tips for those working from home generally include wellness fundamentals such as eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise. But it is important to be mindful of the psychological and social challenges of remote working, such as loneliness and blurred lines between a person’s job and home life, as well as the stress of the juggling act many of us are experiencing with kids at home while we are trying to get some work done.

Some of the challenges of working from home are:

  • feelings of isolation
  • trouble staying motivated
  • having to entertain and care for the kids
  • maintaining a work-life balance
  • avoiding burnout
  • maintaining healthy eating habits
  • maintain a healthy level of physical activity

The most important thing is to find out what works for you and do the best you can to maintain some semblance of healthy habits, balance, and routine.

Having been in lockdown for some 16 months now, here are our Top 7 Work-From-Home Wellness Hack’s…

1. Work-From-Home Wellness Hack #1 – STICK TO A DAILY ROUTINE

Remember the old days when your alarm clock went off and every minute of the next 8-10 hours of your life were booked up and planned in 10 minute increments? As great as it is to step off that hamster wheel, having no routine in place can lead to overwhelm and chaos – which in turn fuel anxiety and stress.

Spend some time creating your new daily routine, stick in on your fridge and flow with it.

Daily Routine 101:

  1. Start by re-setting your alarm clock for the same time it used to go off when you had to head out in the traffic to get to work. Yes, it’s awesome to have more time to lie-in – but you get to do that on the weekends! By getting up at the same time you used to when heading to the office, you give yourself the gift of extra time! But… how to use it? See our Work-From-Home-Wellness Hack #2 😉
  2. Get up, get dressed and ‘arrive’ at your desk 5 to 10 minutes early to go through emails and create your daily task list.
  3. Break at tea-time. Move your body!
  4. Break at lunchtime. Eat away from your desk and with your other household members.
  5. Break at tea time. Connect with the kids, your animals or nature.
  6. When the working day is done (ah… this means 5pm), log off, close the laptop and pack it away. Close the door to your work room or cover your desktop computer with something. Leave your work behind just as you would if you left the office.
  7. Move your body to shake off the work day. If you can do this with your kids – even better!
  8. Connect with your family or friends – whether in person at home or by calling them on Zoom.
  9. Make a nutritious meal.
  10. Go to bed by 10pm at the latest to ensure good quality and sufficient sleep.

2. Work-From-Home Wellness Hack #2 – MOVE YOUR BODY

Movement has both physical and psychological wellness benefits and daily movement is something that got more do-able since this pandemic and lockdown. Not only do you have time-savings from not having to travel to work but there are many, many classes available online now – a lot of them at no charge! From yoga, to pilates, to HIIT, to rebounding… we really are spoilt for choice. And you can do your class / fitness routine at a time that suits you!

You can also do numerous shorter workouts throughout the day that you couldn’t have done at the office. Regular movement throughout the day has numerous benefits from reducing anxiety and depression, boosting your mood, increasing your energy, increasing concentration and helping you get a better night’s sleep.

Why is movement during a pandemic a priority?

Physical activity sends a signal for your brain to release endorphins. These chemicals are responsible for feelings of happiness, calm and well-being. Endorphins also have pain-relieving and immune-boosting qualities. Just what the pandemic doctor ordered!

But see how we are talking about movement – not exercise? For many, the word “exercise” is weighed down with feelings of stress and obligation. Another word for exercise is simply movement. Movement does not require gym memberships or goals or tracking devices or expensive equipment! It’s as simple as playing your favourite song and dancing like no-one is watching! Added bonus… if your kids are at home (and watching) they will love joining in! And just like that you have ticked two boxes in one go – movement AND quality connection time with your kids!

Other ideas for meaningful movement throughout your day:

  • Set a timer to get up and move for a couple of minutes every hour. Do a different bodyweight exercise in each break such as push-ups, crunches, squats, tricep dips, jumping jacks, burpees, walking lunges, planks, sun salutations — anything that gets your body moving is good.
  • Stand up and walk around while talking on the phone
  • Take a walk in the afternoon when you would ordinarily be on your commute home, or during your lunch break. This not only gets you moving a little more in your day, but the fresh air, sunlight, vitamin D and natural surroundings will do wonders for your mood! You may even bump into a neighbour and get some connection-time in too.

PS… Lisa Raleigh’s online rebounding classes are free until the end of August 2021!

3. Work-From-Home Wellness Hack #3 – PACK A LUNCHBOX!

Eating a healthy diet is a wellness requirement every day whether we in a pandemic or not. But has working from home put a spanner in your normal healthy eating routine? Are you missing the ready-made salads from your workplace canteen? Are you not packing a lunch box like you used to because your fridge is a few steps away from your desk now? And how long are you spending in your kitchen at lunchtime and tea time? Distracted much?

Pack a lunch box in the morning as you would have if you were going to the office! Not only will this prevent you from getting side-tracked in your fridge during your workday, but you will make conscious food choices as opposed to hangry / procrastination food choices.

Of course having a freezer stocked with Nutrivita Smoothies and Juices to add to your lunchbox will make this hack a quick and easy win for your work-from-home wellness routine!

4. Work-From-Home Wellness Hack #4 – ENJOY DOING THE DISHES

Ah…. What? How can the groundhog task of doing the dishes (E V E R Y  D A Y) be enjoyable?

Well, besides the proven fact that a clean environment has mental health benefits (that is – more focused, more productive and happier), it has now been scientifically proven that washing dishes can significantly lower your stress levels! If you do it mindfully, that is.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention.

“Mindfulness is being aware. It’s noticing and paying attention to thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and everything else. Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, wherever we are, whoever we are with, and whatever we are doing, by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now.” (Source)

Back to the dishes…

Researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered their nervousness levels by 27%. 

Here’s an excerpt of the passage research participants had to read before doing the dishes – this shows you how to turn a mundane chore into an mental and physical wellness practice…

“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”

It is also a wonderful opportunity in this multitasking-frenzy that is lockdown, to do just ONE thing at a time. The sound of running water and clanging dishes makes it impossible to talk on the phone, attend a zoom meeting, do homework with your kids – or even have a conversation with them – while you are doing the dishes. It’s the perfect opportunity for a total zone-out-time-out!

PS – keep a pen and paper close by! Since mindfulness creates space for insight, you might find noteworthy inspiration and clarity as the dirty water flows down the drain.

“Each place is the right place. The place where I now am can be a sacred space.” – Ravi Ravindra

5. Work-From-Home Wellness Hack #5 – CONNECT

Connecting with other people is vital for your emotional and mental well-being. Just as important as movement is for your physical well-being.  

As the lockdown continues and the curveballs keep coming, it is only natural that people are becoming more and more insular as we try to maintain that which we can control. We must be mindful of maintaining our connections, of reaching out to others, of taking a few minutes each day to step out of our bubbles.

Connection reminders:

  • Maintain the work place coffee break chit chats by setting up regular Zoom check-in connection times that aren’t about work. Face-to-face conversations help you feel more connected and are typically more engaging than conference calls, emails and WhatsApps.
  • If you have a friend you always get coffee or lunch with, keep up the tradition over the phone, or use this as an opportunity to start a new one.
  • Set up Zoom playdates for your children with their friends and cousins.
  • Phone your parents!

6. Work-From-Home Wellness Hack #6 – PRACTICE GRATITUDE

“Whenever there’s a grateful moment, I note it. I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.” – Oprah

We see practicing gratitude as a pandemic survival necessity! The daily practice of being grateful has been found to have far reaching effects, from making you happier, easing depression and curbing appetite to enhancing sleep.

Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins. Each of these small moments strings together to create a web of well-being.

Building your capacity for gratitude isn’t difficult. It just takes practice. The more you can bring your attention to that which you feel grateful for, the more you’ll notice to feel grateful for.

Robert Emmons, psychology professor and gratitude researcher at the University of California, Davis, explains that there are two key components of practicing gratitude:

  1. Affirm the good things you’ve received.
  2. Acknowledge the role other people play in providing your life with goodness.

Some ideas on how “to do” Gratitude:

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you write down what you are grateful for each morning before getting out of bed, and again at the end of the day when you climb back into bed.
  • Start a family Gratitude Jar. Our little ones are struggling too. They see our stress and are feeling the effects of COVID lockdown regulations. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to develop a gratitude practice.
    The gratitude jar is a simple and fun exercise that can have profound effects on you and your kids’ wellbeing and outlook. It only requires a few ingredients: a jar; whatever you like to decorate the jar; little pieces of paper, a pen and gratitude! You can make one for each child.
    Every day, ask them to write down what they are grateful for on the little slips of paper and pop them in the jar.
    When they are having a difficult day, or perhaps once a week at family meal time, pull some notes from the jar and reflect on all they have to be grateful for.
  • Share Your Gratitude with Others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So express your appreciation to your partner, work colleagues and children.
  • Include an act of kindness in your life each day. Gratitude reciprocated is Kindness. Return a favour, or act with kindness or thoughtfulness. Or you might see a situation when you can “pay it forward.” Such as volunteering or contributing to organisations who purpose is uplifting others. 
  • Say Thank You. Thank the people who serve you in the community — the teachers, the cashiers, the taxi drivers, etc.

Gratitude in your company:

  • Create a shared document where team members across the organisation record one thing for which they are grateful at the end of every work day. Challenge your team to do it for three weeks straight. At the end of the three weeks, have your team reflect on their mood and productivity.
  • Or better yet, include Connect (hack #5) and end each day of remote working with a ‘win, learn and change’ team call. During this call, each team member shares a success from the day, something they learned during the day and something they are excited to change tomorrow.

PS: Your brain cannot focus on positive and negative things at the same time. This is a key reason why practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.

7. Work-From-Home Wellness Hack #7 – BE REAL

Working from home can be really hard. Some days winning looks like 6 hours of work, educated-fed-exercised-happy kids, 4 loads of laundry (dry, folded & packed away), clean house (+ toilets), and a homemade casserole. Other days, winning looks like kids on iPads and you working from your bed in your pyjamas because you have no clean clothes and getting up means you’ll feel the dirty floors and see the pile of dishes in the kitchen.

So our really real Top Wellness-From-Home Hack… Stay REAL – with yourself, your family and your employer! Do what you CAN do today, not what you feel you SHOULD be able to do. Know that tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to get through the To-Do list. Aim to be a super human not superhuman. And where necessary – ask for help!

As with other awareness days and weeks, we feel there should be an awareness of and action on Employee Wellness EVERY day of EVERY week.  With that in mind we are busy finalising our Corporate Wellness Packs – so besides all the other activities listed above, you can nourish yourselves and your staff with nutrient-dense foods while at work.

To find out more, please contact us on info@nutrivita.co.za

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