Maintaining your wellness is key to being your best self at work. Try these simple self-care tips to get ahead—and impress your boss.
Eat Sensibly and Regularly
The timing of your meals affects your decision making. When you eat may have just as much influence on your mood and performance as what you eat.
Time slows when you’re hungry at work. Reports and presentations are put on hold while you, unproductive prisoner of your cubicle that you are, stare at the clock, counting down the slow minutes until lunch. But this snack-less suffering has larger consequences beyond your unfinished quarterly report.
One study tracked the timing of a parole board’s decisions on prisoner appeals. Applicants reviewed immediately prior to lunch were denied an astonishing 100% of the time. The researchers hypothesized that the parole board, as a result of their hungriness, reviewed the pre-lunch appeals while experiencing lower blood sugar than normal. A drop in blood sugar, the study suggests, increases the chance that one will take the easier of two solutions presented to any difficult problem. It was easier to quickly deny an application than it was to investigate the merit of the prisoner’s appeals.
If you’re hungry at work, you may feel more inclined to pass on an opportunity to take on a new project, even if you know it could lead to a promotion. In your mid, the short term need to avoid energy- or brain-draining activities outweighs any potential long term benefits of engaging the task.
Your ability to make good and effective decisions is also, of course, affected by what you eat. If you satisfy hunger with junk or fast food, you’ll be just as unproductive as if you skipped the snack all together. Food that gives you a quick energy high and then leaves you feeling like you need to sleep it off is not the ideal workplace lunch.
Instead, grab energy-boosting proteins, slow-release carbohydrates, and vitamin-packed fruit and vegetables. For lunch, enjoy salads, smoothies, wraps, and soups to stay focused and energized. You can also make mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, such as bananas and granola bars, part of your winning workday routine.
Exercising is key to a healthy body and mind. It helps to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and improves mental health and wellbeing. But having a hectic working life can make fitting in exercise difficult.
Depending on the distance, biking to work is a great solution to beating traffic and fitting in a workout.
If your workplace has a gym, schedule a convenient workout before or after work, or during your lunch break (as long as you don’t skip a meal!).
Alternatively, take a walk at lunch time to refresh and de-stress. You can also stroll the office halls as you take a call, or send a print job to the copier furthest from your desk. Greet your clients, take the stairs rather than the elevator, run an errand, or park farther away—these are all ways you can be more active at work. Every little bit of exercise counts.
Optimize your Desk
Sitting at a desk for eight hours or more a day can be seriously detrimental to your health. Staring at a computer all day can lead to several painful conditions from eyestrain to tension neck syndrome (TNS). Eyestrain causes headaches and makes it difficult to focus while TNS can cause severe pain in the neck and shoulders.
Take a quick self evaluation and if necessary make changes to your workstation. Let your manager know if you need to make more ergonomic changes. For some people experiencing pain, a standing workstation can be a better option.
You should also take the time to keep your desk tidy and in order. The saying tidy desk, tidy mind is gospel to any effective employee. It’s much easier to focus and do a better job when your desk is organized.
Take Frequent Breaks
Contrary to popular thought, taking frequent breaks at work is good for your productivity and work ambitions. Inspirational that the success stories of such worker bees as Chris Gardner are, relentless work is not always the best solution to a long to-do list. Over time, the fast-paced, self-sacrificing habits of consistent workers may prove detrimental. Aside from less time to devote to family and hobbies, consistent working leaves you less time for your health. Exhaustion and malnutrition does not a successful worker make. In extreme cases, hard-working Japanese workers have been found dead at their desks.
To be effective, you do need to take breaks, throughout the day and during the week.
Pro-Tip: set a timer to get up for a five-minute break once an hour. That quick break will have you back to your tasks with a fresh energy and a new perspective. (Psst, grab a snack or a drink of water while you’re up.)
Like breaks and quick snacks, proper hydration is also key to peak-work performance. If you become dehydrated you’ll experience symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, inability to concentrate, memory loss, nausea and vomiting. Dehydration may even lower your blood pressure and cause you to faint. It may also make you irritable and rather unpleasant to be around. Problem solving and team building are significantly harder when everyone at the office is cranky.
Pro-Tip: Keep a reusable water bottle at your desk. It will help you keep track of the three litres of water you need a day. Plus needing to refill is a great excuse for taking one of your 5-minute breaks!
If you find water too boring and coffee too caffeinated, try mixing a pack of Hydrant into your water bottle. It’s simple mix of electrolytes helps you fight office fatigue, kill coffee jitters, and keep you hydrated, so you can be your best at work.