We Americans work — a lot.
People with full-time jobs work an average of 47 hours a week, with nearly 4 in 10 people saying they work 50 hours or more, according to a Gallup Poll. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that you bring healthy routines and habits to work with you. Jasmaine Theobald, APRN, at Baptist Health Urgent Care in Paducah, offered tips on how to take care of yourself at the office and even inspire your colleagues to do the same.
8 Ways To Care For Yourself At Work:
Between working, commuting and Netflix, Americans can spend up to 12 hours a day sitting, which has been linked to poor health outcomes including obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If you’re at a desk job, Theobald says to make sure you’re getting up once an hour to stretch and move a bit (setting a timer or using an app such as Stand Up! can help). Also, try to build movement into your day.
“In our office, we have to take blood down to the lab or transport a patient to get X-rays, so just volunteering to do errands will give you the opportunity to move,” Theobald says.
If your team uses electronic chat to communicate, try walking over to your co-worker’s cubicle instead to deliver the message the old-fashioned way. Even better: Take a 15-minute walk around the block to brainstorm ideas.
“After lunch, you get tired and might feel hungry, but you know you really aren’t,” Theobald says. “Make a plan in the morning for a 3 p.m. walk.”
Take breaks away from your workspace.
Whatever you end up doing, make sure that your break time is just that: separation from your desk. “It can be tempting to sit there and get on your phone, but that makes for a really sedentary, monotonous day,” Theobald says.
Healthy posture is so important for your overall well-being. If you’re having back and shoulder pain at work, you probably need to re-evaluate the height of your chair or monitor or adjust your seating or typing position. Type “office ergonomics” into YouTube for a video demonstration. The basics are: Sit up straight, keep your feet flat and make sure hips and knees are in line with each other.
Thinking of trying a trendy standing desk? Theobald says that they can encourage people to stretch and move more, and they help alleviate lower back pain, but that movement breaks are still important.
Bring a reusable water bottle and keep it filled all day (another excuse to get up!). “Not only will it help control your appetite, but the more hydrated you are, the more focused you will be,” Theobald says. If you want an afternoon caffeine fix, try green tea rather than coffee. “People tend to add stuff to coffee that makes it higher in calories, but they don’t feel the need with green tea,” she says.
Stock your desk and fridge with healthy options.
On Monday, come to work with snack supplies to last all week. Theobald recommends small packets of nuts for your desk drawer and fruit such as apples or blueberries. If you want a treat, try dark chocolate, which may help lower blood pressure and also contains disease-fighting antioxidants. (Individually wrapped squares will help you control portions.) Having your own stash of food also helps you forgo the latest brownie tray in the kitchen.
“If you indulge in healthy things a little more, and keep yourself full of water, it will help discourage temptations,” Theobald says. “It might not be realistic to avoid them completely, but maybe allow yourself a small portion that you really enjoy.”
Take a mindfulness break.
Have an empty conference room you can nab for 10 minutes? Taking deep breaths while resting in a quiet place with your eyes closed “reduces stress and helps you refocus,” says Theobald, adding, “it doesn’t have to be full-blown meditation, even a few minutes will make a difference.”
The National Sleep Foundation reports that such a rest break (they call it “quiet wakefulness”) has been shown to boost mood and improve productivity by increasing mental clarity and motivation.
Have fun encouraging others.
Theobald suggests planning wellness activities with co-workers, such as a charity run or bike ride. “If you have a positive attitude, and you’re promoting being healthy and happy, I think it rubs off. It’s almost contagious,” she says. Theobald and her team recently planned a salad potluck lunch, where everyone brought in different ingredients. “It was fun to see what people were growing in their gardens,” she says.
Take care of yourself at home, too.
On your days off, make sure you’re continuing to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. “If you don’t set up a good foundation, you’re not going to feel well at work,” Theobald says. “You’re not going to want to take your afternoon walk if you ate a big old plate of nachos the night before.”