Whether you work a desk job or are on your feet for hours a day, work can certainly take a toll on both your body and your mood. And unless you’ve recently won the lottery or are nearing retirement, that won’t be stopping anytime soon. Wouldn’t it be great to feel better at work and be more relaxed at the end of your day? At HealthPostures, we’re all about helping people improve their work environment. We’ve compiled a list of five simple things you can do throughout your day to keep your body and mind feeling great and stay energized at work.
1) Stand Up!
We may be a bit biased here, but this is our favorite way to feel better at work. If you spend a large portion of your day sitting at a desk, investing in a standing desk option such as one of our TaskMate Electric models can be a great improvement to your overall mood and wellbeing. With so many published studies that confirm the negative health impacts of sitting for prolonged periods of time, a standing desk is a no-brainer solution that can provide much-needed relief for those who are desk-bound while still allowing for a productive work environment. Set an alarm on your smart phone or download an app to give you reminders throughout the day to take a standing break. Take this practice one step further by implementing a standing meeting rather than seating everyone at a conference table for your next office meeting!
In addition to feeling good, stretching also helps your body by increasing blood flow to your muscles, reducing the risk of injuries, and improving range of motion and overall posture. Take 30 seconds at your desk or workstation and do a few basic stretches. You may be surprised just how much better you feel afterwards. If you are on your feet for much of your day, doing a couple of leg stretches partway through your work shift can re-energize and reduce tension in tired muscles. When seated, stretch your feet, rotate your ankles, etc. These stretches only take a minute, and are discreet enough that you can work right into your work day without drawing attention to yourself (although maybe your co-workers will join in and thank you for the inspiration and reduced stiffness!)
Is the day dragging on? Maybe you can’t seem to focus or are just feeling stressed. Get up and move. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and increases your energy levels, helping you stay alert and focused at work. Many adults have a hard time hitting the recommended 30-60 minutes of exercise each day. Getting a bit in during your workday can help improve your mood and wake you up, all while working towards your overall health goals. Go for a ten minute walk on your break outside your workplace (a little vitamin D is a bonus), or even around your office or work facility. If walking isn’t your thing, find a park or quiet space in your office and try some simple yoga poses. You can also start and end your day with some exercise and ride your bike to work, or go for a quick ride during lunch. All of these things can get you reset for the day. Give yourself a break, put yourself in a different atmosphere and come back refreshed. Maybe even get a little fresh air while you are at it.
4) Take Eye Breaks
Do you find yourself looking at a computer screen for hours on end? If your eyes feel tired, dry or watery by the end of the day, it’s a sign that they need a break. The American Optometric Association has a name for this: computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain. Eye strain can also affect those who read for long periods of time or have to strain due to dim lighting conditions or bright lights. Taking just a few short breaks every time you are working in any of these conditions for extended periods of time can help immensely. Not only can it make your eyes feel better, but it gives your brain a moment to take a break and recharge. Take a minute, close your eyes or just look away from the computer screen. Changing what you are looking at can provide relief as well, as it will pull you away from the screen for a few minutes. Also, ensure your work station is set up properly, with screen height adjusted accordingly to help avoid unnecessary strain.
5) Power Nap
Sleep is essential, and there are a lot of reasons why we often don’t get enough of it, leaving us tired and worn down. Shift workers especially may find themselves in need of more sleep. While taking a 3-hour nap in the middle of the work day is generally discouraged by most employers, a 20-minute power nap during your lunch break could give you the kick start you need to make the rest of your day extremely productive. Short naps of no more than 20-30 minutes can help with short-term alertness and performance without affecting your nighttime sleep schedule. Find a quiet space like your office with the door shut, phone muted and computer screen off. Take a break in your car or a rest on a quiet bench outside. (Just don’t forget to set a timer or alarm so you don’t accidentally oversleep!) Find what works best for you!
All these things are easier said than done, and breaking out of old habits can be difficult. Try setting calendar reminders throughout your day to help you remember to stand up, move or just look away. Before long it will be habit and part of your daily routine. Take a few minutes a couple of times throughout the day to try these ideas and see how you feel. Your body and mind (and maybe even your employer) will thank you.