These days, I think it’s safe to say that self-care can be classed as quite the trend. It’s popped up on my feeds a lot over the past few months and people are starting to recognise it as a priority.
But with fluorescent lights, uncomfortable chairs, ever-growing schedules (and snacks everywhere you look), staying healthy while you’re working can be harder than we think.
Our careers are huge parts of our lives and we know that looking after ourselves and our health has loads of benefits: less stress, fewer sick days and better productivity to name a few. Plus, it can actually save you money.
But I get it – when you’ve got a deadline you want all the fuel, and when you have an afternoon dip you want all the sugar. Looking at the numbers though, nearly half of America has gained weight at their current job.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be included in that stat.
The thing is, sometimes weight gain happens without us realising it. We can make a few bad choices and not notice a difference, and then all of a sudden boom – those jeans start to feel a little tighter.
I used to struggle with this a lot and did gain some weight when I started full-time work. But at a point I had a realisation and decided to make some changes. So if you struggle to stay healthy at work, whether you’re in an office or work from home, here are the fail-safe tips I’ve picked up over the years to make some positive changes and see a difference.
#1 | Get up every hour
It’s nothing new that sitting all day is bad for us and stand-up desks are appearing in offices all the time. But don’t worry – you don’t need to stand up all day to do your work. Instead, it’s just about making a few small changes.
I make sure I get up every single hour. Whether it’s just a stretch, walking across the office, making a brew or nipping to the loo – I do one of these things every single hour. When you’re doing a task you can so easily forget to take breaks, and that’s really bad for you. If you think you’re going to forget, try setting an alarm every hour or use an app to set a reminder. Then it’ll start to become a part of your routine.
The main thing to remember is to stretch. Even after sitting down for twenty minutes your back is hurting without you even realising it. Try to recognise that you don’t want to sit still. Move your body around in your chair and it’ll really help your back and muscles to stay healthy.
#2 | Close your eyes often
Ah the dreaded screen light. Something else you might not realise is that your eyes can dry up very quickly. If you start to feel tired and you don’t know why, a big reason could be because you’ve been focused on your screen for too long.
Getting up every hour means you’re taking your eyes away from your screen, but that isn't enough. You want to make sure you’re looking away from your screen at least every thirty minutes. Just close your eyes and count to thirty. This will help your eyes moisturise themselves and I swear you’ll notice a massive difference.
Make sure you move your eyes around too by looking in different directions. This will help with their health too.
#3 | Take your lunch break
How many of you actually take your lunch break? Be honest here. I'm definitely guilty of not taking mine. In my office, we eat at our desks, which I know isn't good – but we’re a close team and that’s how we like it. But we still give ourselves a break and that’s exactly what you’ve got to do in order to keep your productivity levels up.
Your mind can’t keep going all day. It can only take in information for up to an hour – that’s when I make a point of getting up. You need to give it time to rest. So eat your lunch and then go for a walk. Whether it’s around you building a few times or around the block, walking on your lunch break can increase your energy levels and keep cravings away too.
#4 | Plan your meals
Spoiler alert – the worst thing you can possibly do when you work is commit to buying your lunch every day. Seriously. That veggie stir fry might look healthy – but you don’t know how it’s been cooked or what it’s been cooked with.
There are so many hidden ingredients in what you buy from shops and food outlets. Plus, it’ll cost you more than you know. Take my place of work – I work in a sixth form College with over 3,000 students. At lunchtime, I see most of these eating pizza and chips. There are healthy options on offer, but they make the choices. And I also know that the lunches I make myself are way healthier than anything I could buy.
You only need five minutes to plan exactly what you’re going to make for your lunch. For me it’s easy, because I have more or less the same thing every day. And there are no excuses either, because the amount of healthy lunch ideas out there are endless! Get your ingredients, plan and…
#5 | Prepare your meals
This is a game-changer. The easiest way I do this is to make my lunch as I'm making my tea. And if you’re making something super-amazing for tea, why not take leftovers? Take as much fruit and veggies as possible and fill yourself up on them. When you take your lunch into work and you’re tempted by a “going out for lunch” offer, you’ll be less likely to take it up, because you’ve already made yourself a delicious meal.
#6 | Snack throughout the day
Now I'm no expert when it comes to healthy eating, but I don’t believe in having breakfast, lunch, dinner and that’s it. If you’re hungry, you should eat and if you don’t eat when you’re hungry, you can actually put on more weight that way. If you leave more than two hours between when you last ate, your blood sugar levels will drop and you’ll be more likely to reach for a sugary snack.
Pack your bag with snacks to see you through the whole day so your energy levels are always up. Here’s how my schedule looks.
- 8:30am – breakfast
- 11:00am – snack
- 1:00pm – lunch
- 2:30pm – snack
- 3:30pm – snack – (I have two snacks in the afternoon because I always exercise around 5pm)
- 6:30pm – dinner
#7 | Drink more water
Come on – I couldn't not include this! Drinking more water has changed my life. The more hydrated you are, the better your whole body will function. You can’t afford to just drink one bottle of water during a day and that be it. Your headaches and tiredness? That comes from not drinking enough water. I know this, because the biggest sign I’ve not had enough water is when I get a headache.
You want to be drinking at least four bottles a day, and here’s a really easy way to do it. I aim to have one drunk by mid-morning, one over lunch, one during the afternoon and one after my workout – but I usually end up drinking a lot more.
Figure out a way to do it. Set yourself alarms, or get yourself a cool water bottle with refillable times on it. It keeps bad breath at bay, flushes out toxins and can even burn calories. Win win.
#8 | Switch off at the end of the day
Don’t come home from work and think you have to do more work. That’s one of the worst things you can do for your health. You've got to give yourself a cut-off point and completely switch your mind off from your job – no matter how big a part of your life it is. When you leave the office at the end of the day, you’ve left and that’s it.
#9 | Keep clean
Working with students, I get all the colds and flu's there are. Germs are everywhere and it’s up to you to prevent yourself from catching them. Keep a hand sanitiser at your desk, wash your hands as often as you can and keep your workspace clean too. Don’t have too much clutter, tidy up at the end of the day and wipe the surface of your desk often. You don’t even want to know how many germs the average desk has...
#10 | Have ways to deal with stress
It’s really no wonder that stress is the biggest reason most people have sick days. We all live fast-paced lives that can get very hectic, and most of us are expected to do more than what is in our job description. We say yes a lot, and often have a bigger workload than we want. Stress is part of life, but one of the key things to help you stay healthy is to find ways to cope with it. Whether you read a book at lunchtime, have a call with your best friend, or enjoy working out when you get home – find what works for you put yourself first for a change.
#11 | Make your desk look pretty
Your working environment means everything. The part of the building that we’re in is listed, meaning we can’t really touch it – but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything to my little corner of the office.
You've got to make sure there’s a flow. You want space, you want to know where things are and you want to feel happy in your personal workspace. Here are a few things you can do:
- Bring in your own mug
- Use bright sticky notes
- Use colourful notebooks
- Bring in your own filing tray
- Have a plant on your desk
- Bring in your own desk calendar
There are endless ideas – just head to Pinterest for inspiration!
#12 | Trust your willpower
It’s mind over matter when it comes to keeping healthy. You have more willpower than you think. Believe in yourself and visualise the benefits.
You can do this.
I'm no expert, but these are strategies I've picked up over the years that really do work. So if you're looking to be healthier at work - this is where you start.
How do you stay healthy at work? Will you try any of these tips out?