Health Hacks for Busy Women

10 tips to optimize your health and reduce stress

Illustration for busy women mixing work and health, including doing yoga.

10 tips to optimize your health and reduce stress

For many women, busy seems to be the new normal. According to a recent study, the average woman says she needs an extra 82 minutes to accomplish everything she would like to do in a day. Between working, driving their children to activities, running errands and just managing life, more than half of the women surveyed feel somewhat overwhelmed.

While you may not be able to change your daily commitments, you can make small changes that add up to extra time and healthier habits. Start by incorporating some of the “health hacks” below into your routine.

1 . Stock your kitchen pantry and refrigerator with healthy options

Replace junk food and overly processed items with healthier choices. Buy whole grain breads instead of white, and all-natural energy bars that have nuts and fruit instead of cookies or candy bars. “Skip packaged lunch meat that contains preservatives and buy sliced meat at the deli counter,” suggests Shirin Alonzo, MD, an internal medicine physician and pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center San Marcos. “Keep a rotisserie chicken in the fridge for easy dinners.”

2. Take your lunch before or after everyone else

If you take a lunch break at work, going before or after the crowd may help you avoid the stress of noontime crowds. Plus, your workplace may be quieter at peak lunch periods, so you can focus on what you need to do.

3. Spend less time on social media

Social media can be a fun way to keep up with your friends’ lives, but it’s easy to get caught up in it and spend far more time than you intended. Moreover, anxiety and depression can set in if you start comparing your life with the carefully curated images on Instagram. Turn off notifications, make a rule to check social media only once or twice a day, and set a time limit. Also, avoid checking close to bedtime, which can interfere with sleep.

4. Start and end each day with water

Even slight dehydration can contribute to fatigue and headaches, sapping your energy when you need it most. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Drink a cup or two of water first thing in the morning and at bedtime to help ensure you stay hydrated.

5. Start your day earlier

The majority of women surveyed said that mornings were by far the busiest part of their day. Getting up an hour or even 30 minutes earlier than usual can give you more time to start your day at a slower pace. You may be able to exercise, get the kids ready without rushing, or beat the morning commute.

6. Take breaks to stretch and breathe

Set reminders on your phone or calendar to take a moment to stretch and take a few deep, slow breaths. If you’re sitting most of the day, get up and move a bit as you stretch.

“These simple breaks can interrupt the body’s stress response, invigorate your system and reset your focus so you feel more in control,” says Dr. Alonzo.

7. Work out online

From high-intensity interval training to yoga and Tai Chi, you’ll find countless exercise routines online. Take your pick of workout types, lengths and levels; most are available for free or a small fee. Subscription services may even include coaching, goal setting, fitness tracking and an online support community to keep you motivated.

8. Forget about multi-tasking

A Stanford University study found that multi-tasking is ineffective because people can’t pay attention to multiple streams of information at once. While you can do a physical activity such as walking at the same time as a mental one, you can do only one cognitive task at a time. Focus on the task at hand before taking on another one and your productivity will likely increase.

9. Get fresh air

Try to spend time outdoors every day. Go for a walk or just step outside and take a few deep, slow breaths. Especially in the morning, spending time outdoors can awaken your body and set the tone for your day.

10. Eat snacks

Like thirst, hunger can leave you feeling tired and irritable, and can lead to headaches. Keep healthy snacks readily available so that when hunger strikes, you and your kids have smart go-to options. Keep snacks like Greek yogurt, string cheese, cut-up fruit and veggies and frozen fruit bars on hand at home and work.