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Having a Healthier Workspace

Here are four steps to having a healthier, less stressful workspace that will produce positive results for you. If you are reading this at your desk, take a moment and look around. Do you see clutter and chaos? Are stress-inducing to-do lists tacked up all over, reminding you in no uncertain terms that you have many things to do...ASAP?! Are your desk drawers hiding an emergency chocolate stash?

When you think about how the average American spends 8.6 hours a day at work, you have to wonder why many of us aren't treating our desks more like the Zen zones that they should be. Instead, we are sitting down each day at a spot not necessarily designed to keep our minds and bodies in a healthy state-the kind of state that allows us to be productive and calm.

Perhaps, then, it's time for an office make-over. By creating a space that promotes health and serenity, you may find it's a little easier to face the daily grind.

STEP 1: Give Germs the Pink Slip

You don't even want to know how many germs are living on your desk. Just know that there are plenty-and on everything from your phone to your keyboard to that pen you sometimes put in your mouth and chew on anxiously. Germs from coughs and sneezes can live on surfaces for up to three days, so to avoid colds and the flu, make antibacterial wipes your friends. Wipe off surfaces that are shared, like phones, a computer mouse and shared workstations.

Though it seems common sense, people should stay home if they are sick. You may think you are noble to trudge to work despite a nagging cough, but what you are really doing is not so nicely sharing those germs.

Nix superfluous routes of cross-contamination. If you have a bowl of jelly beans and everybody puts their hands in it, you are going to get their germs.

STEP 2: Close the Candy Shop

Snacks are important to keep your energy up, but having them within arm's reach at all times makes it too easy to graze the whole day long. This can add up to far more calories per day than your body requires. Instead, bring only the snacks you need for that day with you each morning. Prepacked 100-calorie snacks can help you stay on track with a healthy diet, so can baggies of fresh fruit slices or low-sugar cereal.

Then there the office staple: the candy bowl. There's one in every office and if it's on your desk, give it the boot. Consider that just three tiny, bite-sized candy bars can load you up with as many as 225 calories, but an apple and a piece of string cheese are just under 140 calories. Plus, sugary snacks will cause a spike in your blood sugar, meaning you're more likely to crash soon after. Sustaining your energy with healthy fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein will keep you alert until closing time.

STEP 3: Check Your Posture

Back problems can plague people who spend the majority of their workday in an office chair. The reason: Many of us sit forward in our chairs, leaning toward the computer in front of us. When you are not sitting properly-straight up, abs in and with a good, strong core-there's a lot of back strain. There shouldn't be a space between your back and the back of the chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Making these small changes can prevent orthopedic issues such as chronic back pain and pinched nerves. The benefits include improved flexibility, which helps prevent back injuries down the road.

Additionally, check to make sure you haven't glued yourself to your chair. You should get up every hour, walk around the office, drop off a paper at someone's desk. These moments of movement will stretch your spine and the muscles of your back and legs, preventing stiffness and cramping.

STEP 4: Find Your Happy Place

Keeping a positive mental attitude can have real, tangible effects on your physical health. According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, happy people were less likely to have risk factors for high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels and obesity. Make your workspace a happy space by surrounding yourself not with endless to-do lists, but instead, photographs or other trinkets that elicit positive memories.

Put fresh flowers on your desk, which can be instant mood-lifters. If you can, incorporate natural light into your work area. You'll be feeling sunny in no time.

Do you want to actually strengthen your core or burn calories while you work? Ask your office to supply you with an exercise ball chair or a standing workstation, or invest in one yourself.

Learn to Unplug

If you can't make a job switch to a professional napper, then disconnecting from your stressful job is paramount to good health. This can be a challenge for both sexes, especially since work follows us home on our cellphones and computers.

To lower your stress level and subsequently, your risk for heart attack and stroke, keep this point in mind. Work will still be there tomorrow. Turn off your computer and silence your phone at the end of the day. Because people are spending a longer time on their computers, they have less time for social interaction, and that contributes to stress. It is very important that you have a supportive network of friends or a family member you can connect with.

This article is from Vigor-Gwinnett Medical Center and is authored by Amanda Myers.

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