Dr. Bridgid G. Joseph DNP, RN, CCNS provides us with various tips to help us care for our body and mind during these times of uncertainty and stress.
In this new world of COVID stress mixed with hybrid virtual meetings, with a smattering of in-person meetings, and needing to find a time to actually get some work accomplished, we are sitting now more than ever. It’s not pretty. Ever had back-to-back meetings scheduled for 6-8 hours without breaks? Not only is that not fun, but it’s really not healthy. No shocker here, but you end up losing concentration when you are sitting too long, and it isn’t good for your cardiovascular and muscular health either. Everyone has a huge mental load right now, and there is no need to add any other stress to your world, so I want to share some quick and easy tips on how to keep moving at work, to support your physical and mental health.
Keep on Keeping On
In this new world of COVID stress mixed with hybrid virtual meetings, with a smattering of in-person meetings, and needing to find a time to actually get some work accomplished, we are sitting now more than ever. It’s not pretty. Ever had back-to-back meetings scheduled for 6-8 hours without breaks? Not only is that not fun, but it’s really not healthy. No shocker here, but you end up losing concentration when you are sitting too long, and it isn’t good for your cardiovascular and muscular health either. Everyone has a huge mental load right now, especially those in healthcare and that support the mental health of others; the case managers and social workers supporting the people who are homeless and underserved during this pandemic are truly the unsung heroes! Thus, there is no need to add any other stress to your world, especially when it comes to trying to be healthy, so I want to share some quick and easy tips on how to keep moving at work, to support your physical and mental health, while you support others.
As much as physical health is important, we all need to make sure that our mental health is supported. With the mental load we are all carrying, thinking about what to make for dinner is overwhelming, never mind making big decisions at work. So, to say we may feel overwhelmed at times is a complete understatement, but there are some ways that we can work in mental breaks. Give yourself 5 minutes between meetings, so you can take a mental break, gather your thoughts, go to the restroom (what a luxury!), grab a sip or water, or just sit there and marinate in your own world; whatever helps you and keeps you feeling mentally fresh. Meditation support during the day can help to improve your concentration and your mental clarity (Breethe app is free and really helpful to reduce stress and anxiety in a COVID-filled world.) Try 4-7-8 deep breathing a few times throughout the day: inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale from your mouth (audibly) for 8 seconds. And? If you feel anxious and need someone to talk to, because you feel overwhelmed and you feel alone or don’t know who to reach out to, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a hotline to help connect you with someone immediately and work with you to find continued counseling (800-950-6264). And please remember, you are not alone, and everyone processes and copes differently with stress; reach out to find a way that works best for you.
Captain Obvious coming in hot here! We need to keep our bodies moving so that we can improve muscle use, and blood flow to our extremities and our brains, and that is a lot easier said than done. Some quick ways to keep moving? Normalize standing up during a meeting. As an adult, if you need to get up to help your body feel better, then do it. Even moving from a sitting to a standing position, helps to flex muscles (think leg, gluteals, and abdomen) and improve muscle strength. Standing without added movement can be beneficial to your overall health, of course standing and taking a walk to grab water, or just doing a lap around the floor of your office makes it that much healthier. Trading in your standard office chair for a yoga ball can help you to keep some micro-movements, throughout the day, changing your center of gravity, and strengthen your core throughout the day (added bonus of those with ADHD like me: if your indign it difficult to concentrate, bounce for a bit on the ball to get some of your activity out, allowing you to focus more on your work.) Also try: standing desks, treadmill desks, under desk elliptical, or under desk bike pedals to get exercise while you are working and encourage movement. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to get up every 30 minutes; the alarm will annoy you enough that you will actually want to move (especially if your phone is a quick walk across your office!). If you would like to utilize a standing desk, reach out to your supervisor for additional information.
Your Body, Your Temple
While it can be hard, especially under stress when cortisol levels are soaring, and we want to eat sugary and processed foods, it’s important to eat as healthy as possible. Get in fruits and veg throughout the day, and really try to drink at least 8 glasses of water. Caffeinated beverages, while they do fuel us, can also work against us in a time of high stress as they can cause increased anxiety, not to mention gastric reflux and chest pain (which tends to lead to more anxiety- see the cycle there?) A good rule is to drink 2 glasses of water for every one caffeinated beverage to try and flush your system and offset some acidity of caffeine. Allow yourself some cheat snacks, we have to have something that makes us happy during the day, but keep that focus on using food as fuel and keeping it clean.
It is a difficult world we are living in, and re-entering into life after months of quarantine is, a minimum, hard. For some, going back to work is causing more stress and anxiety than others can even imagine. Please check on your friends and colleagues, offer support, normalize mental health care, and remember that we are all in this together. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude for all we do to support one another, can really help to keep us positive, and change our mental outlook. But, if you are trying these tips, they aren’t working, or you can’t even motivate to try them, please, please, please reach out to www.nami.org or other resources available at work to get some more support because you are more than worth it.
In health and gratitude,
Dr. Bridgid Joseph DNP, RN, CCNS
Healy, G. N., Winkler, E. H., Owen, N., Anuradha, S., & Dunstan, D. W. (2015). Replacing sitting time with standing or stepping: Associations with cardio-metabolic risk biomarkers. European Heart Journal, 36(39), 2643–2649. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehv308