Recently I was asked to present a wellbeing workshop to a government department across the road from 10 Downing street. This was just after the Brexit vote so obviously it was a time of high drama in the political heartland and those who were in the middle of it certainly seemed in need of some simple actions they could use in their working day to alleviate some of the stress they were under. Fortunately most of us don't have to operate under such high pressured conditions on a daily basis but the following suggestions can be easily applied to any daily work routine and hopefully help keep mind and body in good shape for what ever challenge comes along.
1. Take frequent movement breaks- There is growing evidence that when the body is positioned in flexion for long periods of time, i.e. when sitting at a desk, the chances of muscle imbalance increases causing back pain, joint problems and a host of other negative side effects The antidote to this is to move our bodies frequently and often, in order to minimise deoxygenation of blood and to encourage mobility around the joints and muscles. Just a couple of minutes of moving our bodies at least once an hour can stave off the issues associated with prolonged states of flexion. The kinds of movements that are most effective are ones that counter the closed sitting positioning, here's a great video from the wonderful team at Exuberant Animal to give some ideas.
2. Make time for being in nature- In japan the art of Shinrin Yoku or 'Forest Bathing' is prescribed as an alternative to antidepressants for office workers. Its the practise of spending time in a natural environment and really focussing on the sounds, colours and smells that nature has to offer. Research has shown that its an effective method of reducing cortisol, the bodies main stress hormone as well as lowering blood pressure and promoting a feeling of well being. In a working day its vital to get exposure to a natural environment to reap these benefits, even if its just a walk in the park during lunch, so make time to get outside.
3. Prep lunch the night before- During busy working hours eating well gets demoted on our priority least. However its important to remember that food its essentially the fuel that regulates our bodies and minds and therefore our ability to function well. By preparing lunch the night before we are more likely to make healthier choices than if we're doing a fly-by to the nearest sandwich shop during the working day. Healthy food choices can be very confusing thanks to main stream media. I think the following simple sentence by food writer Michael Pollen pretty much sums up healthy eating: 'Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants. For some additional easy to follow advice check out the following suggestions.
4. Just Breathe- By focusing on our breath during moments of stress and tension we encourage our body to relax and rejuvenate. This might sound way to simple but the art of closing our eyes and just being attentive to our breathing pattern, even for short period of time helps kick start the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for clearing stress hormones from the blood stream and aiding recovery throughout the body. So, when the day gets just a little crazy find a quiet spot, close your eyes, listen to your breath and most importantly leave yourself alone.
5. Strength in numbers- To change a behaviour or a habit its been proven to be more effective if done in a group scenario. We then become accountable to the group and are more likely to continue with our new empowering behaviour as opposed to falling back into old patterns. Organising a healthy changes group in the work environment is a great way to keep motivation levels high as well as giving each other support and encouragement when its needed.
Even if you can only manage a couple of these suggestions a day at work it should make a real difference to your physical and emotional wellbeing, give it a try!
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