Healthy Habits to Improve Your Workday
Whether you are working entirely at home, are going into an office occasionally or regularly or you work in the community, most of us spend a lot of time on the job. Inevitably then, the way we approach our work and the choices we make throughout our workdays, will have a significant impact on your health. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to develop healthy workday habits to help you stay mentally and physically well. Read on for some simple steps you can take to improve your day to make you more productive, to relieve stress, and to feel healthier overall.
Research continues to show that our bodies are designed to move. Sitting down for extended periods of time can affect your mental health and increase your risk of developing a chronic disease. Finding ways to move in a day packed with deadlines, meetings or client visits can feel difficult at first, especially for those working full-time at home. However, regular movement will stimulate your brain, help you regain focus and actually make you more productive. To increase activity levels throughout the day try to:
- Park further from the office entrance, get off at an earlier subway or bus stop or choose the stairs over the elevator when you are traveling to a workplace.
- If an active commute is possible, walk or bike to work as much as you can.
- Set reminders on your phone or computer to get up, move and stretch once an hour—or at least every 90 minutes.
- Swap out your chair for an exercise ball to engage your core and stabilizer muscles.
- Inquire about a standing desk or stand at your existing desk to get the same benefits.
- When possible, use meetings as a chance to move—ask a colleague to walk and talk or pop in your earphones to take a phone call on the go.
- Take active breaks when you can, such as getting in a brief walk at your lunch hour
Making nourishing choices at work can be difficult when you’re hungry, pressed for time and tempted by the vending machine or local fast-food options. In order to eat well at work, you will need to do some planning and preparation. But as an added bonus, packed lunches and snacks are also budget-friendly. Here are some tips to help you:
- Start your day with a hearty breakfast. Consider prepping the night before to speed up your morning routine or give you the option to pack-and-go.
- Try to prepare your own nourishing lunches with lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and high-protein options.
- Pack snacks to keep you energized between meals such as: hard boiled eggs, plain Greek yogurt, vegetables and hummus, fruit and cheese and more.
- Keep non-perishable snacks at home for your workdays there, or at your desk in the office for the days you aren’t as organized. Ideas include: canned fish, nuts, nut butters, low-sodium canned soup, whole grain crackers, rice cakes and fruits like apples with a long shelf life.
- If you work from home, try preparing your lunch and snacks before you start your workday. This will encourage you to eat well and eliminate preparation time which can give you a chance to step away from your desk.
Even mild dehydration can have a significant impact on energy levels, brain function and performance. How much water you need to stay hydrated depends on many factors including your age, activity levels and location. A health care provider can give you a recommendation that’s right for you. Whatever your specific hydration goals are, here are some tips to stay hydrated throughout the workday:
- Keep a water bottle handy and refill it often. A bottle with time markers or motivational quotes can be helpful for some.
- If you are struggling to drink water, set reminders on your phone or use a fitness tracker to take a water break at least every hour.
- Fruits and vegetables with a high water content—like watermelon, peppers, celery, cucumbers, grapes and tomatoes—also count towards your hydration levels.
- If you don’t find water appealing, add lemon, mint or cucumber for flavour, drink carbonated options or introduce a chilled herbal tea.
- Watch your caffeine consumption and consider replacing your afternoon coffee with decaffeinated tea, coffee or herbal teas.
Find Ways to Manage Stress
A stressful work environment can cause headaches, sleep challenges, stomach-aches and concentration difficulties. Over time, chronic stress has been linked to anxiety, high blood pressure, substance abuse, a weakened immune system and health conditions like heart disease. While you can’t eliminate stress at work completely, you can find positive ways to manage your stress. Beyond moving often, eating well, and staying hydrated, here are some other tips to help you cope:
- Create a comfortable and soothing work environment. Keep your work area clean and organized, decorate your space with pictures, objects and plants that make you happy, run a diffuser with essential oils (if permitted in shared spaces) or play relaxing music.
- Set reminders to breathe deeply—in through the nose and out through your mouth—throughout the day. Guided meditation videos or apps can also help calm your mind and refocus your attention.
- Multi-tasking has been proven to negatively affect speed, accuracy and stress levels. Instead, use a time management app to track and prioritize tasks and to set deadlines. Make an effort stop and congratulate yourself (with a walk around the block or a snack break) when you complete a difficult or lengthy task.
- Set boundaries between your work and home life. For example, avoid checking your email after 5:00p.m., turn off work notifications on your phone in the evenings and if possible, create a separate workspace you can walk away from if you work from home.
From walking meetings, nourishing snacks and stress-busting techniques, staying healthy in the workplace is easier than you think. Creating wellness habits will benefit your physical and mental health and help you be more productive and energized at work.
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