How to de-stress your desk (and everything else!) to improve energy, productivity and wellbeing
How often do we sit at our work desks feeling our energy evaporate, our productivity tumble and our sense of well-being vanish as the day goes on? I know I do… all too frequently! And whether we’re in an office environment, or work from home, a desk-based job doesn’t lend itself readily to keeping up our ‘femergy’ levels.
Sunshine and blue skies are a great natural energiser… but as the bright and breezy days of summer give way to the cosy anticipation of autumn days and we hunker down for winter, it’s can be harder than ever to maintain the motivation to keep ourselves energised, productive in the workplace and feeling as good as we can be!
But here’s the thing: it’s all about we treat ourselves and the environment we create and around where and how we work.
Let’s make the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ about more than installing the latest project planning tool, time-management technique or scheduling meetings on Skype or Zoom. Let’s put a broader lens and a holistic approach to femergising ourselves and our workspace, increasing our motivation, fostering collaboration and… having some FUN!
With these femergy lifestyle principles of food, movement, sleep, connection and nesting in mind, let’s get de-stressing and start energising…
Nourishing our body to adequately fuel each and every cell, organ and body system is fundamental to our energy levels, sustained productivity and overall well-being. It’s mega important to keep on top of fuelling our body with high quality, organic real food.
How easy is it to slip into the habit skipping breakfast, picking up a quick sandwich, crisps and a chocolate snack from the deli across the road, or worse, something from a nearby fast food outlet? Sure, it’s quick and convenient when time is short, but the trouble is that this kind of ‘food’ is packed with nutrient-poor sugars and other simple carbohydrates, which appear to fill us up quickly, giving us a quick carb hit so we feel full. But as our blood sugar drops, our energy levels fall off a cliff as the afternoon wears on, leaving trillions of cells still hungry! So off we go to the vending machine, or we reach for another chocolate bar.
If you’ve been relying on processed foods to see you through a busy, stressful day, then you’re fighting a losing battle! Get used to preparing your own food and cutting right back on energy depleting processed and ‘convenience’ foods.
Start as you mean to go on, with a protein-rich breakfast. Continue the good work at lunch-time by bringing in a sustaining balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats and conclude your day with another balanced meal of protein, carbs and healthy fats.
Remember though, that macros (proteins, carbs and fats) are only half the equation, so add in a variety of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from colourful phytonutrient-rich veggies at every meal – yes, that includes breakfast – and energy-rich whole ripe fruit and maybe a few nuts to snack on. If this sounds like way too much food, then make your meals smaller, but keep up nutritious snacks.
Check out this post for meal ideas to Beat Your Post Lunch Dip
Keeping hydrated is important too – water plays an important role in carrying nutrients to our cells, but it’s not necessary to drown your body in litres of the stuff! Why not try a deliciously beneficial herbal tea – check out this guest post on The Top 5 Teas For Women’s Health. And, remember that many fruits are hydrating, nutrient-rich and very portable. Winner!
Image credit: Buffer
Bottom line: poor sleep and low/no energy go hand-in-hand. Make getting your sleep sorted a priority if you want to bounce out of bed and keep on bouncing throughout the day. Build the foundation by nourishing your body adequately during the day to prepare it for a restful and healing night’s sleep.
Going to bed at a consistent time; creating a good sleep hygiene routine around bedtime and getting 7-8 hours regularly will give you the best chance of coping with a stressful, tiring day. Check out this post on why Sleep and Stress are Toxic Bedfellows and what to do about it.
If you get the opportunity, then taking five for a ‘power-nap’ is restorative and de-stressing in and of itself. SleepDisorders.Com tell us that power-napping is power-full:
- allowing our brain neurons to rest and recover from the day’s stresses;
- increasing performance;
- enhancing relationships both personally and professionally by allowing us to concentrate on a group of people;
- enhancing our ability to properly act upon the newly received information;
- promoting physical well-being, improving mood and memory, sharpening our senses and revitalizing us.
Breath of Fire – the ultimate stress buster
All breathing techniques are hugely beneficial for de-stressing and restoring energy. The Kundalini ‘Breath of Fire’ is the ultimate ‘stress-buster’ and an amazingly energising, cleansing and empowering technique – a great technique to use in the morning to energise your day.
The Breath of Fire is done through the nose. The body is still and relaxed, only the navel point is working. It’s an active exhale to create a vacuum, followed by a passive inhalation as air naturally rushes back in. At first, you may find yourself breathing the opposite way with the navel pumping in for the inhale and relaxing for the exhale – keep practising. If you feel dizzy, slow down the breathing while you build strength.
Image credit: Sanasuma Kundalini Yoga
Sit in a chair keeping your spine straight. Tuck your chin in towards your chest slightly, so your neck is long and straight
- RELAX your face and shoulders
- Place one hand on your NAVEL
- INHALE – take a deep breath IN through your nose
- EXHALE through your nose – drawing your stomach IN as you exhale
- INHALE – relaxing your navel as you inhale to let the air rush back in
- Emphasise the EXHALE, the INHALE comes naturally and practise equalizing the inhale and the exhale.
- Slowly increase the power and pace, keeping your breath rhythmic, even, smooth and continuous.
If you’re pregnant, or on the first few days of your period, or don’t have a private space available, use this diaphragmatic breathing technique instead.
MOVE YOUR BODY
The NHS advises us to “move more, sit less.” If you’re often at a desk – and for prolonged periods – your metabolism slows right down, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. Over time, this weakens muscles and bones – the very problem women at midlife will want to avoid as we anticipate the promise of our golden years!
If you drive to work, make an effort to park further away from the front door. And whether you’re office based, or work from home – get outside walk for at least 20 minutes at lunchtime. Walking nature in restores your energy, feeds your microbiome, and de-stresses your head. Check out the post ‘How I’m Beating Autoimmune Arthritis with Lifestyle Medicine’ to see how it helped me! If you enjoy your lunch break you’ll return revitalised and ready to crack on! Oh wait – it’s raining? Then keep a raincoat, wellies and an umbrella to hand!
Make sure you stand up every hour (set an alarm!) even just for a few minutes. Take calls on your feet, walk around the office and walk the corridors. Jeff Miller, Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Psychology, Saint Xavier University has this to say:
If you drive to work, make an effort to park further away from the front door. And whether you’re office based, or work from home - get outside walk for at least 20 minutes at lunchtime. Click To Tweet
“If you are feeling disengaged or sluggish, and you desire to energize yourself, take a brisk walk around the block or through the cubicles. Your feelings of engagement will very likely increase, and all those things you might have wanted to be doing should seem less imposing.”
We humans are hard-wired for social connection and collaboration – our ability to form, foster and use social relationships is an important part of what makes us human – and successful. Check out the post “ Is Social Connection More Important Than Smoking?’ The workplace is an important contributor to individual well-being because it offers us the potential for positive relationships.
“We spend most of our time at work and thus focusing on the essential factors for happiness at work will impact productivity, engagement as well as community, organizational and individual wellbeing.”
If you’re in an office environment, try to build in walking meetings, buddy-up for lunch-time walks and persuade your employer to put a ping-pong table in a common area!
But whether we’re in an office environment or work from home, in today’s technology-driven world, people are becoming increasingly isolated. For those that work at home, desk work can be a particularly lonely pursuit, with hours spent sedentary in front of the computer, isolated from social connection with work colleagues. And, as convenient and time-saving as conference calls and Skype meetings are, they can’t replace face-to-face interactions.
So as a home-based worker (like me) make a conscious effort to ‘get out there’ and break up your day by working from a local co-working space, library, favourite coffee shop or internet café. Participate in local networking groups and meet-ups in your field of interest, or join a personal development group.
Taking the trouble to create a calm, ordered and stress-less workspace is truly nourishing and de-cluttering creates an uplifting, energized environment for mind and body.
Keeping your workspace ordered and tidy will encourage a more ordered and tidier mind to help you remain on task, as you’ll be less distracted. Take a few minutes every day to clean up your desktop, drawers, filing cabinets and office and if you’re working from home… tidy up, wash the dishes and put on some inspiring music! Keep your computer screen dust and smudge-free with a non-toxic eco-friendly cleaner, while a toothbrush and tape work well on the keyboard. Tidy up the mish-mash spaghetti leads and wires and watch your stress level reduce.
Just because it’s a workspace, doesn’t mean we can’t add our own personal touches; bring in a favourite paperweight or an uplifting crystal to put on your now clear and de-cluttered desk. Black tourmaline, placed near tech devices, is said to protect us from harmful EMF frequencies.
Go green! According to the University of Exeter, plants can improve creativity by 15% over “lean” workspaces. Searches for “air purifying plants” and “aloe vera” were up a whopping 550% year on year in 2017. Try a peace lily, bamboo, bonsai, or a succulent (the last one hardly needs watering!)
Essential oils have qualities that can truly enhance your work environment and diffusing a carefully chosen essential oil (or blend) can help you de-stress, boost your mood, energise, focus, and enhance your memory, creativity and productivity… as well as purifying the air!
On average, we’ll spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime and that’s going to make a big impact on every aspect of our life. Let’s make sure it’s worth it!