It’s estimated we spend about one third of our lives at work so with this in mind, it’s important we have strategies to help keep our health on track whilst we’re there. Not only is this good for our own personal health and wellbeing, but a healthier work force also results in better productivity!
Preparation is Key
So often I see people with the best of intentions starting the week off right, packing salads for lunch on Monday, but by the time hump day rolls around and we get more tired, the wheels are starting to fall off. This is so clearly evident at the gym as well which is totally over-crowded on a Monday and by Thursday and Friday, it’s starting to become a ghost town.
I highly recommend everyone spend a couple of hours on the weekend planning their meals for the week ahead. This may mean you’re cooking big batches of meals to freeze, or simply getting your grocery shopping done so you have the right foods in the house for the week ahead.
My Top 8 Tips for Staying Healthy at Work
1. Start the day right.
Don’t ever go to work without eating breakfast! Doing so will mean you’re setting yourself up for a roller coaster of energy and mood swings, poor concentration, snacking on unhealthy foods, and relying too much on sugary and caffeinated beverages to get you through the day.
Ensure your breakfast is a balanced meal containing protein, carbohydrates and fats.
My Gluten-free Zucchini Slice is a fantastic option which can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for those busy, rushed mornings.
2. Left over dinner for lunch.
One of the best ways to ensure you’re not temped to buy a dirty sausage roll from the smoko van is to have a nutritious and filling, packed lunch. My go-to lunch option is usually whatever I’ve had for dinner the night before.
To me, it’s a no brainer to cook once and eat twice. So double your dinner ingredients to ensure you have leftovers for the next day.
3. Don’t skip your breaks.
Whether it’s your lunch break or a morning and afternoon tea break, taking yourself away from your desk and computer can really recharge your batteries and improve your memory, focus and concentration, whilst having some distance from the current task you’re working on can also give you that perspective you need to find solutions and reduce stress.
Ever tried the Pomodoro Technique? The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing you to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue. It’s a simple technique whereby for every 25 minutes work you complete, you have a 5 minute break. Read more about it here.
Taking a short break to do some light stretching is also important to prevent repetitive strain injuries, and neck and back ache.
So whilst people often get caught in the trap of skipping meals and breaks in an effort to ‘get more done’, taking regular breaks will actually mean that you stay on task and focus more effectively.
So maybe more frequent trips to the water cooler are in order…..
4. Stay hydrated.
Working in an air-conditioned office or work environment can be very dehydrating and furthermore, because the air-conditioners are often set to Antarctic temperatures, you either don’t feel thirsty, or you crave hot cups of tea and coffee to warm you up.
The best way to keep your water intake up is to keep a 500 ml or 1L water bottle with you throughout the day as this will help you to monitor how much you’ve consumed.
Aim to drink 1.5 – 2L of water every day. Flavour your water with fresh slices of lemon and cucumber, or fresh herbs such as peppermint. You can also substitute water for a few cups of un-caffeinated herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, lemon and ginger, liquorice and fruit teas.
5. Eat mindfully.
Ever had dinner in front of the TV and one minute your plate is packed full of food, while the minute next there’s nothing left and you’re reaching for seconds without even remembering you’ve eaten?! Not eating mindfully is a sure fire way to over eat!
Eating mindfully means taking yourself away from the computer, phone, desk or job at hand, concentrating on the meal in front of you, and chewing every bite properly.
Snacking at your desk whilst you’re engrossed in your work can also result in over-eating. So limit your snacking to break times only.
6. Healthy snacks.
Once again, this is about being prepared in advance and packing healthy snacks so you’re less likely to raid the office biscuit tin!
Some of my favourite snacks include:
- Boiled eggs
- Sliced apple drizzled in nut butter
- Vegie sticks (carrot, celery, cucumber, snow peas, raw cauliflower) with hummus or guacamole
- Small handful of nuts and seeds
- Homemade protein balls
- Avocado with rice crackers
Having a couple of light snacks throughout the day will ensure your bloody sugars and energy stays more constant, helping to prevent that 3pm slump.
My other tip is drinking a natural liquorice tea in the afternoon. Liquorice tea has a natural sweetness which helps to curb that sweet craving and afternoon trip to the vending machine.
Lastly, beware of those chocolate-laden birthday celebrations! Why not suggest healthier options (such a fruit platters, wraps, my gluten-free and refined sugar-free, paleo banana bread) which don’t necessarily take any more effort to prepare, but will be far better for all concerned.
7. Limit caffeine.
Limit coffee and black tea to only 1-2 a day (or none if you can). Green tea can be a better substitute but remember it still contains caffeine. Energy drinks are a big no-no as they’re full of sugar and other additives which frankly, your body just does not need.
Caffeine can be dehydrating, it can exacerbate the symptoms of stress and anxiety; whilst having too much, or drinking it too late in the day, can lead to insomnia.
Next time you’re reaching for another cup of coffee, stop and bring some wonder to how you’re feeling - ask yourself why you’re needing/craving it:
- Are you just thirsty and need a drink of water?
- Are you actually just hungry because you’ve skipped lunch?
- Are you tired because you didn’t sleep properly (perhaps because you had too much coffee the day before)?
- Are you stressed and just trying to keep yourself going?
- Are you cold and just need to put a jumper on?
8. Go for a walk.
We know that a sedentary lifestyle (including sitting at a desk all day) is a contributing factor to weight gain and obesity.
So if you work indoors, or spend the majority of your day sitting or staring at a computer screen, take yourself outside for some fresh air and sunshine. It’s not only a good way to replenish vitamin D levels, but it’s also a simple way to: clear your head and renew your energy for the remainder of the day; increase your daily step count and physical activity levels; help your posture and prevent neck and back pain which can occur from prolonged sitting.
As you can see, there are many simple and effective ways we can improve our health and wellbeing at work. Putting in a bit of effort to plan for the week ahead sets you up for success, and considering we spend a third of our lives at our place of work, it makes sense to ensure it’s a healthy and happy experience.