Healthy Cubicle, Healthy Workplace, Healthy You

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Do you practice healthy habits when you’re at home, but find that once you step foot into your office, all those practices seem to fall by the wayside? Do you find yourself binge eating on unhealthy foods or neglecting your workout regimen during the work week?

This is a common pitfall that many workers fall into, and the reason for this, says Loyola University Health System occupational medicine expert Dr. Philip McAndrew, can be summed up in one word: stress. When we feel stress at work, we tend to make poor decisions about what we eat, neglect our exercise routines and get stuck in unhealthy sleeping patterns. This creates a vicious cycle where our stress causes us to engage in bad habits and those bad habits add to our stress levels. And the only way to break this cycle is to make a conscious decision to change our behavior at work.

“When you have limited time and limited energy, you’re going to choose the easier road and this is what ends up happening,” McAndrew said. “You really have to decide that you’re going to be better to yourself when you’re under stress. That means you need to get more sleep, eat better food, and get more exercise than usual. But, what typically happens in stressful periods is we do all the worst things for ourselves.”

How to stay healthy at work

Living a healthy lifestyle is always easier said than done, and sometimes, depending on your work environment, it may seem almost impossible. These tips can help you become healthier in your cubicle, no matter how stressed out you are.

1. Bring in your own food. It’s so easy to eat all the wrong foods at work, whether you’re getting lunch delivered or grabbing a snack from a vending machine. In addition, when you’re too busy to eat, it increases the likelihood of bingeing on unhealthy foods. In order to avoid this, bring a cooler of healthy food with you to work so that it’s handy whenever you feel hungry.

2. Control your portions. Although bringing your own food to work is your best bet, that doesn’t mean you can’t order food with your colleagues or go out to lunch from time to time. But just because you splurge a little doesn’t mean you have to eat a lot. If you find the portions are too large, try saving half your food for another day or sharing lunch with a friend. This can save you cash as well as calories.

3. Keep moving. In order to promote good health in the workplace, more and more organizations are adding treadmill workstations to their list of office supplies. And there’s a good reason for that: According to a study conducted by the University of Texas at Arlington published February 20, 2014 by Plosone.org, treadmill desks help workers increase their calorie burn as well as their productivity. So, if you get the opportunity to use a treadmill desk, walking while you work can be a great way to get regular exercise. If this isn’t an option, you can always add more steps to your day by taking the stairs when you can, parking your car farther away from the office, and walking over to a coworker’s desk for a face-to-face discussion rather than sending an e-mail.

4. Take care of your eyes. According to the American Optometric Association, staring at a computer screen all day can lead to a number of problems such as headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision and eye strain. To prevent this, the organization suggests keeping your computer monitor below eye level, increasing the font of what you’re reading instead of moving closer to the screen, making sure your screen is not too bright or too dim, and looking at something far away about every 20 minutes.

5. Remember your posture. There’s a lot more to sitting than just bending your knees and letting gravity get to work. Bad posture can lead to serious neck and back injuries, so be sure to sit properly during those long work hours. When you sit at your desk, keep your back against the chair and your feet flat on the floor.

6. Find a reason to smile. Putting flowers or pictures of loved ones on your desk is a good way to personalize your space and make you feel happy during stressful times.

“When you do that, you really release lots of good energy into your body,” said Syd Hoffman, author of “All-Day Energy: 100 Ways to Boost Your Energy…Now!” “Smiling is really great for your health — it invigorates you, and also charges up everybody around you,” said Hoffman.

7. Stay hydrated — with water. You can’t expect to guzzle coffee and soda all day and expect to feel — or look — your best. If you’re one of those people who avoid water because you think it’s too boring, adding fruit to your water can really spruce it up and help keep you from grabbing drinks that are loaded with sugar and empty calories.

8. Stay the course. No matter what strategies you choose to stay healthy at work, the trick is to find an achievable balance and stick with your program — even when stressful times make that difficult.

“You have to carve out healthy habits in the workplace because no one’s going to give you the time or the energy to do that,” said McAndrew. “You have to carve out the healthy habits for yourself and you have to be aggressive around doing them.”

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