This is a guest post by Dr. Lisette Rollins from Maxwell Medical in Manhattan, NY. Sitting at a desk for many hours a day in front of a computer is the reality for many people these days. Busy days filled with conference calls, answering emails, and client meetings has you glued to your chair and by the end of a long day you feel cruddy all over. Ever wonder why you feel tension and stress at the end of a day when you know you woke up without it in the morning? Here’s the fascinating truth: humans are animals. I know that we can forget that we need to put ourselves on the animal level, but truly, we are animals. We should be eating like lions and moving like primates. We should be drinking water regularly and breathing fresh clean air. All of these things are critical to survival. But beyond just surviving, we should be living. Pain at the end of a busy work day can make you feel miserable and want to just survive and not live. The following are three tips that can reduce much of the stress that you’ve been dealing with on a regular basis.
1. Move around. Much of the muscle aches and pains come from micro injuries that are caused by sitting too long for too many many years. Think about it this way: you’ve been sitting at a desk since you were in the first grade for at least 8 hours a day. When you were a kid, you ran around, played stick ball, and drove your parents crazy. So it was OK to sit because you compensated by being very active after your homework was done. These days, you’re sitting at a desk, drinking coffee, and getting up only when the pressing urge to go the bathroom hits you. Then you go home, sometimes bring more work with you, sit on your couch watching reruns of Who’s the Boss and eating whatever you can microwave in 3 minutes flat. Remember, I told you that you’re an animal. Animals move a lot. They don’t sit in one spot for 8 or 10 hours a day texting on their Blackberries. Take an opportunity every 30 minutes to do some light stretching at your desk. I’m not asking you to break into a full downward dog. What I am suggesting is that you raise your arms over your head and sway back and forth like a palm tree in Hawaii. Gently twirl your head around in all directions for 10 to 15 seconds. Then pump your feet like you’re driving through New York City traffic. Last but certainly not least, stand up from your desk and shake it all out. Your cube neighbors may think you’re a bit wonky, but perhaps you can tell them why you’re moving about and get the whole office to join in a better lifestyle. The extra blood flow to your head and limbs will give you a surge of energy. It’s something you won’t get from coffee.
2. Drink water. It’s no coincidence that your brain and earth share a similar percentage of water. The human brain is composed of up to 70% water. Besides eating a well balanced diet, drinking water is crucial to a healthy body and healthy brain function. Without water, we can become dehydrated and no water over a 3 day period would make you critically ill, if not extinct. We’ve been hearing that 8 glasses of water a day is the proper amount of water to drink. That may be true for some people, but certainly not for all. To know how much water you should be drinking take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. That number is how much water you should be drinking per day in ounces. So let’s take a 160 pound person. Divide 160 in half giving you 80. So he/she should be drinking 80 ounces of water a day. Assuming an 8 ounce glass, that person should be drinking ten glasses of water per day to be optimal. Figure out how many ounces you should be drinking per day and stick to it. Your body and your brain will thank you for it. And if you’re wondering if coffee and sugary soda drinks count towards your water intake, think again. Coffee is a diuretic leeching important water from your system. And soda is just plain nasty. Cut the soda out of your diet and replace it with water. If you don’t like the taste of water or if it’s too boring for you, squeeze a lemon or orange wedge into your water for a citrusy pick me up.
Worried about all the extra bathroom trips? Sip your water starting from when you wake up until an hour or so before bed. It won’t be that much of an issue. If you’re more of a down 10 ounces in one sitting type of person, don’t stress. The extra bathroom trips gets you moving like I mentioned in tip #1.
3. Manage your stress. Is that crazy desk mate of yours complaining about their dog’s skin condition again? Is your boss asking you to work on the weekend for the sixth week in a row? Is some pesky colleague stealing your Greek yogurt from the communal fridge? Stress comes in many forms but your body sees it all as the same thing. Whether your dog dies or you get into a car accident, your body goes through a fight or flight response. Your palms get sweaty, your heart rate increases and the “get out of dodge” hormones rise. Stress in spurts is not detrimental. Your body has the awareness of recognizing stressful situations in order to keep you alive. When we were paleolithic creatures, the stress response was important because our ancestors had to run away from a large man-eating animal in order to survive. These days, Saber Tooth Tigers aren’t roaming the city streets but other dangers are. Especially in the office place where chronic stress can wreak havoc on your physiology. Some of the best ways to manage stress is to put the stressor into perspective. If you’re tired of hearing about your co-workers mangy dog, offer to find her a veterinarian in the area that specializes in skin conditions. How about that boss who keeps asking you to work weekends? Tell her you’ve got plans and you just can’t do it. Sometimes working on a weekend to finish a big presentation may be necessary, but when it’s moved into the realm where you’re a permanent fixture next to the fake potted plants, an open discussion may be necessary. Life isn’t just about working until your fingers bleed. Too much too often creates a toxic atmosphere anyway. Communication is key. Maybe your boss doesn’t know you mind. As for the fridge thief, brown bag your lunch and put your name on it. Or if you are feeling particularly generous, buy a few extra items of deliciousness and add it to the communal fridge space leaving a note for others to enjoy. Your generosity may go a long way, plus it will make you feel better that you shared some wholesome goodness. If you find yourself confronted with a situation that boggles your mind and leaves every muscle in your body tensed up, take a few very deep breaths and walk away from the situation for a few moments. The extra oxygen to the brain and muscles will help relieve your tension and help you think more clearly.