For many of us, the stress of work eats at us on a daily basis. And far too often, we simply have to suck it up as best we can. But there are some healthy things you can do at work for yourself. If you can find the time.
Since we probably can only squeeze a few minutes out of a work day to take care of ourselves, this post is going to give you some quick & and simple fixes. Things you can do every single day and feel good in the process.
Quick & easy healthy things at work
1. Take a meditation break
Meditation is a fairly easy way to sneak in some de-stressing time. And there’s no need to go for the gold — a few minutes at a time at least once a day can actually help.
If you can find privacy in your cubicle, great. But if not, try to find a room or quiet corner where you won’t be disturbed. I find even 3 minutes of peaceful mind rest can make a difference. More if you can.
Begin by breathing in and out slowly, focusing only on your breath. You can do this the whole time. I like to add a 5-syllable meaningless phrase that I use to help the mind let go of all the other stuff.
NOTE: Some people use mantras that ask for things you want or ones send prayers. Whatever works best for you. But for me, since my mind is so constantly on, I find simply repeating a series of meaningless syllables more helpful to achieve a mini mind vacation.
A few extras you might want to try
I also like to add a smile while meditating. Something you might find helpful, since smiling releases “feel-good neurotransmitters — endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.” [Although you should judge if sitting and smiling at your desk will seem suspicious or just plain odd.]
Also, if you have time, try starting with a tour from toes to head of all your body parts, gently suggesting they relax one at a time. For some people, this alone can bring a quick dose of much-needed relaxation.
2. Added movement & stretches
One of the worst things we can do to our bodies is put them in one place and make them stay there for hours. Without much movement. And yet that’s exactly what work is for many of us.
Plus, on top of that, we add repetitive stress movements like typing, mousing, or clicking. It’s why so many people are dealing with carpal tunnel and/or tendinitis, as well as neck & back problems!
Not only should you get up often to stretch your legs and back, but you also need to move your fingers and wrists since they get the brunt of the action. Click here for some carpal tunnel prevention and easing exercises.
Well, maybe not exactly the push-ups we normally think of. But you can come up with a quickie exercise routine for yourself (of any workable length) to re-energize your brain cells. And to get your body juices flowing. Even things like desk pilates can help.
As much as possible, sneak in extra walks. Even if only around the room or up & down the hall a few times. Each extra step gives your body a chance to move, something we were designed to do. It also “frees” you from the confinement of your desk or cubicle. A good thing for mind and spirit.
If you need supplies, maybe don’t get them all at once. Or, if you go to the snack area, “forget” something. Whatever it takes to get your body to move around more. And, of course, if you can get yourself outside for those “quickie” steps & a breath of fresh air (without causing problems), go for it.
Also, try to use the stairs more often, even if only an extra flight or two every day. That takes very little time, but can make a big difference as time goes on. Movement is not only good for your body, it can help with stress. And it’s a great head clearer.
3. Attitude check and tune-up
When you start to feel that brain fog, movement often helps. And of course sometimes you need a food fix. (See next section.) But you might also want to check in to your mood and ‘tude.
Are you holding on to some annoyance or anger from earlier in the day? Do you just wish you were any place else? While I totally can relate to those feelings, letting that sit inside isn’t great for your health.
Take a moment to observe all the thoughts — let them run through your mind. And now shake it off. Come up with something more positive to think about / aim for. At least for now.
Maybe you can read some of these posts later for a more lasting fix:
4. Stupid food tricks
Besides tasting good, food is fuel. And just like with a car, what you put in can make a big difference to how your body performs. So one of the easiest healthy things you can do at work is to let food help you with energy and mind clarity.
I’m not trying to get you to eat boring foods just to feel good. But the right foods — or combinations of foods — can make you feel better than the “wrong” ones. The thing is, everyone is different, so by making note of your energy and any resultant head fog after eating you can learn what works best for you.
This may not be true for you, but for me I find eating smaller meals more often helps. (Perhaps save some of your lunch for a snack.) And I add protein and healthy fats to my meals to help sustain the energy. Lots of fried foods and sugar tires me out. But a little of the fun stuff in balance with the food that you know is good for you seems like a smart way to go.
5. Hydration without sugar
I promised these tips would be quick and simple. So here’s an easy one: drink water. A huge part of your body is water. And it’s not great for you to try to go all day without replenishing what we lose.
Alcohol is dehydrating so maybe that’s not the way to go for hydration. But caffeine drinks like coffee or tea, although at one time thought to be dehydrating, seem to add more liquid than they help you get rid of. Herbal teas are also great.
As for sports drinks that add electrolytes, they can be great for quick dehydration, but most add sugar or sugar substitutes. (Sugar can crash your energy later.) And the same might be true for enhanced water, so check the label.
But in general, plain old water or herbal teas are probably a better choice. And cost a lot less.
6. Rest your eyes often
Staring at a computer screen or phone for long periods of time narrow your focus and length of required vision. Doing this regularly is not great for your eyes. And can leave you with things like tired, blurry, and/or dry eyes and even headaches. There also may be longer lasting effects.
So rest your eyes often by looking away from the screen at least every 20 minutes or so. If you can get yourself to a window and look out, or simply refocus your gaze to something across the room it will help. (Yet another good reason to get up and move.)
I also find eye exercises helpful, such as the simple one of holding a pen / pencil in front of your eyes and moving the object away (as far as you can) and then up close, back and forth slowly. All the while carefully keeping it in focus. You can also move it around for peripheral vision strengthening.
A little bit can do so much!
Although I gave you a list of healthy things you can do at work, you don’t need to do them all every day. Would be nice if you can, but adding any one of these to your workday would be a great start!