It can be hard enough to look after your health and wellbeing when working regular hours within a simple routine of home, work and family. It’s even more challenging when working offshore. So what can you do to maximise your health, energy and performance?
The Tonic provides a step-by-step guide.
Exercise is one of the best ways to build stamina, manage energy levels and release stress. Thankfully it’s possible to work out in any circumstances. If you have access to a gym, great; otherwise, if you can equip yourself with a skipping rope and a resistance band, you’ll have everything you need to keep yourself in great shape. In fact, you can even do without the rope if you’re really pushed for space. A sequence of bodyweight and band exercises where you move swiftly from one exercise to the next will work your heart and lungs as well as your muscles.
The key to designing an exercise programme that gets results is planning. Take time to think about what the ideal activity routine for you looks like, including how often you work out, how long for, and what you do with each of your exercise sessions. All of this should be framed by a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve with your exercise: whether this be general health and fitness or training for a specific event, the clearer you are on your goals, the easier it is to do what you need to do in order to hit them.
The fitness routine that works best for most people is to aim for a basic level of daily activity – 10 000 steps or 30 minutes of moderate activity per day – and supplement this with 2 - 3 exercise sessions per week that get your heart pumping and your lungs working. Follow this structure and you’ll end up with 100 – 150 workouts per year and that’s enough to keep anyone in shape.
Think about what you eat and why you eat it
Food is about energy and all you need to do to maintain energy and focus is to eat the right thing in the right quantity at the right time. If you’re unsure of what this means for you, keep a basic food diary to establish what works and what doesn’t, and experiment with new ideas until you find the routine that suits your schedule and is consistent with your healthy living objectives, whatever environment you’re in.
One vital thing to remember is that you should aim to consume 5 - 6 meals or snacks per day, with a gap of 2.5 – 3.5 hours between each. Never go more than 4 hours without eating something and aim to spread your food throughout the day – no meal should be particularly larger than any other and your objective should be that every meal and snack leaves you feeling energised rather than sluggish. Use your diary to eliminate what doesn’t work.
Plan your rest and recovery
There are two elements to good sleep – quality and quantity. To improve the quality of your sleep you need to think about your lifestyle choices through the day. Can you identify any habits you follow during your waking hours that might negatively affect your sleep? Things like too much caffeine, too many sugary snacks, increased stress levels, lack of activity and inappropriate wind down strategies – often involving alcohol – may all feel like a good idea at the time, but they can all compromise sleep quality.
Sleep cycles are around 90 minutes long and for best results with your sleep routine it’s important to maintain the integrity of these cycles rather than wake in the middle of a sleep cycle. Ideally you’ll be aiming for around 7½ hours of sleep but if you’re not likely to get this, aim for 6 or even in extreme circumstances 4½. We’ve worked with people who claim that even 3 hours is fine in the short term: provided they get 2 complete sleep cycles they are ready to go again and while this isn’t an ideal situation, it can make short term demands more tolerable: so if you must compromise the quantity of your sleep, identify and work with your sleep cycles to optimise quality.
Review your lifestyle choices regularly
We’re all looking to perform at our best for as much of the time as possible and while every job has moments of relative calm, increasingly we all need to juggle many priorities at the same time.
This routine isn’t necessarily undesirable as it enables us to learn and grow: the important thing is to monitor how you cope with the tougher times and ensure that any behaviour patterns that creep in when you’re busy or distracted don’t become habits. Simple things to look out for are coping strategies such as drinking more caffeine or alcohol, and eating more or making food and snack selections based on their short-term feel-good factor rather than medium term health or energy management benefits. Other common coping strategies include dropping activity and compromising on sleep just when you need both most.
We all have the ability to cope with heavy demands – just make sure that the coping strategies you employ for each phase of your working routine are appropriate and that, on balance, your lifestyle choices are more proactive and positive than they are reactive.
Live a life of balance
Those who do best with living a life of balance take time to plan what good balance looks and feels like. Usually this boils down to an assessment of acceptable working hours, time with family and friends and time for hobbies, pastimes and other interests. The difficulty with working offshore is that some of the usual elements of a balanced life are absent while work and maintaining a professional frame of mind are ever-present.
This means that it’s vital to have tried and tested strategies in place that help you shift your focus from work to other topics, and you must be diligent about carving out some time for yourself and for rest and relaxation. This could involve reading, listening to music, catching up on TV or films, spending time with others (with some sort or rules around avoiding work talk), or contacting family and friends. Always remember that while these things might feel like ‘nice to haves’ or even indulgent distractions from the work around you, you’ll only be able to sustain your peak performance for the job if you allow yourself dedicated recovery time to recharge your batteries.
Written by Cecilia Rehn