That’s more than one-third of an average person’s day, so being mindful of how your mental and physical health is being affected is important.
Things in the Workplace That Can Affect Your Health
Sitting: Nearly 86% of full-time workers sit all day at their job. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, add in TV watching, reading, or other sedentary activities and Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day. Sedentary lifestyles are linked to an array of diseases, including diabetes, several types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more. One of the simplest changes a person can make is to stand rather than sit – it increases blood flow and energy, tones muscles, and ramps up metabolism. Also, make it a point to get up and walk around for at least a couple of minutes every hour and, if possible, during any breaks you have throughout the day.
Bad Posture: If you’re sitting most of the day and concentrating on work, chances are you’re not concentrating on your posture. Poor posture can lead to many problems, such as back, neck, and shoulder pain. But it also causes a host of other health issues including poor digestion, increased chances of cardiovascular issues, and varicose veins. While it’s hard to be mindful of bad posture, if you notice yourself slouching, sit up straight, look straight ahead, and put both feet on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle. If you’re standing, the same adjustments can be made but with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight evenly distributed between both feet. Adding either yoga or Pilates to your exercise regime will help, too – both help lengthen the spine, strengthen the abdominal muscles, and stretch and strengthen – all things that are shown to improve posture.
Poor Dietary Choices: Whether it’s because of rushing to work because we’re late, no time because of workload, or simply persuasive colleagues – we often make bad dietary choices at work. We all know that poor diet can lead to obesity and a slew of diseases, but it can also contribute to stress, tiredness, and our capacity to perform well at work. Take small steps to better nutrition at work, including:
- Give yourself more time in the morning to eat a healthy breakfast. This could mean waking up 15 minutes earlier, or hard-boiling eggs the night before for a quick protein filled bite.
- Drink plenty of water. Have a water bottle at work to drink from and refill throughout the day. Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces (for example: a 150 lb. person should drink 75 ounces of liquids per day), and avoid soda.
- Make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks on hand. Good options include fruit, nuts, yogurt, low-fat string cheese, jerky, and protein bars.
- Pre-make your lunches. Either set aside some time at night to pack a healthy lunch, or spend a few hours each week prepping lunches for an entire week.
Stress: Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization. Work-life balance often seems unattainable, especially because we are constantly ‘connected’ to our work 24/7 by technology, making it hard to disengage after hours. Stress can cause anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, and difficulty concentrating, among other things. Stress can be responsible for missed deadlines or errors, trouble getting along with co-workers, missed days, and lateness. What’s more, long-term stress can lead to an array of health issues. Some things that can help counteract work stress include:
- Learning meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness. Engaging daily or even more than once a day in one of these activities can help reduce stress.
- Disconnect and establish work boundaries. Just because you can always check your work email from your phone, doesn’t mean you have to.
- Don’t waste your vacation days, take them. Taking time to relax and recharge is imperative to avoiding chronic stress and burnout.
This article first appeared in the HealthPerks newsletter and the Winter 2016 issue of Chinese Health Initiative Wellness eNewsletter. Learn more about the Chinese Health Initiative.