It can be a battle to stay healthy at work. Whether you're working a desk job or on your feet all day, the stress and close quarters to other potentially sick people can end up costing your health, mentally and physically.
Physical Health at the Office
Some of the best ways to stay healthy at work are the best ways to stay healthy in general. If you're not drinking water, eating healthy and washing your hands frequently already, you should start now. Drinking more water can help keep you awake through that 3 o'clock slump; eating healthier can prevent minor and major sicknesses; washing your hands prevents colds from spreading through a whole office. Little steps count. Dr. Dawn Baker, an accomplished anesthesiologist, writer of Practice Balance, and mother, says, "A key part of prioritizing your own health during busy times is to be as prepared as possible for the basics (such as keeping a pair of walking shoes in the car for impromptu exercise sessions), and control the things you can control."
Try making a healthy swap or trying an easy office snack like frozen bananas to kickstart a healthy eating pattern. If you're feeling hungry but just ate, try drinking a glass of water before heading straight to the snacks. It's pretty easy to mistake dehydration for hunger, especially if you're frequently dehydrated.
Apps like Plant Nanny can help you drink enough water. Every time you update your app, the plant grows. If you've gone a few hours without drinking, Plant Nanny will nudge you to remind you to stop for some water. That little boost of cuteness may help you create a new habit with a little less effort.
Whether or not you're exercising outside of the office, make time to get some steps in during your workday. Simple choices like taking the stairs instead of an elevator can make a huge difference. You can also set a timer to go off every hour to remind you to get up from your desk for a short walk. When you return to your desk, check in on your posture -- sitting up straight can reduce aches and pains associated with an 8 hour day at the desk. On the other side of the spectrum, be sure to stretch frequently if you're on your feet for your whole shift. If you stand in one place, see if you can get a carpet for your area. The padding can reduce stress on your legs and feet. Comfortable shoes and gel inserts are also a must.
If you're not getting enough sleep, everything else will suffer. Your body will be more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other contagious illnesses, your mind will be less sharp, and all of your co-workers will know that you didn't get enough sleep. Eight hours of sleep is the typically quoted magic number, but many people have different needs. Whether six hours is enough to keep you active or you need a full nine, find that sweet spot and stick to it!
Mental Health at Work
We all have mental health, despite it frequently only being referenced in terms of mental illness. Stress and mood are a huge part of your mental health. Both are heavily affected by your work environment because of the time spent at work. Focusing on your mental health and balance is an important part of the process to stay healthy at work.
Some stress is a normal part of work. However, when your stress starts to run your life, taking a break may be the best idea. If you're frustrated with a particular task, walk away for five minutes or table the task for a day. If you're still finding yourself struggling, try speaking to your manager about your problems - a supportive manager will be happy to help you get better at your job while reducing your stress levels. Of course, if your management is not helpful in these areas or you fear retribution for showing any signs of being unable to complete a task, this may actually increase your stress levels. One of our favorite resources for "is this work environment normal/good for me" is Ask A Manager, written by Alison Green. You'll also find a variety of tactics here to deal with some smaller workplace stressors (gossiping neighbors, inappropriate behavior and more).
Remembering to take a break will keep you from losing control of your health and your career. Dr. Baker says, "Focusing on your own health in the midst of a busy life requires good self-knowledge and a constant re-evaluation of priorities." Check in with yourself periodically. If you need a break, take one. Even a day off can do wonders for your mental and physical health. In the United States, employees only use half of their vacation time on average. Vacation days are given to workers to keep them fresh. Use the opportunity to bring a refreshed mind and a rejuvenated body back to the workplace!