Discover what 12 frontline workers and company founders are doing to keep their fitness levels up, their stress levels down, and their diets in check.

1. I shifted my personal expectations.

Dr. Cheryl Rezek, Consultant Clinical Psychologist & Founder of Life Happens 

“Life happened in an unexpected way when the pandemic emerged and then hit our lives. It raised a whole range of new demands on people, from curbed lifestyles to working from home and home schooling, and went to our very core of personal safety. 

Managing expectations in times of uncertainty was pertinent to everyone in different ways, but for me shifting and challenging my own expectations, while under constant demands, was possible by using my beliefs on life and mindfulness.”

2. I focused on breathing well.

Aaron Surtees, Senior Hypnotherapist & Founder of City Hypnosis

“To help the stress of lockdowns and restrictions of personal freedoms I focused on the pleasure and restorative benefits of breathing well. Pausing every so often to breathe in through the nose, pause, and breath out tension through the mouth. 

This combined with walking in nature as often as possible and to be present in nature, hearing bird song, seeing the wind rustle through the trees, honking geese flying over lakes all create moments to unwind.”

3. We go out for fresh air every few hours.

Jonathan Magolnick & Bianca Padilla, Co Founders of Carewell

“My co-founder Bianca – who also happens to be my wife – and I have always loved taking walks, but with the pandemic eliminating work-life boundaries altogether, stepping away from our desks a couple times a day is more important than ever. 

Even if we’re both on separate calls or talking about a work-related issue while we walk, simply getting some fresh air every few hours does wonders for our energy levels and lends a whole new perspective to any issues we’re working through.”

4. Sleep, diet, and exercise are the tripod of health.

Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Director of Ayurvedic Healing

“Leadership begins with individual growth and transformation. 

The tripod of health is diet, sleep, and exercise, and if you are able to design a self-care ritual on a daily basis, it will make you more productive and successful in every area of life. Vibrant physical and emotional health cannot be ignored at the high cost of busy schedules.”

5. I protect one hour a day completely for myself.

Jay Resio, Founder & CEO of Spine Nation

“Take one hour of your day to dedicate completely to yourself. No distractions. Put it all on pause. 

Zone out to whatever helps you recharge to tackle the next set of challenges.  For me, it’s hot tub time, stretching and exercise. On really crazy days, I take micro-breaks periodically through the day to keep my mind and body sharp.”

6. I focus on whole foods and do yoga in the mornings.

Laura Flor Prades, PhD., Gastroenterologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

“The pandemic was an opportunity to connect with myself. I found it particularly useful being in contact with nature, meditating, eating whole foods and practising yoga in the mornings. 

Having a routine to nourish my body and soul was the key for my own well-being. Being grounded in difficult situations is essential and only we have the responsibility for that.”

7. We set times to turn off devices and host monthly wellness sessions.

Derek Oh & Faraz Nomani, Co Founders of Utiva Health

“Setting realistic expectations for projects with the team with respect to challenges at home during lockdowns. Turning off devices and disconnecting is the toughest thing to do with a small business, but setting aside times where we are not connected allows for better undivided attention with those around us, like family and friends.

We book bi-weekly internal team lunch hangouts to catch up together and allow new teams to get to know each other remotely. Also, we’ve been hosting monthly health and wellness sessions for our team and customers.”

8. We aim to start each new day with gratitude.

Chris Manderino & Daniela Manderino, Co Founders of LYFE Fuel

“The most important lesson that I’ve learned is that it’s okay to slow down. As founders, it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that we should always be doing more… growing faster, have more revenue, integrating the latest technology, and figuring out a marketing strategy. 

Instead of starting our day by diving into work, we protect our morning routine to ensure that we approach each new day with gratitude and invest in our mental and physical well-being first. I rarely take calls before 9 a.m. which gives me plenty of time to feel rested and start the day with purpose, energy, and focus. We’ve also used our shared calendar to block time out on weekends to immerse ourselves in nature and disconnect from devices.”

9. I go to my “life coach in a bottle” — grounding essential oils.

Laura McCann, Founder & CEO of Adoratherapy

“At Adoratherapy, staying in a good mood is what we are all about. Our strategy to get through the last year was to double down on breathwork and meditation. This intentional practice is anchored by my affirmation: I am vital and vibrant. 

Wearing masks for long periods is a challenge and I found myself short of breath while working at our store in downtown Asheville. I spray Clear Away, a cleansing lemon, lime, grapefruit, sage and rosemary blend. Breathing in essential oils is an act of self care like no other. The power of nature lifted by my intention and breath is like having a life coach in a bottle.”

10. We made sure to maintain communication, despite the physical restrictions. 

Arash Peyami, Co Founder of Nutravita

“Last year our business grew almost 100% and although we can appreciate how lucky we are to be in this position… We were not able to stop and smell the roses. There was no let up! However, we walked, we talked, we kept our strategy meetings going and made sure that communication was not lost (via Zoom) from not being physically there. 

Staying conscious of what we ate and drunk, exercising moderation and limiting alcohol intake. It was the key to staying sane and keeping focus through a very trying year!”

11. My dog (Barney) forces me to take a time-out!

Dean Shaw, Co Founder of Aroma Energy

“Even when some days have been stressful or uncertain, my dog (Barney) has literally forced me to take a time-out away from work. If he doesn’t get his daily walk, he’s not happy! Taking a 20-minute walk around the park is great to stretch his legs and mine. 

It’s also been useful as a mood-booster and helps to get some creative thinking space, away from the screens.”

12. I de-stress by blasting music on the drive home after a challenging shift. 

Lindsay Davey (my mother!), 40+ years as an Emergency Nurse

“I have always found that, after a busy and emotionally difficult shift in the Emergency Department — particularly whilst we have been dealing with the Covid crisis — a good way to destress is to blast up the car radio and get some good music playing

Classical, Rock, Folk… doesn’t matter. Just as long as it takes you to a better place on the drive home.”

So, did you notice it too?

From breathing, to walking, to enjoying music… 

The keys to well-being are often in the simplest, most primal acts

Even for health sector leaders, and even during challenging years, many of the paths to self-care are surprisingly easy to access. 

Yes, the big gatherings can be fun. And yes, it would be lovely to have free reign to travel wherever we like. These freedoms will come again, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

But as the founders and frontline workers above suggest, dialing back a little can be enjoyable, too. It seems that the old adage — “health comes first” — isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

Declan Davey

Declan is the #1 Health and Wellness Copywriter on Google. He has a professional background as an NHS psychologist. 

His previous roles include work within mental health services and disability charities in London, UK.