Holidays allow us to move more organically and when they end it can take time to settle back into the rhythm of work and the year ahead.
This is especially true if your natural rhythm is out of sync with the rhythms of the working day.
Whatever the case may be, it can be a challenge to to start sitting again for eight to 10 hours a day.
It can be just as mentally challenging to reset and refocus.
More than one in four Aussies are concerned about the impact of their work environment on their personal health, according to Medibank research.
So what can we do differently this year and how can we making easing back in as pain-free, healthful and positive as possible?
Here are five mental and physical shifts you can make to become work-fit.
1. Make the decision that you’d like to do things differently
A mindful approach to the way we work, as in our personal life, can create a little more space and make for a more pleasant existence.
If you are easily frustrated at work, for instance, or want to create better relationships with colleagues, becoming aware of how you operate is the starting point for change.
“Mindfulness helps us short-circuit that mindless reaction,” ABC news anchor Dan Harris says in his app 10 per cent Happier.
“You can start to see … ‘Oh my chest is buzzing, my ears are burning, I’m experiencing a starburst of self-righteous thoughts. I’m getting angry’, but you don’t have to bite the hook.”
The point is not to, as Harris puts it, become “a lifeless non-judgmental blob”. When we respond rather than reacting, we can untangle the strings that make us puppets to our emotions.
Sometimes you need to take stern action if you’ve been wronged, Harris explains. But, making the choice to practice mindfulness means “you can wisely respond to the situation rather than blindly react”.
2. Drink more
If mindfulness doesn’t work, wine will.
No, I jest. It really won’t … well, sometimes, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
“Keep a jug of cold water on your desk,” Happy Body At Work founder and director Anna-Louise Bouvier says. “It keeps you hydrated and your bladder will remind you its time to move!”
Hydrate, move and pick up your mood.
“One of the contributing factors to a dip in mood and energy levels is due to dehydration – making it hard to focus on the task at hand,” Medibank medical director Dr Kevin Cheng says.
Bouvier also suggests using coffee as a chance to get up and stay up. “When you grab that coffee … stand to drink it. Take advantage of standing benches in cafes and common areas,” she suggests.
3. Meet up
Take phone calls on your feet and have walking meetings. It’s a simple, easy way to shake up the fact that most of us are sedentary for about 80 per cent of our day.
“The phrase ‘think on your feet’ is so true,” Bouvier says. “Standing boosts your energy and concentration – just what you need for those important calls.”
“A recent study found that replacing sedentary behaviour with walking or moderate-to-vigorous physical activity significantly reduced the mortality risk for adults aged 45 and above,” adds Cheng. “So, consider taking a walking meeting with colleagues, a standing brainstorm or even taking the long-route to the printer or water cooler.”
Meeting up for a lunch break is also worthwhile – not just for the feed, but for your work fitness.
“76 per cent of people we survey eat lunch at their desk,” Bouvier says.
“This is a disaster. It will make you more tired and less productive in the afternoon. Take a mind and body break and get outside into the sun and fresh air, even for 15 minutes. You will feel so much brighter and more energised for the rest of the day.”
Cheng agrees. “Taking a lunch break will not only improve your health, but also reduce your levels of stress and improve productivity,” he says.
4. Get a sit-stand desk
Creating more wellness at work isn’t necessarily about big changes.
New research from the University of Sydney found that replacing one hour of sitting a day with one hour of standing decreased the chance of an early death by about 14 per cent.
A sit-stand desk (Bouvier herself recently got a Varidesk) is a great way to move between your bottom and your feet, she says.
“Regularly moving between sitting and standing takes the load off your back, increases your metabolism and helps boost your concentration (especially when you are dreaming of being back on the beach!).”
5. Begin again
New research by Duke University shows that habits are even harder to break than we realise.
Any time we’re trying to create mental or physical change in our lives we have to accept that it is likely to be a process. So the ability to begin again – many times over – until we form healthier, happier ways of being, at work and at home, is important.
Meditation teacher and author Joseph Goldstein uses the concept of beginning again in regards to mindfulness in the 10% Happier app, but it’s a concept that can equally apply it to other behaviours or habits.
Notice the thoughts that drive your behaviour, whether it’s planning, judging, thinking, worrying, reacting.
We inevitably slip back into old patterns of thought or behaviour at work. But with practice we can begin to “wake up” to those patterns and begin again – each hour, day and week.
“More than that, it can give you a real advantage,” Dan Harris says of mindful action at work. “It might even make you nicer in the process.
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