Preparing myself for a busy season at work.
August 29, 2017 7:29 PM   Subscribe

What are some tips for maintaining good physical and mental health while working a desk job?

I'm working as a seasonal production artist for the remainder of the year. I'm going to be working pretty much all day at a desk staring at a computer screen. The holiday season is not going to be kind and I want to take advantage of working overtime (six days, extra hours). I work the standard 9 to 5, Monday-Friday. It's going to be incredibly busy and I want to make sure that I don't burn out mentally and physically. I'm commuting an hour to work and an hour and half from work. I battle constant traffic on my way home. I've noticed that I'm sitting a lot all day (at work and in a car) so I've been making a point to move around and walk during my breaks and lunch.

What are some tips or advice to make sure I don't let these factors start to affect my health negatively? What do you do to combat the constant sitting you do at work? What are some ways to make sure you don't mentally burn out when it's busy and you're working 12 hour shifts? I basically want to prepare myself, stay healthy and avoid letting stress break me down.

posted by morning_television to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the gym. Even if you don't like the gym (like me), when you're that busy, to check out from everything the way going to the gym requires you to check out feels weirdly indulgent. Anyway, there's no real alternative if you don't have lots of time but don't want your fitness to collapse.
posted by praemunire at 7:51 PM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

Make sure you get enough sleep each night. I worked 7 days a week for over 2 years and I had to make sure I never had one short night of sleep because if I did, there was no catching up. Plus it made the days much easier to deal with. Of course, I had no social life whatsoever but if you have a specific goal/time period in mind, you can do it.
posted by kitten magic at 7:58 PM on August 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

2nding going to the gym. After work. That way instead of being in a car for an hour and a half, you can be in the gym for an hour and in the process miss the rushhour traffic and get home in half an hour (hopefully). I do that and it cuts my commute time by a lot.
posted by littlesq at 8:21 PM on August 29, 2017 [8 favorites]

This is counter-intuitive and something I had to learn the hard way (and now that I'm a manager, watch my team sometimes have to learn the hard way despite my advice): do something besides veg out with your precious non-work time.

Of course yes do some lounging and let yourself have some zone-out time to recover after your long days, but don't let that be 100% of your non-work time. Every once in awhile, and definitely most weekends, do something more stimulating and productive, like hanging out with friends, going on a walk or a bike ride, doing the gym or yoga thing, attending an event, taking a fun class, taking a short trip, etc. Extended periods of "unproductive" leisure time between long work days are going to make you mentally burn out a lot more quickly.

A little more info on this in this annoyingly-titled article: You're doing your weekend wrong.
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:24 PM on August 29, 2017 [8 favorites]

Food. Bring your lunch. Bring a really nice lunch. Even the most decadent lunch meats and cheese for sandwiches are probably less costly than ordering in. You can also batch cook in the weekend. If you don't like lots of repetitive leftovers you can freeze in individual or double servings and then take out a few different things each week. Keep pb&j around so you can have a sandwich or crackers and call it dinner. Ditto canned soups or whatever convenience food is super comforting to you. In the office, have some nice snacks on hand, nuts that you really like, dried fruits, whatever keeps you energized and feeling good about your food choices. Drink more water and be vigilant in your sleep hygiene. Schedule times when you will order food/go out so that you don't feel deprived, and you can track where the extra money you're earning is going.

For your commute: audiobooks, podcasts, perhaps carpooling, and definitely look into reducing your commute time by going to the gym or taking a long walk after you're done at the office. 30 minutes of brisk walking is enough exercise to mitigate and prevent lots and lots of adverse health outcomes, and an hour is great. There is probably some kind of park near your office. Or heck, an indoor mall will do. Much cheaper than a gym membership, you'll be walking too quickly to shop. Look into seat pads for the car. Lumbar support or something under your butt might make being on the road easier.

For your home: have the numbers of a good plumber, etc in hand so that if something goes pear shaped at home you can just call instead of putting word out to your friends/family that you need a professional. (This is a different ball game if you have a landlord who fixes/arranges the fixing.) have someone in to clean at least once a month. Tip that person well, whether they're through a service or a word of mouth referral. Stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, toothpaste, whatever you use at home now so that you don't have to think about it during your busier time. Replace your toothbrush now and have one ready to go for three months out.

For your social life: use pole star (I think that's what it's called) to see what musicians will be performing near you, if you're into live music. Get tickets. Put it on the calendar. Next, arrange a "weekend getaway" even if that's a night or two at a hotel near your work. Find a nice place to take yourself to dinner, maybe pick a place to stay with a hot tub. See the sites, be a tourist. Plan some events/outings with friends. Wine tastings/lectures/rock climbing/cooking class/whatever. Let them know now what your limitations will be and if they're the type of friends that will bring dinner at 9:00 on a weeknight when you've had a crap day, let them do that for you, even if you can only stand it once. Schedule phone calls to people. This is easily done on your after work walks. Not seeing people in person can feel very isolating, phone calls can help.

For your body: stand up at least once an hour. Shake yourself out. Stretch your wrists and your neck and do the eye strain exercises that you can find online. Bend over and touch your toes. March in place. Go to the bathroom more than you need to. Look out a window if you can. Have a work ritual like taking vitamins or eating a banana or a special cup of tea at a particular time. Park a little farther from the office door. Take the stairs. Take a lap around the building. Laugh at something. If you like singing, then do that. Have some go to outfits so that you don't have to think about clothes every day. Or make yourself a uniform so you never have to think about clothes. If you have a favorite pair of shoes or pants or whatever, duplicate them now so that if they spring a leak you don't have to scramble to replace. Keep an extra set of shoes/whatever at work so that if you get soaked or spill, you can just change.

Floss your teeth. Every night. I promise it helps.
posted by bilabial at 10:22 PM on August 29, 2017 [12 favorites]

Look out the window. Seriously, when you take a moment to stand up (or, if you have a window near you, do this every 15 minutes or so), go over to a window and focus your eyes on something far away. It really helps keep your eyes strong if you do this regularly.

Leave the building. If you're working a 12 hour day, it can be worth it to eat at your desk and spend your lunch walking, not just for the physical exercise, but for the reminder that there are other places and people in the world besides the office you work in all day.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:57 AM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Take your breaks: 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon, at least half an hour for lunch. Leave the building if you can--take a walk, eat outside, go to the library--or walk up and down stairs if possible. Movement is so helpful. Take a nap during one of these (I like afternoon best!) if possible. A 10-15 minute cat nap is amazingly refreshing.

Make tea/hot chocolate/coffee/beverage of choice twice a day. You will get up, move around, stay hydrated, then later have to get up to use the bathroom. Schedule reminders for these & your breaks if necessary.

Stand up to answer the phone or when someone approaches you. It's a little habit that keeps you from sitting in your chair all day.

Seconding audiobooks for your commute.

Schedule your workouts and stick to them. Put on your workout clothes before you decide you don't have the energy that day. Joining a class or team (gym, yoga, martial arts, etc) is really motivational because you have people expecting you to be there.
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:41 AM on August 30, 2017

Always, always take your breaks. Don't work through lunch, don't skip a break. You need it. Don't stay longer and work without pay; leave when your time is up. Better to start a new job with strong boundaries than to try to build them up after the fact.

On my 15-minute breaks I walk around the building while I read a book on my tablet. It feels good to get up and move and it's inspired some other folks to do the same. If you're not that coordinated you could listen to an audiobook. It feels like a little escape.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I had my nose to the grindstone I'd take a break every mid-morning, to go outside (or in bad weather, just to walk the halls) while eating a banana, orange or a peach, depending on the season. Establish the precedent early on to derail any negative commentary, instead you'll just get the reputation as the person who takes a break every morning.

Also, DO NOT bring your lunch, and if you must, don't eat it at your desk, else you're working through lunch. It's recess -- get away from the job for the hour.
posted by Rash at 10:28 PM on August 30, 2017

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