We may feel a great sense of accomplishment about what we’ve achieved in our work, but there’s no doubt that work can also bring on some very unhealthy habits. From stress eating to sitting without movement to neglecting friendships because we’re working late, work can have some serious negative impacts on our health if we stop paying attention. Here are some of the most important unhealthy behaviors to keep your eye on. Avoid these five behaviors, and your work day — and life — will be much healthier as a result.
Eating Whatever People Bring in to Share
One of the major downsides of working in an office is that people often bring in sweet treats for the break room They may look delicious —and they may offer momentary stress relief in the middle of a busy workday —but all that sugar will make you feel worse in the end. Sugar-filled offices are a major source of weight gain and the stress relief is so temporary you may find yourself craving more and more of the unhealthy food as the day goes on. Those calories really add up and the artificial additives aren’t any good for your health either.
Instead of reaching for whatever your coworkers have brought to work, remind yourself that the treats look better than they taste — they’re usually stale anyway — and munch on carrots, an apple, cherry tomatoes or some other healthy snack instead to stave off hunger. If you just can’t resist helping yourself from time to time, limit yourself to one snack a week, such as having a piece of cake for a coworker’s birthday. When you have to choose wisely because you only get one, it becomes much easier to pass by those pink-frosted cookies that you know taste like food coloring.
Sitting for Hours at a Time
The jury’s in on sitting, and it is definitely guilty —of causing weight gain, slowing metabolism, increasing triglyceride levels, decreasing good cholesterol and decreasing insulin sensitivity, to name just a few of the charges. That doesn’t mean you should do all your work standing up, but try standing at a counter top while you sort papers or find other ways to incorporate some standing into your day.
At the very least, get up at least once an hour and move around. Easy ways to do this include going to a coworker’s office rather than sending an email or chat message, getting up to refill a glass of water and use the restroom, or making yourself a cup of tea.
If you keep snacks in your desk, it’s all too easy to reach for just one more chip or piece of chocolate —until the whole bag is empty. By not paying attention to the food we’re snacking on, we enjoy it less, feel less full from eating it and end up consuming way more calories than we otherwise would.
Try keeping snack foods away from your desk so that you have to make the choice to go get them every time you indulge and you’ll probably find that you snack less. On the other hand, it’s okay to snack on healthy foods in moderation. So an even better option would be to keep healthy snacks, such as fresh fruits and veggies, in the break room fridge so that when you get stressed out or need an energy boost, you can get energy from something that nourishes your body rather than makes you feel worse in the long run.
Caving in to Bad Habits When You Get Stressed Out
Whatever your particular method of coping with stress may be, work is sure to exacerbate bad habits. Some people smoke when they feel stressed, while others procrastinate online and others munch on junk food. Work is full of stressors small and large from the start to the end of the work day — a meeting with the boss, an email you don’t know how to respond to, a heavier workload than you feel you can handle — and if you give in every time you feel stressed, your unhealthy habits will add up to some serious health problems.
Instead of reaching for your quick-fix stress reliever, try closing your eyes and breathing deeply and slowly. Going for a short walk around the building can also be a great way to cope with stress.
Not everyone sees working late as a bad habit, but unfortunately, it can wreak some serious havoc on our health. Not only are you less likely to have time to see friends if you work late every night, you’re less likely to eat healthy foods for dinner, spend time relaxing, go to the gym or engage in a whole host of other non-work-related habits.
Work-life balance is about more than just mental health —which is important enough on its own — but physical health can seriously suffer if you neglect yourself in order to put in more hours at the office. If you find yourself working late on a regular basis, see what you can cut out of your workday to get the important stuff done earlier in the day.
Work is one of the biggest stressors in life, but if you can learn to cope with the added stress, you will feel better mentally and physically.