Friday, August 19, 2011

5 Tips for Staying Healthy on the Job

I rarely (knock on wood) get sick anymore, and that's probably because I've been around so long I've caught every germ there is and am now immune.

But I do have more aches and pains, many of them caused by sitting at a computer for 10 hours a day. My wrist hurts. My elbows hurt. My knees crack when I get out of my chair.

The trouble is, I know better. I know that I need to take more rest breaks, to lift more weights to gain better strength and do yoga more often to relieve stress and improve my flexibility. The interesting thing about this story I did for my Gannett/USAToday column is that I need to start walking the talk, just like these experts....

It may feel like you're always under stress, dealing with a crabby boss and heavy workload, all the while trying to find some personal time to relax.

But what if a few simple habits could not only alleviate your stress, but make you more productive and happier? Experts say it's possible, because they do it themselves.

Dan Rosin, a therapist for 45 years who has spent much of that time counseling overworked and burned out workers, says he takes his own advice when it comes to developing a balanced approach to his work and personal life.

He says the key is having a plan.

"People will always say that they feel better when they eat right and they exercise," he says. "But you've got to have a plan for that. It won't just happen on its own."

For example, Rosin says before work he always starts with an exercise regimen that includes stretching and walking, and makes sure he quits his day at a reasonable time so he can enjoy activities outside of work such as singing with a jazz group.

He says that while there are times you can be thrown off such a routine — such as overeating at Thanksgiving or suffering an injury that prevents exercise — having a plan in place makes it easy to resume your routine right away.

Such a plan is even more critical, he says, as workers struggle with economic uncertainty, increased workloads and worries about the future.

"How can you live in one of the most stressful times and not have a plan?" he says. "I know it ain't sexy to say you have to exercise and eat right, but you have to look at your quality of life. People don't seem to understand they have to live their life on purpose."

Another expert who takes her own advice is Melinda Hemmelgarn, a registered dietician known as the "Food Sleuth," who advises it's critical that workers take their own health seriously if they want to stay functional at work and perform well.

"I pack food with me such as nuts, dried or fresh fruit, so that I am never at the mercy of a vending machine or fast food outlet," she says. "Not getting overly hungry and staying well hydrated is key to peak mental and physical performance."

If you're looking for some other habits that can boost your energy at work and alleviate stress, experts recommend trying these steps:

1. Work up a sweat every day. "Some people don't like to do this, because they just want to take a pill or something instead of exercise," Rosin says. "But you've got to work out if you want to be healthy."

2. Drive by fast food restaurants. Hemmelgarn says it's better to find whole, minimally processed foods. Choosing local, organic and seasonal food will provide you with a much healthier diet and help you stay focused at work. For example, choosing protein and minimizing simple carbohydrates is a better choice before a meeting where you need to be focused and productive. Relying on caffeine or candy will only provide a quick energy boost, and then you'll hit bottom during your meeting.

3. Get enough sleep. Keep your laptop, smartphone and television out of your bedroom, so that your body receives the signal it's a place to sleep. Those who don't get enough sleep are more likely to develop emotional or mental problems and find it more difficult to be creative or productive at work.

4. Quit sending emails. Get on the phone with a contact instead of sending an email. The social interaction that's likely to take place with a call is more beneficial for your emotional health. Or, get up and walk across the room to talk to a colleague instead of texting or emailing. The exercise will help you physically and mentally.

5. Listen to music. Studies have shown that singing can reduce stress, and students who listened to a recording of Mozart were found to have higher test scores. It's believed this may be because processing music uses some of the same brain pathways as memory. Listen to music if possible at work, or sing along to your favorite tunes in the car to and from work.

What tips do you have for staying healthy on the job?



Jobs in the Gulf said...

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, according to a study conducted last spring by the International Labor Office of the United Nations. That number doesn't seem to be decreasing, nor does the number of excuses: Healthy eating takes too much preparation; at the end of a long day, we're too tired to exercise; or we simply don't have time.

Anita said...

Jobs in the Gulf,
The rate of obesity has to be of real to concern to everyone -- companies who have to pay higher health costs and employees who may pay with their lives. What we need to decide is that even if we fall off the wagon for a day or two, we have to get right back on that good routine and quit making excuses.
Thanks for your comments!

Sarah Says said...

I actually just read a great article about this on ABC News that talked about having walking meetings -- rather than sitting in the conference room -- and doing exercises at your desk. Having some five pound dumbbells can help during a phone conversation. Here's the article:

Anita said...

Thanks, Sara...those are great to add to the lis

jhona said...

The article was great in trying to help employees on how to get fit despite their stressful work. I really like it.