It can be easy to let your own health habits slide when you are in charge of running the show. Over time, this habit can lead to burnout — and take a toll on your physical health.
A little self-care during the workday can help you recharge and more easily tackle the challenges that come with being the resident problem-solver. Try these tactics:
Take a time-out.
Answering phones, fielding requests and troubleshooting emergencies — all while working through your daily to-do list — can become overwhelming. To regain some calm, try a few minutes of deep, focused breathing. Retreat to a quiet area, sit down and close your eyes. Breathe in slowly, filling your abdomen and then your chest, and hold it in for three counts before exhaling. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can help to clear your mind and relax your nervous system.
Work in a walk.
A lunchtime stroll can give you a boost that lasts the rest of the day: A study led by researchers at Curtin University in Perth, Australia found that a 30-minute walk, even at a gentle pace, can improve your mood and your ability to handle stress. If you can’t take half an hour, a shorter walk can still offer benefits. On days when you truly are too busy to get out, try to work in steps in other ways — by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to co-workers’ desks instead of emailing or instant messaging them, or parking a little farther away from your office building.
Getting enough shut-eye makes it easier to bring your A-game to work by sharpening your focus and your problem-solving skills. Try a calming ritual — quiet music, mediation, a warm bath — about an hour before you turn in. Aim to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day to help regulate your body clock. For a productivity boost, try sticking to an early schedule: In the 2017 Staples Workplace Survey, 61 percent of office admins said they get the most work done early in the morning before their co-workers arrive.
Mind your posture.
Fend off the stiff neck, rounded shoulders and tension headaches that can accompany long stretches of desk work by making good posture a habit. If you find yourself frequently slouching, try a lumbar support pillow or even a rolled-up towel to support your lower back. If you’re often on the phone, use a speakerphone or headset so you’re not bent over to one side. To combat eyestrain and tension headaches, keep an arms-length distance between your head and the computer screen. Increase the font size if that allows you to read more comfortably.
Take a stand.
Sitting is the “new smoking,” a growing body of research suggests — and even regular exercise can’t counteract its ill effects. Using a standing desk can be a straightforward solution. Many of these can be raised to different heights, so you can switch off between standing and sitting. If a standup desk is a hard sell to your manager, make a point to stand and move your legs every 30 minutes.
Pack your lunch.
Bringing your own food saves you money, and it can keep you from resorting to unhealthy takeout options. Prioritize fruits, veggies, protein and whole grains to help avoid feeling sluggish come late afternoon. Incorporate “good” fats like avocado, walnuts and olive oil, as these can help you feel satisfied and avoid dipping into your colleagues’ candy dishes. Try to limit caffeine — that can lead to spikes in stress hormones and interfere with your sleep. Hit the water cooler instead.