If all of your wellbeing aims go out of the window at work, here’s what to do, according to one highly successful wellness entrepreneur...
So many of us spend most of our average week in the office, so it’s vital that the space we’re in helps contribute to our wellbeing, rather than sapping energy and building bad, sedentary habits. We’re working harder and longer than ever, so sustainability and wellbeing at work are essential to avoid burn-out. Making some very easy lifestyle choices, as outlined below, can truly make a big difference to our overall wellbeing.
1. Drink (and eat) more water
The most essential rule is to drink more water. Drinking water can help stop dizziness and headaches, fight infections by flushing through waste matter, keeping your airways clear and boosting energy levels. I try to make a glass of water my first drink of the day as this is the gentlest way to wake up the digestive system (much better than espresso or even juice). I keep a water filter bottle with me all day so it’s easy to remember to stay hydrated and I try to drink the equivalent of around six to eight glasses of room temperature water a day. I find that drinking this amount of water really does help keep my eyes sparkling and complexion clearer – and I certainly notice the difference on days when I don’t manage to drink quite enough water. Certain foods such as cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, grapes and courgettes also have a particularly high-water content, so I try to eat plenty of these watery foods too as another way of keeping my hydration levels topped up.
2. Breathe deeply and shrug your shoulders.
Too many of us sit in a hunched position at work, with our shoulders up around our ears and body tight with tension; it’s hard to breathe effectively that way. Whenever you feel particularly stressed and tired, stop and take some healing breaths.
I like to stand up straight with my weight evenly balanced on both feet and I start by shrugging my shoulders right up then sinking them down again. I do this a number of times until my shoulders are relaxed and any tension is released. Then I take deep, even breaths and breathe into a count of four or five, hold the breath for a couple of counts, then breathe out to a count of six. I always encourage my team at the Liz Earle Wellbeing studios to keep their breathing as slow and steady as they can and see if they can start breathing out to a count of seven or eight to really expel all the air from their body. The deeper the breath, the more air – and oxygen – we take in to nourish and revitalise our bodies. We’re a team of heavy breathers sometimes!
3. Do subtle desk exercises.
Whether you work from home or an office, staying still for hours on end can wreak havoc on your muscles, posture and stress levels. The good news is that there are some very simple exercises that can help, and they are subtle enough to do right at your desk. These include neck stretches, gentle spine curves and chin tucks. My personal favourite is an upper body rotation, as I find this really releases any tension across my upper back and shoulders. Simply cross your arms over your chest touching your left hand to your right shoulder and vice versa. Then gently rotate from your waist, keeping your arms and chest still, twisting from side to side. It’s a simple exercise I picked up from my physio, but it really stretches me out after working on my laptop.
4. Make time for lunch.
In a busy workplace it’s easy to rush through a shop bought sandwich at your desk only to feel an energy slump mid-afternoon. It pays to make time to prep a healthy, delicious and brain-boosting lunch the night before work – blueberries, leafy greens, walnuts, oily fish and eggs are a few of my favourite brain benefiting foods. In my Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine , I have a feature each issue called ‘Lunch with Liz’, packed with delicious and fun lunch options, from Scandi-style open sandwiches to salads in a jar and super soups – all easy to make in bulk at the start of the week as tasty time-savers.
5. ‘Palm’ your eyes.
We’re all busy replying to endless emails and calls, but don’t spend the whole day glued to screens, be it desktop or smartphone. Take time every 50 to 60 minutes to rest your eyes, focus on something in the distance rather than a few feet from your face, and whenever possible take a brisk walk around your working space to stretch your legs. Try ‘palming’ the eyes by placing your elbows on your desk and resting your eyes in your palms. Apply a gentle pressure to boost the lymphatics around the eye area to reduce puffiness and enjoy a few moments in the dark to give eyes a break.
6. Snack wisely.
Keep healthier, brain-boosting snacks to hand so that you don’t find yourself drifting towards the vending machine come the mid-afternoon slump. Nuts are one of my favourite wellbeing snacks and come the afternoon I enjoy a handful of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or pumpkin seeds – all delicious and full of essential goodness. They’re also one of the best sources of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that offers us a wealth of revitalising health and beauty benefits. Occasionally I also have a small square of very dark chocolate.
7. Have greenery in the office.
Having plants in our working spaces can be hugely beneficial, increasing productivity and happiness. Try introducing pot plants to the office, particularly at your desk space and if possible rearrange your workspace to make full use of any windows – especially if there is greenery outside. We’re very fortunate to have a garden which is overflowing with shrubs and flowers and we often have meetings outside using the garden space as an extension of our office. Even during the winter when there are few flowers around I bring bunches of green leaves and sit vases of these on our desks.
8. Create a culture of care.
Aim to instil a culture of care at work - if you care for your team they are more likely to care for each other and for the organisation too. We have a real sense of fun at work – birthday cakes, tea breaks where someone makes pots of tea for the whole team, walks in the local park and time out for a tummy rub with Basil the office hound who belongs to our Digital Editor, my eldest daughter Lily.
9. Get outside.
Try walking meetings: natural daylight and fresh air increase our sense of wellbeing, happiness and ability to focus so be sure to make time to get outside in your lunch break – or even rope in colleagues and set up walking meetings or a lunchtime running club. Our offices are a stone’s throw from a park and I encourage the team to have walking meetings there whenever possible. We find two to three people is the optimum number for this and it is a great way of focusing the mind on what needs to be achieved on a 30-minute walk with quick notes scribbled down on a pad as you go or a swift park bench stop.
10. Check your chair and your desk space.
Is your workspace conducive with wellbeing? We recently invited an expert in ergonomics to come and assess each member of my team’s posture, and help ensure they had their chairs, arm rests, foot rests and computer monitors at the correct height and settings to prevent repetitive strain problems. Having my chair adjusted to the right height has made a huge difference and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the impact that one small change has made. Small strains each day can all too easily build up to create lifelong pain and tension if not corrected.
Images: Breathing images by Lorenzo Mazzega for Skin: Delicious Recipes & the Ultimate Wellbeing Plan for Radiant Skin in 6 Weeks by Liz Earle (Orion Spring). Other Images of Liz by Georgia Glynn Smith www.glynnsmith.co.uk