Six Ways to Keep Yourself Physically and Mentally Fit at a Desk Job

August 10, 2019

Is it just me or does it seem like every other person is making ‘inspirational’ posts about how you should quit your 9 to 5 job and start your own business? Get out of the rat race created by these big corporations who don’t care about you and be your own boss? Pursue your dreams or travel the world while working remotely? Sounds motivating, right? Well, maybe a little. But life is not that simple.

Not everyone can quit a stable job and give up consistent paychecks to pursue these fulfilling projects and ventures. Or even if it is possible for you, maybe you don’t actually WANT to live that life. I truly believe that it is perfectly okay to work a day job you can tolerate so that you have time to pursue other ambitions after clocking out of work.

It’s clear that there is a rising move against what we would call the ‘typical’ job- working 8 hours a day at a desk. It may be because the typical desk job routine can negatively impact your physical, mental and emotional well-being. There is visible monotony and inhibition in such arrangements. You already know what you are getting into when you sign that offer letter. Once you start working in such a job, specifically if you are doing work that is repetitive in nature, it becomes a great struggle to snap out of the rut. Days, weeks and months pass by and you may start losing energy to do other things outside of work or even lose motivation to do the job.

empty black rolling chairs at cubicles

So how do you take care of your health when you’re spending at least 8 hours a day sitting on a chair and staring at a computer? Here are 6 things you can do to get started:

1. Take a walk

We are not made to sit such long periods of time in a day. Even if your desk job includes heavy workload, at least get up every hour or so to fill up your water or go to the toilet. If you don’t need to do either of those, just take a walk! This may sound counterproductive, but I have had days where I’ve walked around the office building just to de-stress. Once I get back to my desk, I am actually more focused and ready to continue.

2. Do some meal prep.

Amidst our busy lives and demanding careers, food becomes a secondary thought. In the afternoon, swarms of employees head over to fast food joints and the not-so-healthy food courts for lunch. An easy way to tackle this is to just spend 2 hours on the weekend preparing your breakfasts and lunches for the work week. Even if the kitchen is not your comfort zone, there are so many helpful online sources which can guide you to come up with filling snacks and wholesome lunches to take to work. Meal prep for dummies is a good start if you need a reference point!

3. Find time to socialize.

Taking mini breaks from work to catch up with a friend/colleague may seem like you’re slacking, but it is so useful. It is common to feel isolated when working desk jobs so it’s absolutely vital to find time to socialize with our peers. If you can’t do it during work hours, make sure you spend your lunch hour somewhere other than your desk and with someone other than your computer! This is especially important if your job does not even have many face-to-face meetings. Maybe take some time to chit chat with your desk neighbor, or meet up with a colleague for a short tea break in the pantry.

4. Do some exercise.

You knew this was coming. The biggest issue with having a desk job is the lack of movement it entails. Of course, you don’t want to look like a fool randomly standing up at your desk and distracting everyone from their screens with your movements. Believe it or not, there are proper and proven exercises you can do while sitting on the desk that can greatly help you stay active and keep your posture straight. Take a break from watching cat videos on YouTube (or am I the only one doing that at work?) and search for desk exercises you can try out!

5. Adjust your work timings.

This could mean different things for each of us. If you’re anything like me – you cannot get up early enough to make the long commute and be at work by 9 a.m. And even if you do somehow make it through that grueling traffic, you are running on lack of sleep and energy. Perhaps you can ask your manager to work a little later, I opted for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. timing instead. Sure, it gave me less time in the evenings, but getting sufficient sleep means I’m ready to work once I get to the office. Alternatively, you may want to come in earlier and leave earlier so that you have adequate time in the evenings to yourself. Figure out what works best for you, of course the management may say no but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

6. Leave on time.

Trust me, I have been there. Working extra hours just to catch up on all the pending work, making excuses that if I stay longer and do this one thing, I will be less stressed out the next day. Guess what? This cycle most likely will not end, and you are giving all your energy and time to a job that is not paying you any extra for it. Work hard during the designated hours, but pack up and leave once the time is up. Having a life outside of work will help you stay motivated and keep you from becoming drained.

I hope these tips were helpful for you! Take note that not everything that worked for me would work for you, but actively doing these six things truly helped me feel better at and after work during my many years at a desk job. It brought back the work-life balance and bought me some time and energy to pursue other projects and passions that have been on my to-do list for quite some time (one of those being this blog!).

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