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Is Your Job Impacting Your Health? Here are 3 Ways to Combat Unhealthy Work Practices

Is Your Job Impacting Your Health? Here are 3 Ways to Combat Unhealthy Work Practices

Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can be both mentally and physically draining, and according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, more than two in five full-time workers say they have gained weight in their current job, with women reporting higher levels of weight gain than men.

Most blame their weight gain on sitting for the majority of the day, feeling too tired from work to exercise, and eating more because of stress. Sound familiar?

In my case, I went from being a fairly active student who exercised regularly and was on my feet a lot as a part-time waitress and bartender, to working full time as a writer, which meant I was suddenly spending eight hours or more each day just sitting at a desk.

Working from home also meant I no longer had to commute to work, and while this technically should have freed up more time in my schedule for exercise and healthy eating, the reality was a bit different.

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Long story short, it got to the point where I was so out of shape that even climbing short flights of stairs left me breathless and people who hadn’t seen me in a while were congratulating me on my pregnancy (I wasn’t expecting). It was at this point that I realized I was going to have to make some serious lifestyle changes.

The first and most important thing I had to acknowledge is that while it’s not impossible to stay physically fit when you have a desk job, it does mean you’ll have to work a lot harder at it than someone in a more physically demanding line of work.

So if you’re looking for effective ways to combat your less-than-healthy work habits, here are three important things you should start doing today.

1. Don’t ignore your stress

In addition to affecting your mental wellbeing, stress can have a huge impact on your physical health too, and research shows that it can contribute to gastrointestinal problems and heart disease, and may even slow your metabolism.

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Interestingly, the CareerBuilder survey found that workers who reported lower stress levels also reported less weight gain, so if you’re looking to lose weight, finding ways to manage your stress and achieve a better work-life balance should be your first step.

Start by figuring out what your triggers are and how you can avoid or better manage the resulting stress. For instance, you might feel most anxious when you have a hard deadline coming up, in which case you could try to break projects up into smaller chunks to avoid a last-minute rush.

Or, if your stress levels tend go up towards the end of the week, making an effort to get plenty of rest and exercise on days you know will be particularly stressful can help you cope.

2. Change your snacking habits

Even if you’re health conscious during mealtimes, it’s easy to pack on extra calories throughout the day without even really thinking about it, especially if you’re prone to stress-eating.

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This is not to say that snacking is bad, and in fact, research shows that the right type of snacking can help you control your appetite and avoid overeating later on. However, it is important to make conscious decisions about what, when, and where you eat.

First of all, try not to eat at your desk, as studies show that this type of mindless eating can cause us to overeat. Instead, make an effort to leave your desk and sit somewhere peaceful where you can focus on your food and enjoy the different flavors and textures without being distracted.

Secondly, if you know you’ll be snacking throughout the day, pack healthy snacks that will satisfy your cravings without filling you with empty calories and harmful chemicals.

High-protein snacks such as nuts along with raw fruits and vegetables are best for giving you an energy boost at work, but it’s best to portion out your snacks beforehand, as even healthy snacks will cause weight gain if you eat too much.

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3. Make exercise a priority

Aside from helping us stay physically fit, exercise can be a huge stress and anxiety reliever, so while you may not feel like you can fit exercise into your already-busy schedule, the truth is that if you want to avoid workplace burnout and stay healthy, you simply can’t afford not to exercise.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but when it comes to weight loss, consistency is extremely important. Fitting in just 20-30 minutes of high intensity interval training each morning before you go to work can actually be more effective than working out for two hours at a time once or twice a week.

What also helped for me was finding a form of exercise I actually enjoyed. Whether it’s running, yoga, body-weight training, dancing, swimming, or playing a sport like tennis or basketball, find a way to get moving that will be enjoyable rather than a chore.

Once you realize just how much of a difference exercise can make in your life, it will become just as important to you as eating or sleeping. You will make time for it, even if that means getting up a bit earlier, turning your commute into a workout, or fitting in some exercise during your lunch break.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

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Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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