Balance in the Workplace

What does is mean to be healthy? If you ask most people this, their response may include: eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting around eight hours of sleep every night. While this is a good start, this does not include every aspect of health. Health has three components: physical, social, and mental. When these three things are present and in balance with one another, it is then that a person is considered to be truly healthy. So, how does that relate to the workplace?

Although it is essential to being a productive, prosperous employee, it seems as though mental health in the workplace is often overlooked. How often do you feel overwhelmed, stressed, and like your boss/co-workers/students demand so much of you and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to keep up? Your desk is cluttered with papers that you haven’t had the time to sort through, your inbox is rapidly filling with emails you have yet to respond to, you have a long, paralyzing list of things on your to-do list—sound about right? Unfortunately, there is often nothing you can do to decrease the volume of your workload, BUT there are things you can do to sustain your mental health in the workplace.

Try these things to de-stress during work:

  1. I will not check you. Technology has become a main aspect of every day life, including in the workplace. Being at the beck and call of every ding, buzz, and swoosh can be extremely stress provoking. Set aside a block of time during your day that you do not check your email, respond to text messages, or answer phone calls. If this worries you, let your co-workers know when you will be doing this. Not only will you de-stress by giving yourself a technological break, but you will also be amazed at how much more focused and in turn productive you will be during this time. Your boss will love it too!
  2. Step away for breaks. Whether it be to go grab a cup of coffee, take a 10 minute stroll, or to go to eat lunch, GET AWAY FROM YOUR DESK. Moving your muscles will help pump blood back up to your brain. You will feel more awake. The food will nourish your body and give you the energy you need to make it through the day. Changing your scenery for even a small amount of time will allow you to mentally regroup so that when you return, you feel motivated and ready to be productive once again.
  3. Interact with other people. Whether it be walking down the hall to ask a co-worker how their weekend went, calling a loved one during a break, or talking to a friend, make sure to interact with others throughout your day. It is easy to have the “bubble” mentality where you think you’re too busy to talk to someone because you will become distracted. However, human interaction is highly beneficial as a stress reliever. You could release a worry you may have, momentarily take your mind off all your tasks, or maybe, just maybe, they could even make you laugh. People are great resources; use them!
  4. Stretch. Our bodies were not meant to sit at a desk for 6-8 hours a day. Even with ergonomics, many people have poor posture. This can cause muscle tightness, aches, and pain—often times in the neck, shoulders, and back. This can be a huge source of stress. It can be extremely distracting when you feel uncomfortable or pained. Take the time to stretch and loosen up your muscles. Not only will your body thank you, but your mind and work productivity will as well.
  5. Breathe. This sounds silly and simple, but when you are feeling very stressed and overwhelmed, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. You will slow your heart rate, increase the oxygen supply for your brain, and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (“Rest & Digest”)—all of which will help you feel more calm. Deep breathing “brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind” (Stress.org).

Those are just a few simple things you can do to periodically de-stress yourself throughout the workday. If you have any other tricks that work for you, add them to the list! However, do not just think these things could be helpful to you, put them into practice. As we part, I leave you with this:

When asked what surprised him the most, the Dalai Lama replied: “Man surprises me most about humanity. He sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health.”

Do not be like the man the Dalai Lama is describing. Do not allow your job to dictate your life and jeopardize your health. Take care of yourself and have balance. Not only will you be happier, but your co-workers and boss will be able to see the difference as well. Mental health is just as important to your overall health as physical and social. Make sure you give it the attention it deserves—including in the workplace!

By: Natalie Radloff

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