Sit Down, Stand Up: Office Survival Guide

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

In our last work-related post, I learned that many of you love when I got all office on you. Well, you're in luck because I have a confession to make: I get incredibly, ridiculously, INSANELY jealous of people who don't work desk jobs. Jealous of people who don't have to sit all day. Jealous of people who don't have to wait for their 15-minute breaks or half-hour lunches to move around a bit. Five. Days. A. Week. Every week.

Oh-so very, very jealous. Green with envy, in fact.

Before I throw a full-on tantrum (because I just realized the other day I've worked behind a desk for nearly 5 years now!), I'll get on with my point. There are indeed things we office workers can do to stay healthy and sane while keeping butt-bound all day.

(And disclaimer: I realize that people who stand all day also have major issues, too. I've worked trade shows and other events for long stretches. To the point where I couldn't move my legs from standing. Ick!)

1.) Develop Habits. If you get breaks, which I believe are required by law if you work full-time, TAKE them. It's so easy to forget them when you're busy. That time just slides by. And once that time is gone, you can't get it back! Set reminders in Outlook or another scheduling program. Something that will pop up, sound an audible alarm. Write a sticky-note and put it on your monitor. Or use those electronic sticky notes on your desktop. Set your cell phone alarm. ANYTHING to remind you to take a stroll around your cube. Or, if you're lucky, outside.

Moving your legs is good for circulation, your muscles, and your mind. If you have an office, you may even want to close your door briefly. Do some yoga poses. Push-ups. (Yeah, I do them. In a skirt. Almost every day.) Dance, if that's what you're into!

2.) Make Friends. You don't have to love your coworkers, but sometimes an office pal can be a great daytime buddy. When I worked one of my first desk jobs, I was fortunate to work with friends. For example, my friend Lindsey (the pretty blond pictured above) and I would take walk breaks like clockwork no matter the weather. Outside if nice. Loops around the office if not-so nice (and that was the case more often than not).

Likewise, we'd often get out of the office and have lunch with Sarah (the gorgeous auburn). Good times.

Not only is making a buddy good for getting out. It's also great for your soul. A laugh. Support. Just taking your mind off stress, too! So, just as in "regular" life, the office life is made better by personal connections. Get some! It's easier than you might think. And even if your office is full of Dwights, Creeds, and Andys -- there's bound to be a Jim or Pam in the mix somewhere!

3.) Drink Water. Take Potty Breaks. Repeat. (Coconut water works, too!) There are entire days when I don't drink any H20. Or others when I don't get up to use the bathroom. At all. I somehow find myself glued to a project on my computer screen. Crazy with a specific task with an ASAP deadline. I could sit for hours cranking out assignments. Or if I'm in meetings, I just simply have no time.

But water is essential to life. If you don't have a water cooler, bring some from home or find a "safe" water fountain (I know they can be gross). You'll feel better. Have fewer headaches. It will promote brief walk breaks. Just keep everything, well, flowing, if you get my drift.

And I've been there. Tied to my desk. Ignoring my needs because I'm preoccupied. Take bathrooms breaks, please. There's no reason to live in discomfort. You know who you are!

4.) Take Advantage of Lunch. I know. Sometimes you can hardly get time to eat let alone have an uninterrupted lunch break. But if you can, carve out that time. I often eat little snacks and not a true "meal" . . . I eat while I'm working . . . throughout the day. So, when lunch rolls around, I can use those scads of free time (SARCASM ALERT) for other purposes.

I walk. I run errands (but park as far away as I can from wherever I'm going to -- yup -- walk some more!). Sometimes I even do yoga in my office. My coworkers will be surprised at that one, I'm sure. If I'm not feeling well, I occasionally nap or read. Or if the weather is awful, I try to get lunch with friends (there's that often-forgotten aspect of health: the MENTAL/SOUL part . . . and seasonal depression runs high in these parts!).

It's hard for me to get off campus, so I make the most of what I have. But I try my very best to not skip lunch. That time is really mine. I even stay late occasionally if I have to. I just require a break mid-day . . . or I get in a terrible mood.

5.) Go Old-School. Get up and TALK to your fellow coworkers. Email is just lazy sometimes if your office is literally next to the person you're writing to. Or get some face time in instead of picking up the phone. It's a way to sneak in some extra steps.

Occasionally I meet with one of my coworkers in a "walking meeting" where we go get coffee and chat about work-related stuff along the way. It beats just sitting in a conference room staring at each other! The fresh air helps more than you can imagine. Plus, I can think more clearly when I'm on the move.

6.) Inspire Yourself. Getting through the day goes beyond time at work. Sometimes you can be so drained and stressed, your workouts and after-hours life suffers. I've created a solution: Make an inspiration board. I stick a couple photos of myself running, some race finish certificates, photos of the outdoors, etc. on my board. Anything to remind me that there's life outside my office door. There's natural sunlight above these fluorescent bulbs.

Bring in some of your race metals, too! They make great conversations pieces. Maybe even help with tip #2 (making friends)!

And even if my legs are restless all day, I remind myself that I CAN and DO make good use of them whenever I am off the clock. Staying motivated for my runs after work isn't just good for my physical health . . . it also helps me mentally cope knowing that I sit for hours on end. I'm planning to update my inspiration board sometime soon, so I'll be sure to snap a photo and share.

So, though I'm incredibly jealous of my non-office-strapped friends. Bloggers. Family members. Etc. There are things I've been able to do to make my situation more bearable. I've found that when I get up and move as much as possible, I have fewer aches and pains. I don't need as much caffeine to power through my work. I avoid that "wall" that hits around 3PM . . . when all energy is zapped.

I take it all one day at a time.

Office workers out there. How do you cope?! Do you have an tricks for staying active during the day? For avoiding the energy suck that creeps into the night? Now the the evening darkness is starting earlier and earlier, it's getting more difficult. We'd love to hear your advice! Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

And be sure to check out our advice on Staying Healthy While Working Full-Time.

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