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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 July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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