By Matt Phillips, Career Services Specialist
It’s Thursday evening and you’re about to fire up another episode of Walking Dead. You haven’t worked out since, oh, Saturday morning. You’ve been eating microwaved chimichangas for lunch and gorging on Starburst from your colleague’s communal candy tray. Worse than all that, you’ve got unanswered emails flashing through your head like billboards on some freaky highway. Then it hits you, you realize that’s exactly how you feel…like the walking dead. Welcome to life on the grind. You’ve made it (note the sarcasm).
When it comes to full time work, whether you’re a professional, an educator, or a law enforcement officer, it’s a struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But not to worry, we’re here to help you strategize.
Enter the world of health hacks for life on the grind.
Get Your Mind Right
Your body might feel like the walking dead, but that feeling begins with your brain. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine see the human body and all its processes as related, connected, and dependent on each other (and the environment) (UNH, 2012). Using that logic, it makes sense that how you feel at work and at home is directly related to your mindset. The question becomes, “How do I reinvigorate, re-energize, and recharge?”
Try a series of ‘micro-meditations’ throughout your day. I suggest belly breathing for one minute a few times a day. Try it after two hours at work, again after lunch, and just before starting your commute home.
Not sure how to belly breathe? According to Daniel Zandt of mindbodygreen, “…place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. You’re attempting to breathe, unforced, in a way that limits the movement of the hand on your chest so that it’s just your belly that is doing the rising and falling” (Zandt, 2014).
In my experience, the results are immediate. I find myself letting go of some of that anxiety and feeling more connected with my body, which helps me to be conscious about my outlook and what else may be going on in that moment.
Feed the Beast (responsibly!)
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are what you eat”? During my worst work weeks I’m a frozen burrito with a side of M&Ms. Not the best look (or feel). You get the point. Workplace diet habits influence how we feel and perform on the job and at home. The biggest challenge here, let’s be honest, is the tendency to snack. Especially when you have generous co-workers or colleagues.
I’m loving those pink Starburst and snack-attack Snickers bars, but my dentist doesn’t need another BMW (just kidding, Dr. Tien!). How about somewhat swearing off processed sugar and committing to healthy snacks? Trail mix! Go ahead, get the kind with M&Ms. I’m not asking you to torture yourself, so think of other ways to healthy up that snack. For example, I’m a devout almond butter lover. Sometimes, when I’m feeling adventurous, I chop up a Braeburn apple and munch away. In contrast to the left over donuts that are available, this win is huge.
Another strategy is to use part of your lunch hour to exercise (ideas to accomplish this feat in the next section) and to eat far smaller amounts, but eat far more often.
Get Your Move On…
According to some smart people at the Syracuse University Wellness Initiative, “[…] incorporating more movement into your workday can have a positive impact on your energy levels, efficiency, and engagement […]” (Loucy, 2017). Nice, right? But the key here is to incorporate movement into the day, rather than to plan your day around exercise. Let’s look at some examples for how to make this happen:
- Invite a colleague on a walk—discuss an upcoming collaboration or joint task.
- Take the stairs! Bonus points for climbing more than two flights!
- Build ‘micro-breaks’ into your day and do a few sets of air squats or push-ups (if somebody looks at you funny, ask them to jump in and get moving).
- Suggest to your boss: ‘Let’s walk for one of our meetings. The whole team. The whole meeting.’
Another key with movement is to set benchmarks. Can you do a pull up or two? If not, work toward that. Climb an extra flight of stairs a week. Double your push-ups or air squats over a month. You’d be surprised how effective a little extra movement is for your efficiency at work (and at home). Semi-pro tip: Get some movement in an hour or two before your evening commute. Use the drive or ride home to recover and relax.
Mic drop—there it is: Hack the daily grind with these health tips and live life your way.
You might even feel, well, alive…
Loucy, K. (2017). Healthy Habits at Work | Wellness Initiative. Wellness.syr.edu. Retrieved 13 March 2018, from http://wellness.syr.edu/healthy-habits/
Traditional Chinese Medicine. (2012). Health & Wellness. Retrieved 13 March 2018, from https://www.unh.edu/health/ohep/complementaryalternative-health-practices/traditional-chinese-medicine
Zandt, Daniel. (2014, November 14) Want To Be More Mindful All Day Long? Try A Micro-Meditation. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16267/want-to-be-more-mindful-all-day-long-try-a-micromeditation.html