Adults employed full time in the US report working an average of 47 hours per week. That’s 2820 minutes each week. But even if the work weeks sits at 40 hours, we still spend about 1/3 of our life working.
While work is part of life, and some jobs get you up and moving as part of the nature of the work, many of us sit at a desk in an office all day. The average office worker sits for about 10 hours a day; often hunched in front of the computer, sitting through meetings, and eating lunch at the desk.
Working at an office can be bad for your health. Between sitting all day, eating unhealthy foods, not drinking enough water, drinking too much coffee, and enduring ongoing stress, your job, and certainly your office, may be shaving years off your life.
While most of us can’t just quit to hike the Rocky Mountains for a living, there are some easy and practical ways to stay healthy at work, have more energy, be less stressed, and still have a reserve for what comes after leaving work. Bottom line; it’s about overall well-being. Are you well?
I’m going to give you 10 tips. It’s up to you to pick 2 or 3 of the following to work on until you have made a habit of all of them!
- Decide you are going to have a great day! Mind over matter is a real thing. Before you hit the ground running and/or sit at a desk all day, determine to make this day the best ever! Decide to make time for healthier choices and a positive attitude. It works!
- Leave yourself enough morning time. When you’re rushed or running you often forget some of the important day starters. Wake up early enough to accomplish #1 and eat a healthy breakfast. When you start your day stressed it’s hard to shake it off and not feel stressed throughout the day.
- Pack your lunch. Another reason to allow time in the morning is to be thoughtful about packing a healthy lunch. Be creative. You will save money and feel better in the long-term. Besides lunch, pack some healthy snacks to eat throughout the day to avoid crashes during your productive time.Finally, when it comes time to eat lunch, move to another space. Go outside, to a break room, or anywhere you can enjoy the healthy lunch and give your brain and body a break. Schedule your meals and snacks like meetings and you’ll keep them!
- Keep water at your desk and drink it. The body is about 60% water, give or take, and we’re constantly losing water from our bodies throughout the day. If we don’t stay hydrated throughout the day it will affect our energy levels and brain function. Even mild dehydration can negatively affect performance, and endurance. The best advice for how much water to drink is simply to follow your thirst. But we have learned to ignore thirst; possibly not even recognize it. And we actually need water before we’re thirsty. Unfortunately there is not a one size fits all recommendation for how much water you should drink. We are all different sizes, have different activity levels, and eat different foods (which may also offer a source of water). So get a water bottle, drink the water, and fill it when it’s empty.
- Choose a non-caffeinated tea instead of coffee. While a moderate amount of coffee is okay, if you are drinking coffee all day you may experience anxiety and nervousness; even an inability to focus. So try tea! According to the American Heart Association, “Drinking tea is associated with decreased coronary artery progression and a lower incidence of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks.”
- Keep your desk and workspace organized and free from clutter. This will go a long way to help you to feel better and experience less stress and frustration. You will also work more efficiently and effectively.
- Create a mindful space that will motivate you, relax you, and even get the creative juices flowing. This will be different for each person. Candles, flowers or plants, a few favorite photos, lighting, and my favorite, essential oils. Many of these do not cost a lot of money. Think about how much time you spend in your office!
- Get out of your chair. Whether you have a standing desk or you just create the habit of standing up every 30 minutes or so, this will not only prevent some major health problems associated with sitting, but give your brain a much needed movement break. I speak and write often on how lethal sitting can be. Get out of your chair! Stand and stretch and walk when you can. Hint: the more water you drink, the more you will get up for a short walk down the hall.
- Smile and speak encouraging words. This is actually 2 things but I am trying to keep the list to 10. Even research will back up that positive encouragement works better than criticism. Go back to #1 and cultivate a positive outlook for yourself. Then practice your smile and kind and encouraging words throughout the day. You will be amazed at how quickly this can dispel not only your stress level but the stress of others as well. It’s contagious!
- The end of the day is just as important as the start. Make it a habit to put aside some time at the end of the day to take care of these few things. Clean up your desk and workspace for a clean start the next day. Celebrate what you did accomplish during the day. There will be days you don’t get it all done. Instead of focusing on the undone. Focus on your success.Stop working. You’ve been working all day, and your day has come to an end. Now go play with the kids or the dog, have fun with friends, exercise, enjoy a good meal. If you have to come back to the work later in the evening, at least you will have had a wellness break.
There are so many more tips but I promised you 10. Work on just one or two habits at a time to create a healthier work day. If you try to change too many things at once will become frustrated and your efforts will not yield sustainable benefits.
As with everything else, it’s your choice. Implement some of the above or not, but if you do, and if you can keep going, you will feel the difference.