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As of the first of this month, we're officially a quarter of the way through 2018. How's that New Year's resolution of yours going? If you've made one for your health and see it slipping a little - or if you're looking around for a few quick healthy changes you can make to your life without organizing a yoga event for your office, look no further than these tips, because we're going to be focusing on wellness for the whole month of April.
Work can be stressful in seemingly infinite ways - disorganization, last minute changes, and run-ins with your personal life can make your office hours feel like they may never end. Too much stress, though, can be detrimental in a number of ways - WebMD separates the negative outcomes of stress into four categories: physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. Meanwhile, long-term effects of stress can include increased risk of conditions like obesity, chronic hair loss, and high blood pressure.
It's not that stress is necessarily a bad thing, as those of us who still remember our teenage biology classes may recall. Physiologically, a human with no stress is dead. We literally need stress to stay alive, but how do we keep from overdoing it?
The trick to that, like it is with so many things, involves balance, but how do we balance our lives when there are so many things happening in them? It's not like stressors are predictable, and not all of us have the same coping mechanisms for stress (or the time for a daily yoga class). Try these out - most will only take a minute - and see what works for you.
1. Take a break. A good one.
Breaks seem counterintuitive. You're here to work and tackle that giant To Do list, not take more time away from it. You probably get lunch and bathroom breaks anyway, so what's the big deal?
According to the University of Illinois, short, regular breaks - even within an hour of during a task - can help boost productivity and brainpower.
So what constitutes a good break? Maybe you're taking plenty of small breaks during work already - scanning your phone while you wait for something to load or skimming Facebook in-between tasks, but maybe that's not as restful as you think, especially when it comes to your eyes.
So how long should you work in-between your breaks? There are a number of methods to try, in addition to time tracking apps that help you negotiate how you should best spend your time. If Sweden can teach us anything, it's that we should focus more on the quality of our work and not the quantity of hours we put forth toward achieving our tasks.
2. Set aside some time to disconnect every day
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We're connected to our screens all day, except for when we're sleeping - and maybe even then, the odd notification will wake you up now and again. Maybe you can't afford to go on holiday or are expected to have your phone on you, ready for anything, when you do. So do the next best thing. Schedule mini vacations for yourself.
If you can't swing a staycation, then give yourself 30 to 60 minutes of conscious away time from your screens. Put your phone in another room. Talk to someone you love or just enjoy a notification-less cup of tea.
The methodology behind this is the same as it is for taking breaks from work - give your brain time to reset, gain perspective, and recharge a little so you can tackle the next thing you need to do, even if that thing is just securing dinner for your family tonight.
3. Spend some time working remotely, if you can
There are plenty of potential benefits to working remotely, if you're in a line of work that allows that. Working outside the office doesn't necessarily mean reaping the benefits of being an avocado toast-eating digital nomad who drinks really pretty coffee. It can also mean working from your couch in clothes that make you comfortable and in a position that doesn't aggravate your bad back. Perhaps you work in view of some water to gain some inspiration or nearer to a family member you don't see as often.
Even a couple days a month working somewhere else can help you grow your network and create some variety in your routine. Consider giving it a shot (and also, the occasional avocado toast slice can be delicious).
4. Engage in a short burst of physical activity
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Before you point out that you don't have the time for an expensive gym membership that you'll barely use, we're not suggesting that you go jogging for an hour. However, long periods of sitting (like you maybe do at your desk) increase risk for health problems like deep vein thrombosis, which can halt circulation in your body.
So stand up! Run in place for a minute, or do some jumping jacks. Look up a quick workout on YouTube, and follow along. Who knows? Maybe you coworkers will join in for a little stress alleviation themselves.
If you work in one of Singapore's legendary high-air-conditioned offices, who knows? It might even warm you up a little and keep you from a few minutes of shivering.
5. Drink some water...
...partially because it's good for you and partially as an alternative to eating. Have a glass of water - especially if you've been drinking a lot of caffeine all day - and wait 20 minutes before deciding to have that snack or not.
If water bores you, you can keep lemon slices handy in the company refrigerator and add them to your water - it makes for a nice use of one of those breaks you'll be trying to take throughout the day.
6. Take a walk
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Singapore's National Steps Challenge encourages adults in the country to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. How many steps are you walking? If you spend a lot of time working at your desk, you're probably walking less than you should.
A survey of step counts from different countries showed that Australians hit an average of around 7,400 steps during the course of 24 hours, while Fitbit data from the UK showed that people there took around 6,337 strides daily.
If it sounds like a big number, I took a 10-minute stroll around my office floor the other day and managed to add around a thousand steps to my number. Walking might make for a great brainstorming session for you and a colleague - you won't know until you try.
Staying in one position - even if your office chair is very comfortable - can strain your neck, shoulders, and other parts of your body. It only takes a couple minutes to roll your neck around in both directions and perhaps do some shoulder circles. Stand and lean forward and backward to unfreeze your back.
There are also a number of yoga apps you can download that will show you how to do one pose per day. Pick one that helps you stretch, and work it into your day. Even a few minutes of stretching can help you feel lighter and increase circulation.
8. Treat yourself to a massage
We love massages as part of holidays, but take a leaf out of frequent gym-goers' books and get into self-massage. You can use a variety of implements like foam rollers and tennis balls to knead those office-sore muscles. It's also another way to spend one of your breaks while getting rid of pain and stiffness you may not have known you had. Look up a couple of massages online (there's one in that link) and see what works best for you!