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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

More by this author

Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

“Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. When tiredness is persistent, however — when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get— it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here’re some of the most common causes of fatigue:

1. Dehydration

If you want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions.

If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energising oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

You cannot cure this crash with caffeine – the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

2. Lack Of Exercise

A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of our everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

3. A Poor Diet

The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats. The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by pizza or cheese.

Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

4. Skipping Breakfast

Physician Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan advises that eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

Ingesting food signals to your brain that there is enough food available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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Some great ideas for a healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

Or if meal-prepping isn’t your think, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit: 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

5. Poor Quality Of Sleep

We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed. But did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is.

TO feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time. And before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to prepare for a restful night.

Read more about how to develop a routine that will get you better sleep: Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

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6. Sleep Apnea (A Person’s Airways Get Blocked off While They Are Asleep)

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while they are asleep. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing as well as the use of a special breathing machine to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

7. Depression

Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating.

Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling and lifestyle changes like stress management to help manage this condition. You can take a look at these 15 Ways To Overcome Depression And Sadness.

Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

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8. Hypothyroidism

If a person has hypothyroidism, their thyroid gland does not produce adequate levels of these important hormones— and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain and feeling cold all the time.

Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills like Synthroid. Check here for signs of having a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

9. Anemia

People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements or B-12 shots.

While here are some drinks you can try to relieve symptoms of Anemia, it’s best to do a blood test and consult your doctor in case of any hidden medical conditions.

10. Cancer

While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surround tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

Diagnosis is usually by biopsy and treatment often focusses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery— and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

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