If you believe that staying healthy at work is hard — like harder than unjamming the printer or finding a space in the parking lot when you come back from a late lunch — I’ve got news for you: Wellness doesn’t have to be work.
Wellness isn’t about all these new things you have to do or buy. It’s about doing what you already do or know how to do better and more often.
Like, you don’t need me to tell you to eat more vegetables. It’s not…eat 10 pounds of salad a day. It’s…pack your lunch. Bonus points for adding in some greens. It’s not…Buy this $150 supplement to feel more energized. It’s…eat a handful of nuts and drink some green tea.
And, just to be clear, I’m not talking about stuff like wash your hands, clean your keyboard, avoid that sniffly coworker…
So, today, I’m going to share seven super sneaky ways to be healthier at work without making it seem like more work. Because you’re already at work and that’s hard enough.
Not booze, although that might help you deal with those not-so-good days. Stay hydrated because, it turns out, we like to mistake thirst for hunger.
And aim for half your body weight in ounces. (Oh, and check out this extra for a handy dandy calculation.)
Some tips to make drinker water a little easier? I’m so glad you asked!
- Use an intake tracker. There’s some fun ones out there, like Plant Nanny, because no one wants to be responsible for those adorable plants’ deaths.
- Make sure you’re drinking throughout the day. I like to have 16 ounces first thing in the morning, then aim for 16 ounces before lunch and then 16 ounces after lunch.
- Don’t drink right before or after lunch and definitely not with lunch. Totally messes up your digestion.
- Flavor your water. And, no, not those shitty drops. Like put actual fruit or veggies in there. You’ll feel like one of those fancy hotels that has lime water in the lobby.
Talk to Yourself
If you’re anything like me, your inner mean girl (or guy) can get pretty nasty. Like, damn, girl, you looking doughy today.
When I say talk to yourself, I don’t mean in a creepy Gollum-esque way. More like in a kind, work bestie (more on that later) kind of way. Like, hey, I noticed you’re feeling a little stressed?Why don’t we take a break? Or, hey, you kinda sorta freaked out on Ted from accounting back there. Maybe go for a walk?
You can try out some affirmations, too. Like:
- I like my job.
- I make more than enough money.
- My boss is kind and generous.
Affirmations and positive self-talk might not seem like they’re worth your time, especially when the papers are piling up and your boss is breathing down your neck. (Why do they always do that anyway?)
But they totally are. They can boost your self-esteem, improve your problem solving skills, help you focus on the positive, and help you see, understand, and develop more optimism and joy. And some researchers even think using these tools can literally retrain the pathways in your brain — heavy stuff.
So, instead of: “This stupid chair is so uncomfortable and it squeaks whenever I sit down.” How about: “I am so glad that I work for a company that provides for my basic needs at work.”
Meh. Needs work.
But consciously shifting your mindset and being grateful and positive can help set the tone for the day.
Work Out at Work
I feel like we’ve talked about this before?
When we’re at work, a lot of us feel like we’re chained to our desks. Like, we’re just not allowed to get up.
But moving more throughout the day, not even a full-on sweat your ass off sweat session, but just small things that add up to make a huge difference.
Here are some simple things you can do in your cube:
- Stand while you’re on the phone.
- Do some stealth strength training when you’re stuck on a conference call. Squats, lunges, calf raises, wall sits, chair dips, leg lifts…You can even do jumping jacks, crunches, or planks, but maybe not if you’re on a video call.
- Fitting in some stretching and yoga can help with that Quasimodo hunch you’ve got going on. Shoulder and neck rolls, seated leg stretches, standing thigh stretches, and wrist and finger stretches.
- You could even keep a set of dumbbells at your desk. Bicep curls, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, dumbbell rows, and deadlifts at your desk. Could come in handy for those conference calls on which your presence or participation isn’t really needed…
Seriously, you can do some of this stuff without even getting out of your chair.
Okay, what if you want to get out of your chair?
Super simple stuff here, too:
- Host a walking meeting.
- Pace around your cube or office when you’re on a call. Sure, you might look like a caged animal but it’s better than having pancake ass.
- Go for a walk when you’re on the phone. Get those creative juices flowing! Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m running…or in the shower, but that’s a totally different thing.
- Take the stairs. Walk them, run them, take them two at a time — everyone can do this.
Now, if you’re able to break those chains? Even if just for a moment?
How about hitting up the gym across the street for a quick session on your lunch break? Maybe you could just go outside and walk around for a half hour. You know those breaks you’re supposed to take? Another great opportunity to go walk around outside, even just a few laps around the parking lot.
And, last but not least — don’t forget the fidget. Just by kicking your leg and clicking your pen, you’re burning more calories, you’re living longer, and you’re fighting disease.
See? Small stuff DOES add up.
Call it what you want: work wife, work husband, office bestie, accountability buddy, accountabilabuddy….
This is someone who will have your back at all times. Not the food police, but someone who really has your best interests at heart, who will call you on your bullshit and you’ll listen to, who can tell you’re eyeing that bagel with extra cream cheese and talk you off the ledge, who will go for a walk with you when you need to calm down, who will eat lunch with you when everyone else went to the new buffet down the street, who will happily forgo the birthday cake with you.
Because that extra support can make a huge difference. It’s a lot easier to lie to yourself about how many cookies you ate than to stare your friend in the face and deny, deny, deny.
Take a Break
I once read a statistic that we’re productive for less than three hours a day when we’re working an eight-hour day. What are we doing instead of working? Checking social media, making personal phone calls, gossiping with our coworkers, making snacks and drinks (coffee!) looking for new jobs, stalking puppies and kittens for adoption….
So just imagine how unproductive you are when you’re working 10-12 hour days? When you’re logging 60+ hours a week?
I remember when I was working on a really big proposal, and our entire team stayed in the office until 3 in the morning. We hadn’t eaten dinner, we hadn’t slept, we’d been there since 8 a.m., we’d already logged serious hours that week.
And someone made a mistake…I don’t remember what it was, but our boss called her out. And it’s like, How do you expect people to be productive when they’re burnt out? When they’re exhausted? To bring their A game when they’re falling asleep?
Taking regular breaks (that involve actually getting up from your desk) actually improves your productivity, your focus, and your creativity.
This also means doing your best (because it’s not always in our control) to work normal hours, not work on the weekends if you can help it, and take your vacation days.
Everyone will be better served if you’re scheduling breaks into your day. So try to get up from your desk once an hour. And definitely make sure you book that vacation to Key West.
Focus on Food
I don’t mean a one-track mind, focus on food with a glazed over look and drooling over that last glazed donut in the break room. Like, if you were an emoji, instead of hearts, your eyes would be Boston cream pie donuts.
What I mean is to focus on real food.
And that means packing your own lunch and meal prepping.
I used to fall in to the trap of thinking that my work lunch had to be fancy. The truth is, all you need to do to pack a lunch is throw last night’s leftovers in some Tupperware and call it a day.
If you didn’t make dinner last night? Smoothies and salads are super simple options that don’t take a ton of time to prepare and won’t leave you feeling hangry.
What about snacks? The options are endless, my friend. Think granola bars, homemade muffins, avocado pudding, overnight oats, healthier popcorn and veggie chips with ingredients a kindergartner can pronounce.
If you put in a little time up front, you’ll save a ton of time on the backend and you’ll feel a whole lot better. Promise.
Which leads me in to my last point…
Stock Your Desk
You knew this was coming, right?
This is the number one thing, in my extremely expert opinion, you can do to be healthier at work.
Because it stops you from constantly relying on meals out, on meals delivered, on break room leftovers, on vending machines, on candy dishes on your coworker’s desk, on cookie platters in your afternoon meeting…
It ensures you’ve always got something healthy on hand when you’re hungry at 2:30, when you forgot your lunch, when your blood sugar is all over the place.
It makes you feel empowered to know that you’re making healthier choices. And you’ll feel healthier, more energized, and just all around amazing.
So, my friend, all it takes to be healthier at work is a little bit of willingness. And a plan. It doesn’t have to be a crazy elaborate plan that you map out like it’s some sort of highly political board room strategy.
The Healthy Desk Checklist is a most excellent place to start. Make sure you grab your copy here and get to work feeling better at work.