Do you have days at work when you feel energetic, inspired and productive, while on other days you feel tired, busy and stressed, with almost nothing to show for your efforts at the end of the day? When you spend several hours a day at work, it pays to make those hours healthy ones for both body and mind. Making some simple, smart choices throughout your workday can help boost your creativity and productivity while reducing fatigue and minimizing stress.
1. Fuel right. Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats will provide you with a steady source of energy throughout the day while offering the nutrition you need for long-term health. Many fast-food or takeout lunches contain sugar, salt, white flour and low-quality fats and proteins, which can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish now while gradually eroding your health and expanding your waistline.
2. Don’t ignore hunger. When you’re busy, it’s easy to push rumblings of hunger to the back burner, if you even notice them at all. When you finally come up for air midafternoon — or worse, on your way home — you realize that you’re ravenous and ready to eat whatever’s handy and filling, regardless of taste or nutrition. Over time, ignoring hunger cues can dim them, making it harder to figure out if you’re actually hungry even during more relaxed times.
3. Take your lunch break. Consciously disconnecting from work in the middle of your day can give you an energy boost and make your afternoon go more smoothly. If possible, eat lunch somewhere other than your desk — preferably outside, weather permitting, where you can get a dose of sunlight and fresh air.
4. Eat mindfully. If you must lunch at your desk, try to refrain from checking your email, doing work or talking about work. Take a few deep breaths, then eat slowly and savor your delicious, healthful meal. While the volume and composition of your meal help you feel satisfied, so do the sensory aspects of eating — taste, aroma, texture, color and temperature. If you quickly inhale your lunch without noticing it, you deny yourself the full eating experience, which can leave you feeling like you need to nibble.
5. Manage the work food environment. If you work outside the home, you spend a huge chunk of your day in the workplace, which makes that your second most important food environment (after your home). It’s also an environment that can be unpredictable in what temptations it sends your way — especially treacherous if your job is stressful, and stress makes you want to eat. Packing your own nutritious and appealing lunch and snacks can help inoculate you against less-nutritious offerings from the vending machine or co-workers. If you buy your lunch, placing your order in advance instead of waiting until you are already hungry can make it easier to make a healthful choice.
6. Stay hydrated. Even minor dehydration can cause headaches and make you feel tired and unable to concentrate, which isn’t good for your productivity or your well-being. As there are no hard-and-fast rules about how much to drink, it’s best to let thirst be your guide. In the habit of ignoring thirst? Aim to drink at least six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day, more on days you exercise. One way to tell: If your urine is clear or very light, you’re probably doing just fine.
7. Move often. Our bodies are meant to move frequently, and that includes more than just planned exercise. If you sit at a desk all day, make a point to move at least every hour. Get up to fill your water glass, go talk to co-workers instead of emailing them, do a few stretches right at your desk, or step outside to take a short rejuvenating walk.
8. Breathe. Deep breathing is your body’s built-in energizer and stress reliever. Simply taking a few deep breaths can help you feel calmer, but if you have more time, sit and focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Try this at least a few times during the day to relax and recharge, more often if you notice you’re feeling stressed or tense.
9. Don’t multitask. You may think you’re being super productive, but you’re not. Studies show that multitasking wastes more time than it saves. Even worse, it reduces our brain function over time. When you allow yourself to focus on a task or project without distractions (email, social media, open browser windows), you’ll complete it better and faster — and then have the satisfaction of checking it off your to-do list.
10. Honor personal boundaries. Establishing at least some degree of balance in your universe is important to help you function at your best at work and home. Allowing work to bleed into your off-the-clock hours on a regular basis will ultimately make your performance suffer in both spheres. It’s important for your health and well-being to spend quality time with friends and family, as well as quality personal time to exercise, prepare nourishing meals and simply relax.
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