Tagged "work wellness"

Four Work Habits That May Be Derailing Your Health

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

We’ve discussed the importance of a healthy workplace at length on this blog, and rightfully so. After all, the average American spends 8.8 hours of his or her day in the office. To contextualize this, that’s more time than we spend doing any other activity, including sleeping. Given the outsize importance of work in our lives, fostering a healthy workplace is absolutely critical. That’s why we’re sharing the four sneakily (or not-so-sneakily) wellness-derailing work habits. Read on!


That Friday happy hour.

Let’s be clear about one thing: We’re all for team bonding and, for that matter, for a good old-fashioned happy hour. But post-work drinks can turn from casual to crushing quickly, which is why it’s important to be conscious of several things when punching out on Friday. For one, given that most of us roll right into happy hour straight from the office – usually on an empty stomach, at the end of a long week – drinking alcohol can impact us very, very quickly. Limit your drinks to one or two, maximum, and space them out, sipping on water on seltzer to ensure you stay hydrated. Moreover, if you know that a happy hour is looming, eat a protein-heavy snack before you head out the door, such as a serving of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or a low-sugar protein bar. Doing so will slow down the absorption of alcohol, plus you won’t be tempted to (slightly) drunkenly order that plate of chicken fingers.


That drive-by office candy bowl snag.

It may not seem like anything, but grabbing a scoop of M&Ms here or a couple of mini Twix bars there from the beloved office candy bowl can really add up throughout the day. In fact, you may be unwittingly and unconsciously downing hundreds of calories if you’re a regular candy bowl devotee. I say “unwittingly,” because when food isn’t technically “yours” – say, you’re picking off of your husband’s plate – it’s easy to disassociate from it. (In other words, you start to think those calories “don’t count.”) But your body doesn’t distinguish from your candy versus your office’s candy, so wise up.


Those days of marathon meetings.

Ever look at the clock and realize you’ve been sitting in a conference room for three hours? It’s a sobering (and bizarre) feeling. While your meeting might be productive work-wise, those long stretches of being sedentary really take a toll on your body. In fact, researchers and medical professionals alike are now sounding the alarms, noting that “sitting is the new smoking. We’re not saying abandon your meetings, but make a point to get up, stand and stretch your legs every 20 minutes or so, ideally for about five minutes. Don’t worry if your colleagues are giving you strange looks. Simply tell them, “I have some back issues and my doctor told me I need to get up and move regularly.” No one will say a peep.


That afternoon coffee break.

When I first started working, my younger colleagues and I made a habit out of getting out of the office around 4 o’clock to take a break, gossip and gulp down a latte. Many times I remember not even wanting coffee – and feeling jittery after consuming it – but I simply enjoyed the ritual. That’s understandable: I’m all for taking an afternoon break with work buds, especially if you're putting in long hours – which I did at the time. But relying on the quick fix of caffeine, particularly at that time of day, can really do a number on your bod: For one, it can tax your adrenals, leaving you feeling more rundown than you were pre-java. Furthermore, the additional of sweeteners and other sugary additives can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, again leaving you lethargic. Lastly, it can disrupt your sleep pattern, keeping you wide awake at night and  you guessed it  rendering you exhausted in the morning. So, by all means, head out for “a coffee” with your coworker, but opt for a sparkling water, low-sugar green juice or a caffeine-free herbal tea.

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Could Skipping Out on Sleep Be the New Smoking?

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Okay. Real talk time.  We’ve all had to pull the occasional all-nighter, whether it’s to finish up work, take care of your children or play a video game ( I know who you are!!) In my twenties, I co-founded a marketing agency, and there were a few times where I slept in the office because I thought “I didn’t have time to go home.” So, instead of wasting 1.5 hours on commuting, I would stay at the office all night, sleep for 1.5 hours and then get back to business.

I can’t stress enough how terrible this is for your body. My lack of sleep and incredible amounts of stress were big contributors my worsening autoimmune conditions. What's more, studies have demonstrated that keeping your body awake for just 17 to 19 hours straight impacts performance more than a blood-alcohol level of .1 percent* (the legal limit in most Western European countries). This seemingly innocuous level of sleep deprivation slows a person’s reaction time down by 50 percent compared to a person who is well-rested.  So, if you’re driving your children around, or attempting to deliver a killer presentation, just keep in mind that you’re basically performing drunk.

So, what is the optimal amount of sleep?

It’s not the 8 hours the old adage would make you think. Though every body is different and needs varying levels of sleep and self-care Daniel Kripke, arguably the world’s most accomplished sleep researcher, says people that get between 6.5 and 7.5 hours of sleep per night are the happiest and most productive, and they live the longest. When we sleep, our body is focused on much-needed repair work. It’s the key to feeling energized, looking younger, staying slimmer and having a better functioning brain. On the flip side, too much sleep (anything in excess of eight hours per night) is actually correlated with significantly higher mortality rates.  Though, the research does point to lifestyle factors as contributors. So when it comes to sleep, balance is everything.  

Can we make up for lost sleep?

Many of my clients suffer from imbalanced sleep—they’ll get roughly 4-5 hours per week night and then attempt to “catch up” on the weekends. But, can we actually make up lost sleep?  A recent sleep study found that sleepiness, inflammation and stress hormones all returned to normal after weekend recovery sleep. However, measurements on performance tests that assessed participants ability to pay attention, significantly deteriorated after sleep deprivation and didn’t improve after recovery sleep. That is to suggest, weekday sleep debt can’t be recouped over just one weekend.

So what’s a busy professional to do in order to get the healthy amount of shut-eye?

  • Turn off all phones, computers, TVs, etc. an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from them tricks our brain into believing it’s time to be awake.
  • Keep your temperature between 65 and 69 degrees, as this is optimal for a sound slumber. Studies suggest that is where our bodies find the best sleep. Rachel Salas, MD, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in sleep medicine, cites a National Sleep Foundation study that puts the magic number at 65 degrees. But this largely depends on your body and resting metabolic rate, so test temperatures in this range.
  • Cut out cured meats and cheese before bed. They trigger the release of norepinephrine which can make us feel alert and wired.
  • Try a few relaxing yoga poses such as corpse pose, relaxing hero pose or legs up the wall pose.
  • Enlist a professional. Acupuncture is proven to provide relief to insomniacs. If you’re in NYC, check out my dear friend and DAOM, Dr. Sarah Emily Sajdak.
  • Supplement! Melatonin, kava kava, Gabba and valerian root can also help to provide relief from sleepless nights. Don’t self-medicate though: Share your concerns with your doctor or healthcare professional for recommendations that are safest for you.
  • Set healthy boundaries. My clients who usually have to pull the all-nighters are often the ones who raise their hands first to volunteer for extra work.  While we know we might have to occasionally accommodate work at off hours, always self-sacrificing to “prove” yourself will only make you ill.  Set promises to yourself about what you’re willing to do and what you’re not.  If cutting into sleep consistently is on that list, make sure you have the necessary conversations to set you up for success in that way. 
  • Meditate or do some breathing. Another biggie with my insomniac clients is unmanaged stress.  They come home late and their minds are racing going through the day and all that took place.  When you’re trying to fall asleep it’s important to try and get out of your head and into your body.  A short meditation or breathing exercise like the 4-7-8 breath is a great place to start.  


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Refresh Your Work Day with These Simple Tips

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

It's one thing to need a new job. It's another thing to have garden variety the work blahs. You know what we're talking about: You feel uninspired, bored and unproductive. You can't stop staring at the clock. And you can't muster up even the most basic energy to answer that lingering email. 

Don't succumb to this everyday malady -- try out one of these easy tips below. (Missing any? Let us know by leaving a comment on @busyhappyhealthy!) 

Take a new route to the office

It may sound silly, but adjusting your morning commute to the office can have positive, stimulating impacts on the brain. Not only are exercising your analytical and problem-solving skills (how will you get there?), you are stimulating other, more creative parts of your brain by exposing yourself to new environments and new stimuli. Added bonus: You may encounter a cute coffee shop en route! 

Bring flowers for your desk

Sprucing up your desk with some natural beauty may help boost your mood in the short term. Moreover, it may give your space a sense of serenity that could be somewhat lacking with your current assortment of office supplies...

Listen to new music

As someone who loves jamming out while she works, sometimes all it takes for me to get reinvigorated is to put some new tunes on the shuffle. I'm not alone in this observation, as the act of listening to music literally lights up our brains. In particular, I find exploring old and/or "forgotten" music to be particularly helpful when I'm feeling in a rut: Try revisiting songs from your childhood or throw on some classical music. 

Spend some time in the break room or kitchen

Back when I worked for an ad agency, one of my favorite ways to break up work monotony and get reinvigorated was to plop down in the kitchen and have a chat with whoever happened to be eating lunch there. Oftentimes, this would be a person that I never worked with, so it was a nice opportunity to get to know someone new, take a break from the usual colleague gossip and discuss ideas I would have otherwise not been exposed to. 

Take a true lunch break

When's the last time you actually took a full hour and went out of the office for lunch? If you're like most Americans, it was a long time ago; in fact, only 1 in 5 of us actually take a lunch break. Unfortunately, research has shown this can be detrimental to creative thinking, which is why it's important to make an effort to do so -- even if it only happens once every couple of weeks. When you do step out, be sure to use your time in a fulfilling, uplifting way: Maybe it's meeting up with an old friend for a bite; perhaps it's reading in the park or going for a long (cellphone-free) walk. We'll meet you on the park bench! 


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