Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. -Benjamin Franklin
And aren’t we all trying to do just that every day of our lives – to be happy and healthy, wealthy and wise? Which is why there are so many self help books these days, a whole industry of doctors, psychologists and spiritualists. But before we feel the need to approach doctors and depression therapists, if we can start making slight changes to our eating and sleeping habits, we can avoid (or at least delay) the whole concept of treating minor illnesses, and instead indulge in preventative care of our bodies and minds.
Ayurveda is an ancient science of health that uses the body’s own wisdom to balance and heal itself. Sleep is one of the supporting pillars of Ayurveda, in addition to diet and lifestyle habits. Sleeping well enhances your energy levels during your waking hours. In this article, I share a few Ayurvedic tips to sleep better and wake up fresher. None of these are rules or regulations, simply suggestions – take what resonates with you, leave out what doesn’t :)
Things to do Before Bed to Sleep Better
1. Eat a light dinner before 7 PM each night. Modern way of life seems to leave little time for a proper lunch these days. So most people eat a big breakfast, skip lunch or skimp on it, and end up having a big dinner before they go to sleep. This means we’re not using the body’s generation of digestive juices during its peak time, which is mid-day. Instead we’re trying to push our bodies to digest big meals when it’s least equipped to do that: when it’s getting ready to go to sleep or when it’s still trying to wake up. It’s not easy to change our life-long habits, but this is an important one to change. A couple of suggestions to help create this habit:Advertising
- Make lunch a priority during your daytime schedule. Eat a bigger lunch, so you’re not starving by the end of the day.
- A bowl of soup is warm and comforting for dinner, but not heavy in your belly.
2. Avoid electronics in your bedroom. That means no TV, no computers, no phones. All of these screens have a way of stimulating the senses at the end of the day, when we should be settling down our minds and bodies. The back-lighting in all those smart screens so close to our faces in the dark makes the sleep-inducing melatonin to slow down. Try to get all your TV, laptop and phone checking done outside of the bedroom before a certain time, before you get to bed. A couple of suggestions to make this a habit:
- Set a reminder for when you need to turn off everything by say, 9:30 PM.
- Shutting down the appliances completely hinders the temptation to “just check one last time.”
3. Massage your limbs. This is a pleasant activity before bedtime, to help induce a sense of relaxation in your body, but also your mind. It’s an effective way to reduce stress at the end of the day, any headaches or tension pains, and also insomnia. It would be great to have a willing partner to help you with a massage, but you can do this yourself too. Pour a small amount of oil into your palm, and rub it into your legs – from above your knees down to each toe, and into your arms – from your shoulders to each finger. Use long, easy strokes as you gently rub in the oil. A couple of helpful tips to make this a nightly routine:
- Use a light, non-staining oil, like sweet almond, or jojoba.
- Add a few drops of essential oils, like lavender or rosemary, that are said to be soothing on the nerves.
4. A cup of tea, or warm milk before bed. You may or may not need this tip, but if you’re still feeling awake and hungry past 10 PM, craving for something to eat while you ease into your new habits, a cup of warm milk might help soothe that craving. Chamomile tea, or other sleep inducing teas are also a good idea for this time of night. A couple of hints and suggestions:Advertising
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine after 7 PM.
- If you must eat something, eat a few dried cherries and / or dates, that are supposed to induce natural sleep.
5. Deep breathing or meditation. To help wind down your body and mind, turn off all the lights at 10 PM. If you live in the city, put in ear plugs to cut out noises. Adjust your room, your nightwear and your blankets so that you feel balanced – not too warm or not too cold. If you’re familiar with meditation, you can create your own ritual that helps you sleep. A couple of meditation techniques that help induce sleep:
- Deep breathing: Lie down comfortably. Place your hands on your belly. Deepen your breathing to a point where you feel your abdomen rise up and down with your breaths. Focus on your breaths. This will help keep your mind off your problems and thoughts. If you catch your mind wandering, simply bring it back to your breath. This practice is very calming, and will slowly induce sleep as your mind relaxes.
- Counting sheep: yes, it works. It doesn’t have to be sheep – you can count your exhale breaths each time you breathe out, and visualize yourself going deeper and deeper into sleep. This is almost hypnotic and very calming.
Things to do in the Morning to Wake up Fresher
6. Wake up at the same time every morning. If you fall into a pattern of getting to bed at a certain time every night, your body will fall into a natural rhythm of tuning itself to nature’s days and nights. This means that your body will wake up at the same time naturally every morning. Ayurveda recommends that we stay in tune with nature’s cycles as much as possible. How you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. A couple of considerations to take into account:
- If you do need an alarm clock to wake you up, choose one that has a gentle, non-invasive sound that doesn’t jar you awake.
- When you open your eyes, don’t jump out of bed. Take the time to remember any dreams, notice how your body feels, and stretch your limbs gently before you get out of bed.
7. Greet the sun every morning. In our modern way of life, we take no time to take in some sun each morning. We go from the house to the garage, in our cars, and work in encased artificially lit buildings all day long. According to Ayurveda, sunlight has a supremely empowering effect on all of creation. There is an energy in the atmosphere at sunrise that comes to us free and cheap, if only we remember to make use of it. So make it a routine to get some early morning sunshine every day to get your body back in balance. A couple of ideas to get some sun on work mornings:Advertising
- Make it a ritual to see the sunrise. This can be a time to consider your blessings, plan your day ahead, and build in a pause into your day, rather than hit it running.
- A short walk at sunrise. Do you walk your dogs? Walk to work? Or simply like to get some invigorating fresh air in the mornings? If so, time it with the sunrise. You’ll notice what a difference it will make.
8. Hydrate your body. After a night of sleeping indoors, under blankets, the trapped heat and sweat dries out your mouth and your body. Ayurveda says how you start your morning helps set the mood with how the rest of your day goes. So start off by re-hydrating and re-energizing yourself for the oncoming day. A couple of ideas to re-hydrate:
- Splash your face with cool water when you roll out of bed. Wash your eyes while they’re slightly open – be very gentle. Also rinse out your mouth. Repeat a few times.
- Sip a glass of warm water. Add some lime or lemon to reinvigorate and stimulate your digestion and to wake you up.
9. How about some yoga? Now I may be pushing it – who has time for yoga in the mornings, right? However, Ayurveda prescribes that early morning is the best time for yoga, to activate and energize your body and mind. If you don’t have time for an hour or 30 minutes, consider doing a few stretches, or a couple of rounds of sun salutations. Similar to the previous tip, this builds a pause into your day, make you meet the day deliberately, rather than trying to play catch up. A couple of suggestions to build this into your morning routine:
- Believe it or not, it all starts with going to bed early enough to wake up early. Once you get your ideal amount of sleep each night, your body is ready to go in the mornings.
- If you’re not into yoga, use your favorite exercise routine during this time. Tai Chi, walking, running, or climbing stairs are all great alternatives.
10. Eat a light breakfast. This goes along with what I said above about having a big lunch. Before noon, your body is simply not ready or active enough to handle a big breakfast. It will make you feel dull and sluggish, rather than wake you up. Instead, have a small breakfast before 9 AM that will activate your digestive juices but not overload the system. A couple of suggestions for a light breakfast:Advertising
- A piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a small bowl of granola is plenty for your morning meal
- Don’t snack between breakfast and lunch.
So what do you think about the 10 tips to have a more energizing morning and waking up fresher? If any of the tips resonated with you, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Featured photo credit: Saiisha via NestInTheForest.com
Published on September 21, 2021
How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)
The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.
In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.
1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks
Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.
But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?
Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.
Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.
Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.
While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.
Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.
2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout
At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.
Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.
Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.
Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.
McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout. And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.
From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.
3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work
An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.
McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.
Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.
Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?
Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.
So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?
The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.
If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.
Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive
Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com
|||^||DeskTime: 52/17 updated – people are now working and breaking longer than before|
|||^||Buffer: The 2021 State of Remote Work|
|||^||McKinsey & Company: What employees are saying about the future of remote work|
|||^||World Health Organization: Mental health and work: Impact, issues, and good practices|