We’re all juggling a lot these day. No matter our age, location, or what we do for a living, we’ve all got days where we’re simply too busy to exercise, eat well, or even take a deep breath.
According to various surveys conducted by Pew Research Center, more than half of American adults report they typically multitask at least two tasks at once during the day. Meanwhile, six out of ten working moms say that balancing career and home life is difficult.
As a result of overscheduled days filled with deadlines, school, meetings, and friend and family obligations, your well-being sometimes gets placed on the back burner. But even on your craziest days, you can still take small steps toward your wellness goals. To inspire these efforts, we asked six health professionals to share their top wellness tips for navigating those full-speed-ahead days.
1. Be Prepared
When you know you’ve got a busy day lined up on your calendar, do not shy away from it. It’s important to see exactly what’s on your schedule ahead of time so you can squeeze in 5 minutes of cushion or simply prepare your mind for the accelerated pace.
“What helps me most on my busiest days is to have mentally prepared the night before,” says Jennifer Caudle, D.O., board-certified family medicine physician and associate professor at Rowan University. “On the night before super-busy days, I think through the day and try to anticipate any pitfalls, needs, or challenges in advance.”
Be practical, too. If you neglected to block off time for lunch, make sure to fix yourself a healthy grab-and-go meal the night before so you don’t fall victim to the vending machine or drive-thru. Or, set your alarm a half-hour earlier than usual to ensure you have time for a quick workout.
2. Find a Mantra
Waking up with a key phrase to focus on can set the tone for the whole day.
“As a health and fitness coach, I’ve always recommended repeating a mantra in the morning,” says Stephanie Mansour, C.P.T., host of the PBS show Step It Up with Steph. “Repeating positive affirmations before going about a busy daily routine can help you feel better about yourself and more encouraged to make healthy choices. Plus, believing the words that you’re saying to yourself can help ease stress, relieve anxiety, boost confidence, and even help heal deeper mental health issues over time.”
In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine suggests that mantra meditation has moderate beneficial effects on mental health.
“I recently started saying a prayer in the morning, and then coming up with a specific mantra to focus on for that day,” Mansour continues. A few examples she shares with her clients:
- I feel fit, strong, and I love exercising daily.
- I enjoy eating healthy foods that make me feel good.
- I wake up with lots of energy every day.
Mansour emphasizes the importance of forming a mantra in the present tense. “By talking as if these changes have already been made, it will help make you start to act this way.”
“I also recommend putting sticky notes with these affirmations along the side of your mirror so they’re easier to incorporate into your routine,” she adds.
3. Don’t Skip Breakfast
Tempted as you might be, do not run out the door without something in your stomach on hectic days.
“If you know you’re going to have a nonstop day, make sure you begin with getting a nutritious, balanced breakfast in your tummy,” says Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., a dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Connecticut. Case in point: A scientific review published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science states that consuming the “right” breakfast—one that contains a mixture of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates—has profound effects on cognitive performance and overall well-being.
One of Gorin’s favorite go-to morning meals: Greek Yogurt Parfait Crunch with Sweet Grapes. It takes just seven minutes to make!
4. Pick Proper Portions
If you’re having lunch at a restaurant or getting takeout, keep general nutrition guidelines in mind.
“As a portion-size advocate, I suggest to visualize your portions,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D.N., author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time. The “ideal meal,” she says, should consist of half a plate of fruits and/or veggies, one-quarter a plate of a starch (think brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potato), and one-quarter a plate of a healthy protein (such as fish, chicken, beans, or eggs).
“You may not always be able to make the healthiest food choices on the days you’re in a rush, which is why practicing portion control helps,” she says.
5. Start The Day With A Quick Yoga Flow
If you’re anxious about the day ahead, follow Gorin’s lead and squeeze in a quick flow before heading out the door or into your first Zoom meeting. “I like to block out my early mornings and do yoga a few times a week,” she states. “It’s meditative and relaxing while also invigorating. It helps me destress before I jump into the day.”
One study published in the journal Mindfulness found that 25-minute sessions of Hatha yoga (a general term for multiple types of yoga) can improve executive functioning (your ability to plan, focus, multitask, and recall instructions), as well as boost mood.
6. Swap Long Workouts For Movement Bursts
Though you may not have time for a dedicated hour-long workout on crazy calendar days, you can still get moving.
“No matter how busy and stressed you might be, moving boosts endorphins, improves your mood, and gives your brain and body the break they need,” states Katie Dunlop, C.P.T., founder of Love Sweat Fitness. “I promise you can find 10 minutes in your day to exercise, even if that means squat breaks at your desk, taking calls while you walk, or a quick abs session before dinner.”
These quick bursts of movement really are worth it. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that just 10 minutes of light or moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking, dancing, and gardening) each week can add years to your life.
7. Keep A Health Journal
Sheela Raja, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and author of the upcoming book The Resilient Teen: 10 Key Skills to Bounce Back From Setbacks & Turn Stress Into Success, agrees that it’s easy to slide into unhealthy habits on the busiest of days. “While it’s fine every once in a while, a day here and there can turn into weeks—even months—and suddenly your diet and exercise routines are off course,” she says.
Her tip: Keep a daily log of your habits, including diet, sleep, exercise, and technology use. “Research suggests that taking a closer, honest look at your behaviors can nudge you into healthier habits,” she explains. She also suggests jotting down your innermost thoughts and emotional state. “This activity can make you feel as if you’ve expressed your feelings, which can help reduce the intensity of difficult emotions,” she says.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can not only be a fun activity, but can also offer numerous mental health benefits, such as managing anxiety, reducing stress, coping with depression, tracking emotional triggers, and helping to prioritize worries and concerns. “Self-monitoring can be the most important step toward a healthier lifestyle,” Raja says.