handling your health when you work a 9 5 desk job

Whether it’s sitting in an office all day, or in your own home working remotely due to the COVID-19 situation, a lot of us spend the majority of our days at a desk behind a screen (or three). Naturally, if we don’t keep an eye on how we’re taking care of ourselves, certain habits can pass us by as the hours wear on and we don’t even realise it. Working long, high-pressure hours sitting down can often lead to issues with our physical and mental health if we don’t give these things the attention they need. Here are some things to try and keep in mind when you work long hours behind a desk, and some tips on how to handle them easily and efficiently.

Fuelling Up

There are typically two types of people when it comes to eating during the workday – the type that forgets about it entirely and the type that snacks mindlessly all day on high-sugar, processed convenience foods. Sorry to break it to you, but neither of these is a healthy approach.

Even if you’re not involved in a lot of physical activity throughout the day, your brain is constantly working behind that computer screen, and therefore, surprise, surprise, it needs fuel. Eating small but regular meals throughout the day containing a good combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats is important for keeping your energy up and helping you to focus. You’ll find that when you’re fuelling your body right, your productivity can soar.

Taking some time at the beginning of the week to prepare some healthy snacks is a great idea to make sure this doesn’t interfere with your schedule too much. Think of things like chopped fruit and plain yogurt, vegetables with a protein-packed dip, trail mixes, smoothies to-go and other easy to consume, grab-and-go meals, and snacks. If you work in an office, keep your eyes open or speak to someone in charge about healthy vending machine companies, which can help you avoid the chocolates and sodas you might otherwise be drawn to.

Movement

We all know what sitting in a desk chair all day can do to our backs, but rarely do anything about it to make the workday easier on our bodies. Neglecting to take action in this department isn’t only going to give you a stiff neck by the weekend, but it can have long-lasting effects which you might only start noticing as you get older.

It’s a good idea to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stand up every hour. You don’t need to get up and run a marathon every couple of minutes, but simply take a brisk walk around the house or office, grab a fresh glass of water, step outside or chat to a colleague for 5 minutes. This will not only help your body to stretch out a little but also give your mind a much-needed breather before you get back on the job.

Another great idea is to try out desk yoga for those moments when you’re simply too deep in a project and can’t drag yourself away from the screen for that five-minute walk. Some other ideas to try out to take care of your back and the rest of your body during long work hours include sitting on a yoga ball, investing in a standing desk, and simply taking the stairs whenever possible.

Blue Light

Surely you remember your parents warning you that watching too much TV was going to turn your eyes square or some similar horror story? Well, they weren’t entirely wrong. In this era, we’re all spending more and more time with our eyes glued to screens, whether it’s for work purposes, entertainment, and even social interaction since the start of the pandemic. Square eyes might not be the outcome, but this is certainly not good for our eyes or our brains.

In the long run, overexposure to the blue light that comes off our devices can impact our vision, cause eyestrain and blurry vision, as well as negatively impact our sleep which plays a massive role in our overall physical and mental health. If you are spending excessive amounts of time in front of a screen and it’s something you can’t avoid, you might want to consider investing in blue light blocking glasses to protect your vision and help your brain wind down before bedtime.

Hydration

No, your sixth cup of coffee for the day does not count towards your H2O intake. A simple healthy habit that is overly expressed and yet still neglected is to drink enough water throughout the day. Hydrating regularly will help manage your energy, manage snack cravings (sometimes you’re really just thirsty), and even help you out with getting up from your desk regularly because you’ll be needing to go to the bathroom way more often, nailing two healthy habits in one!

A good idea is to invest in a big water bottle (of at least one litre) and set yourself a goal to sip on it constantly at your desk. Try to finish the bottle before midday and then refill it to finish it another time before you head home, or before you shut your laptop for the day and head to bed.

Mental Rest

When you’re invested in your work and you have a lot to do (we all know the feeling), it’s sometimes difficult to know when to switch off. Getting into a good workflow and working hard is important and will make you feel productive and accomplished – a feeling we all relish. However, it’s important not to get carried away with this.

Making time for yourself to take short breaks throughout the day will help refresh your mind to keep going until the workday is over. However, it’s even more important to switch off entirely after a certain time and take care of yourself properly. Make a wholesome meal, immerse yourself in a hobby and spend time with loved ones. Giving your body and mind time to rest is going to benefit your work in the long run.

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