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Being healthy when you’re busy

15/03/2011

It’s easy to live a healthy life if you have plenty of time.  Taking your time to cook wholesome food, get enough exercise, practice some meditation and have enough sleep all take time.  Precious time.  Something that many of us seem to have a lot less of than we’d like.

If being time-poor is your reality, then we need to work with the time we have more smartly.  My answer is to make a routine.  It’s just as important to prioritise your ‘you time’ as it to schedule work and family commitments.  You need to book in time to nurture yourself when it suits you or you’ll end up being ill when it isn’t convenient, and that may really throw a spanner in the works at a later time.

‘You time’, as part of a healthy lifestyle, might include any combination of the following: home-cooked healthy food, at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week, daily short meditations, a daily stretching routine, weekly relaxation activities such as a bath, massage or facial.  These activities are not just for people with lots of spare time, they should be an essential part of anyone’s lifestyle who wants to feel energetic and healthy (and I’m hoping that’s everyone who’s reading this!)

There are several ways to do this.  The way I have personally found helpful is as follows:

  1. Make a list or timetable of all of the activities you do in a week.  Include work, family, housework, sporting commitments and other activities.  Work out when you have any spare time.  We need to know this so that we can use it wisely rather than flitting it away without valuing it.  You may be surprised when you look at your week on paper.  Perhaps there are some activities you are overdoing and are able to cut back on.
  2. Think of the areas of your health that suffer when you are busy.  Often making home cooked meals gets neglected, as does exercise and relaxation.  Make a note of these.
  3. Find gaps in your current schedule where you can add some of these healthful activities and write them in.  It may be that you can cook a meal on one night/day to provide several lunches and dinners (avoiding the need for unhealthy  takeaway meals).  Perhaps you can find a gap that can allow you to get some incidental exercise, a run or even an exercise class that fits around your current activities.  If relaxation always gets left behind, schedule yourself some time for a DIY facial, bath, meditation, massage or other treatment of your choice.  Remember these activities are important!  Make sure not to fill in all of your spare time.
  4. Write down your new schedule.  Put it somewhere that you can always refer to it.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone but rather something to aim for.  Whether it’s on paper, in your diary, a spreadsheet or your iPhone/iPad do what will work for you.  Some people find that daily lists work, for others a weekly timetable is preferred.

What you have created should help you to know what you have to do each day and what the consequence will be if you don’t get to it  (eg. if I miss cooking a meal to last for a few lunches, I won’t have time to do it later and I’ll have to get takeaway).  This is motivating but also allows for informed choice from week to week as the unforseen will always happen from time-to-time.  So, even though you have a ‘perfect health-promoting schedule’, remain flexible.  Things just don’t go to plan all the time and we don’t want to turn down wonderful opportunities that come our way or get more stressed if we don’t tick everything off our list.   It’s also not locked in for life.  It can come and go as you need it, and be changed as often as required.

This solution won’t work for everyone, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by commitments and they are eating into your ‘you time’, then putting your time on paper is a good place to start.  The important message here is, however you put it into action, when you are busy, looking after yourself is just as important as when you are not.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

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