Working at a desk may look safe, but it can take a toll on your physical and mental health. While the occupational hazards in an office are different from those at a construction site or hospital, it’s still wise to take some precautions.
A growing number of studies have raised concerns about the effects of sitting for long periods, which can include increased risk of heart conditions, diabetes, certain cancers, and weight gain. That’s especially troubling considering that the average American spends more than 10 hours a day sitting.
Add job-related stress to the mixture and you can see how the consequences can start to add up.
Learn what steps you can take to counteract the downside of your desk job. Start with these ideas for protecting your health and wellbeing.
Tips for Protecting Your Physical Health:
1. Adjust your posture. Slouching can cut off your circulation and make your lower backache. Try drawing your shoulder blades down and back to open up your chest. A lumbar support pillow may help too.
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2. Take frequent breaks. Studies show that moving around about every half hour reduces the negative effects of sitting. In fact, it may be even more effective than regular exercise. Make it a habit to stretch or walk around your office for a few minutes.
Just a few quick stretches you can do to give your backrest, get back circulation to the spine and legs. Sitting for long periods can cause blood clots, leg pain, and muscle stiffness.
STANDING WALL STRETCHES
Stand facing wall. Slide both hands up to the wall as shown, feel your back stretch, imagine like you are lifting your body off your hips. Hold this for 5 – 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times as necessary and as tolerated. This gives you a nice stretch and elongation to the torso, relieves compression on your spine especially the discs.
To stretch the sides, slide both hands up about 45 degrees to the left side. Hold for about 5-10 seconds, repeat the movement to the right side. Perform this stretch alternating between the right and the left directions to balance the spine.
Even just a few of these simple stretches can make a difference on your back. I recommend doing these stretches at least every 2- 3 hours/ This is especially if you tend to work 4 hours or more seated.
3. Align your wrists. Typing with a bent wrist could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Rest them occasionally and ensure your workstation is set up ergonomically.
4. Rest your eyes. If your eyes are dry, and your vision is blurred, you may be staring at the computer screen too long. Look away occasionally and do eye exercises like blinking or staring at something in the distance.
5. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps to maintain your body temperature, metabolism, and heart health. Aim for 8 glasses a day.
6. Bring snacks. It’s easier to resist the vending machines when you have a supply of wholesome foods. Good choices include nuts, baby carrots, and hummus.
7. Pack your lunch. Save money and calories by bringing your lunch to work. You can prepare it the night ahead if you tend to run out of time in the morning.
Tips for Protecting Your Mental Health:
8. Make friends. Work buddies increase job satisfaction. Get to know your coworkers and look for common interests. Share stories about your personal life and encourage them to do the same.
9. Connect in person. Face-to-face contact also contributes to stronger relationships. Try dropping by someone’s office instead of sending an email.
10. Wake up early. Do you barely see the sun because you’re inside all day? Rising an hour earlier could enhance your mood and give you more time to work out and eat a hearty breakfast.
11. Use your vacation days. Letting your vacation days go to waste undermines your health and productivity, so time off is beneficial for you and your employer. Even just planning a vacation can lift your spirits, so make a list of your favorite destinations and start researching them.
12. Decorate your space. A cluttered desk can be a source of stress. Find an organizing system that works for you, and put files you rarely use out of sight. While you’re at it, add in a few personal touches and a pretty plant.
13. Focus on helping others. Any job is more meaningful and gratifying if you keep the purpose in mind. When you’re having a rough day, think about the people who benefit from your efforts.
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You can stay healthy without giving up your paycheck. Adopt some simple habits that will protect your well-being, even if you spend many hours a day behind a desk.