Summer holidays are now a distant memory, and the time spent frolicking on the beach has been reduced to the occasional rogue grain of sand found in the bottom of your bag. We are all back to school, back to work and back to reality. Work can be a very unhealthy place to be, with long hours at a desk, and the threat of charity bake sale at every corner, but there are ways to stay healthy despite all these temptations.
- Adapt your posture
I suspect that everyone who has worked at a desk at some point in their working lives have complained of neck and back pain. Step one of improving this pain is to ensure your chair is appropriately adjusted. You want your chair at a height so that your wrists and forearms are parallel with the floor, and your feet resting flat on the floor. The top of the computer screen should be at eye level. Once we have adjusted your workstation, we need to adjust you! You are probably so used to sitting in a certain way, and it can feel odd to have to adjust it, but eventually it will become habit. A slouched position can put pressure and tension in your muscles, so conditioning yourself to sit up straight is important. If you are struggling with maintaining this upright position, it may mean that you need to work on your core to support you, so doing core based strengthening exercises like planks will help.
- Stretch and take a stroll
Sitting in the same position all day is not only bad for your spine health, but also means you are not utilising much energy and it becomes easy to sit, snack, and slowly but surely put on those pounds. I recommend scheduling in time to get up and move in your day, so set a regular alarm reminding you to stretch and get up and take a wander, even if it is just a trip up and down the stairs. If you have flexible job, try and squeeze in a lunchtime run or gym session, or better yet, bring the gym to you by considering switching your usual office chair for a stability ball or a standing desk.
- Bring a packed lunch
The lunchtime feeding frenzy at work can be hard to get right. Often, it’s a matter of dutifully consuming whatever is on offer at your lunch meeting, or grabbing a less than desirable meal deal. If you are lucky enough to have plentiful choices for lunch, that can be a minefield in itself, worrying about the ingredients and nutritional values of that bipimbap that you found at the pop-up market! I suggest removing this choice and uncertainty by preparing your own lunch. This allows you to know exactly what’s going into your lunch, and gives you control over portion size. The easiest way round lunch time prep is just to cook extra for dinner and have leftovers the next day, but if you fancy a change, I always recommend salad jars, using mason jars to layer up a fresh lovely salad, ensuring it contains complex carbohydrates for slow energy release and is high in fibre and protein to keep you full throughout your day.
- Keep hydrated with water
We are all guilty of compensating for long hours and little sleep with excess caffeine, and whilst there is the increasing evidence to support the benefits of coffee, there are also risks including headaches, high blood pressure, and simply that we also need to know when to stop flogging a dead horse and just get some rest. Another point to consider is that we often reach for the tea and coffee over simple water and this means we may not be hydrating ourselves in those dehydrating air-conditioned offices as much as we should. I would recommend keeping a water bottle filled on your desk, so that it is your first port of call when you are wanting to whet your whistle. You may even find that keeping well hydrated will prevent those mid-afternoon hunger pangs.
- Manage your stress
Over 11 million days are lost at work due to work-related stress, so finding a way to manage your stress is so important to maintaining good mental health. Signs that you’re struggling can include difficulty sleeping, feeling anxious, not being able to concentrate or focus on tasks, and generally feeling low and negative. If you recognise some of these traits, then it is time to act, and the answer is usually about finding a healthy work-life balance, and making sure that you see your friends and family enough as they tend to be your best support network. Ensuring you exercise regularly will also help manage your stress through endorphin release, and finding time for meditation and relaxation is also important. It doesn’t always have to be in the form of a yoga class or a hot lavender bath- meditation and mindfulness can be practised at your office desk if need be. Just take a few minutes to close your eyes and deeply breathe, not allowing the anxieties, worries and thoughts to infiltrate those set aside minutes.