The snow’s softly falling, the streetlights beautifully shining... and you’re rushing off to work. You’re not really into it; you’d rather be snuggling up in bed. Over the Christmas holidays, we’ve all gotten used to a more relaxed regimen. Fatigue hits us more strongly in the winter than in other seasons. And yet this century’s work tempo often goes against our natural biorhythms. There are a number of ways in which we can restore our internal balance and care for our energy supplies. Let’s explore at least the most important ones together!
Celebrations of Christmas and the New Year are inseparably connected with rich, festive meals. Many people then dive into restrictive diets and excessive exercising in January to throw off the extra pounds. However, nutrition experts warn against ill-considered changes of diet, because they often just lead to an unstable metabolism. Although a dieter typically does thoroughly hunger for a while, once their diet ends they go back to their old habits, and their original weight and more is back within a year (the yo-yo effect).
“Dieting sheds muscle mass—thus the quick weight loss. Your muscles are where sugar taken in from food is stored; it then serves as a source of energy. If you take in more sugar than your muscles can utilize, then that sugar starts to turn into fat. When you end a weight-loss diet that results in the atrophy of muscle mass, there’s nowhere to store the sugar that arrives with your return to your original eating habits. That’s why your weight rises once again, but this time based on fat. And a pound of fat takes up five times as much space as a pound of muscle. Women who do this are then much larger and plumper,” writes leading Slovak nutrition expert Antónia Mačingová in her book Zhubněte jednou provždy (“Lose Weight Once and for All”).
The leading Czech nutrition expert Margit Slimáková adds: “Nutrition has to be about pleasure, and a restrictive nutritional plan produces internal stress.” She thus calls us to adjust our dietary habits gradually, replacing unsuitable options for parts of our diets with options that are inarguably more healthy. Slimáková’s concept The Healthy Plate is meant as a simple guide here. Within it, vegetables make up half of each main course, high-quality proteins make up one quarter, and saccharides the remaining quarter. This pattern provides plenty of room for vegetarians and for people who can’t or won’t eat gluten. You just need to fill in foods that fit it — e.g. tofu, legumes, buckwheat, millet grains, or rice.
HEALTHY PLATE: A practical aid for healthy nutrition. Source: healthyplate.eu
Fight Weariness with Water
By drinking water, you not only stay slim, but also prevent and treat fatigue syndrome, attention disorders, and depression. People are currently becoming much more aware of the importance of drinking at least 2 liters of water a day. However, nutrition specialists state that there is no universal optimum here and that people should drink as soon as they personally feel thirsty.
Herbal cures can also help your kidneys work right; these systematically cleanse the kidney system of salt and phlegm deposits. “You should drink herbal tea cures twice a year. The herbs most frequently used for this are beech leaves, heather, field horsetail, goldenrod, speedwell, and parsley leaves. Meanwhile chamomile, mallow, acorus, agrimony, and mugworts are used to remove phlegm from the stomach and intestines. Galangal root, agrimony, centaurium, imortelle (Helichrysum arenarium), dandelion, and chicory cleanse the biliary system. Drinking herbal teas and regularly switching among them based on your health troubles and individual systems is very beneficial. This provides the liquids you need and preventively cleanses deposits from your bodily cavities,” states MUDr. Josef Jonáš in his book Jonášova kuchařka pro zdraví (“Jonáš’s Cookbook for Health”).
Besides adjusting your diet, it’s good to include regular movement in your weekly timeline. And be aware that there’s no need to set up your sports plan as if you’re preparing an expedition to the Himalayas. What’s important are small but regular activities; what’s key is to keep on going. Psychologists say that changing habits — creating entirely new nerve connections — takes from six to eight weeks.
You might be surprised, but the very most natural motion of all is ordinary walking. You can walk nearly everywhere; you just need suitable shoes and adequate clothing.
Why not try:
- getting off one stop early on the way to work and heading to the office on foot?
- skipping the morning elevator line and heading up the stairs?
- interrupting your long stints at the table to make coffee for the team?
- walking while you’re talking on the phone?
- clearing your head with a nice walk over your lunch break?
- taking part of your trip home on foot?
Studies by experts from the University of Bristol and the University of Leeds show that exercises during working hours increase work performance throughout the day. These exercises’ structure should have variety and combine aerobics, strength training, and stretching.
“Sitting for long hours negatively impacts overall health and causes poor posture. Intersperse sitting with physical activity. Treat yourself to a short stretch every 35–40 minutes. While sitting in your chair, circle your head, stretch up your arms, stretch out your back, and wiggle your legs. Every 90 to 120 minutes, get up and head for a few minutes’ walk around the office, or jump in place for a bit,” advises Jan Mühlfeit, a motivational speaker and the former head of the Czech branch of Microsoft.
Margit Slimáková concludes with these words: “What I don’t recommend is sitting still all day and then heading out to a fitness center in the evening to break records. It’s much more beneficial to move periodically throughout the day.”
A Pleasant Work Environment
They say that the very best medicine against winter fatigue is to get enough sleep. And in winter, nature invites you to sleep longer with its shorter periods of daylight and longer periods of twilight or full darkness. Unfortunately, in many places team meetings start with a quick coffee at 8 a.m., and afternoon business meetings can stretch on until the late evening.
Limiting working hours to just the part of a winter day when natural light is available is sadly but a dream. But a high-quality work environment can significantly support good work performance! In his book Pozitivní lídr (“The Positive Leader”), Jan Mühlfeit provides a number of useful tips on what adjustments to make to a workspace in order to raise energy levels for yourself and your team.
Specifically concerning good lighting, he writes: The closer to natural daylight, the better. Bad lighting can unnecessarily tire the eyes and causes headaches. Replace cold fluorescents with the newer full-spectrum versions. If the natural lighting in your spaces doesn’t suffice, then purchase desk lamps or install new diffuse lighting in the ceiling, especially if you’re working with text.
EXTRA: Praise Be Unto Chocolate
Chocolate is traditionally considered to be a dietary sin, but in recent years scientific studies have been coming out that monitor its influence on the frequency of various lifestyle diseases. Among their results you’ll find one stating that the regular use of a small amount of chocolate (6–10 grams daily) effectively reduces blood pressure and thus the risk of heart and vascular diseases. Cocoa powder also has significant anti-oxidation effects. It contains less caffeine than tea and coffee and provides the stimulating substance named theobromine. Chocolate improves mood and enhances brain activity.
Source: Anna Strunecká: Babské rady profesorky Strunecké (“The Grandmotherly Advice of Professor Strunecká”)