IF YOU FIND STRESS INVADING YOUR WORKDAY, YOU MAY NEED MORE THAN JUST A BREAK FROM YOUR DESK. BY JUSTIN GRAY Work can consume the better part of your day, no matter if you work in an office or at home. With so many pressures and responsibilities related to our jobs or businesses, it is easy to forget that work can be challenging to our mental and physical health. But, it doesn’t have to be. With a few simple steps, you can be healthier while you work, and healthier overall. Take breaks Taking a break is essential during the work day. Find time to step away from the computer or desk once or twice during the day. Working continually can actually hinder your overall ability to stay on task and complete tasks well. Taking a break can help refresh the mind and body and help you pull through the rest of the day. Eat well Gone are the days of break room junk food. We know better these days—at least we should! Packing a lunch or snacks of questionable nutrition is a poor choice for getting through the work day. Replace foods high in fat, sugar and sodium with better choices that do more to fuel your body. Choose whole grains, like whole wheat bread, and fresh cheese (not processed!) and lunch meats. Fruits, vegetables and dairy products, like low-fat milk and yogurt, provide nutrition that your body and brain need to keep going during the day. And, it’s better for your waistline, too! Get outside When you do take a break, consider stepping outside your home or workplace office. Getting out from under the roof is freeing and can rejuvenate your mind and spirit. Even if it is cold, cloudy, wet or snowy, a few moments outside can be the refreshment you need to get back to work. Take a brisk walk around the block, or find a quiet place by a tree or bench to just breathe deeply, before heading back inside. Drink well Java in the morning is a good thing (necessary, actually, for many working Americans). Caffeine does wonders to wake the mind and jump-start your day. Too much caffeine; however, can actually work against you. The Mayo Clinic advises that 500-700 milligrams of caffeine a day, about 5-7 cups of coffee or other caffeinated drinks, can actually cause dehydration. If you’re a java junkie or replace the morning coffee with cups of tea, hot chocolate or caffeinated soda, you could be pushing the upper limits of daily caffeine intake. Water is your friend. It keeps you hydrated and helps maintain balance inside your busy system. Have your morning coffee, and then keep a water bottle handy for the rest of the day. Stand up A 2010 study published by the American Cancer Society showed some frightening results: sitting too long increases your risk of obesity and heart disease, even if you diligently exercise every day. Considering so many of us work at a computer desk, this study is a slap in the face. So, let’s work healthier by standing up! Try spending several hours of your work day standing. Use a countertop or adjustable computer stand to work in a comfortable, upright, position. The study found that people who sit six hours or more in a workday were at the greatest risk. If possible, alternate sitting and standing as much as possible (and still keep that daily workout, too!) Unplug If you find stress invading your workday, you may need more than just a break from your desk. You may benefit from unplugging completely. Meditation is a quick way to help settle anxiety and mental stress. Find a quiet spot to sit in a chair or on the floor. Keep your spine straight and close your eyes. Then, focus on breathing in deeply, holding your breath for two seconds, and letting the breath out slowly. Repeat this deep breathing for five minutes. Deep breathing can help refocus and regroup the mind while squashing stresses of the day. Embrace the water cooler If you work in an office, the stereotypical water cooler may indeed be the place to mingle with your co-workers. Embrace the opportunity to have a quick, non-business chat with someone you enjoy at the office. Connecting with others can help boost your mood and energy levels. If you work from home, don’t be ashamed to take a quick break to chat around the virtual water cooler, like Facebook or Twitter. Get ergo Ergonomics can have a big impact on your physical health in the workplace. This applies to how well the equipment you use, like your computer, office chair, desk and other equipment, fits you. For instance, if your chair is too low and you must reach up to use your keyboard, you risk straining muscles in your arms or wrists. Be sure your most frequently used equipment fits your physical profile so you can sit, stand, bend and move comfortably. When your environment fits you comfortably, you reduce the risk of muscle strain and other injuries.