health

Just 4 changes you can make to feel a whole lot better sitting at a desk all day.

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Thanks to our brand partner, MURINE Dry eyes®

I always wanted to be a writer for a living, and for the last few years, I’ve been living that dream.

I love it, but soon after I started, I discovered pretty quickly that I’d spend at least eight hours on most days sitting and staring at a computer screen until my eyeballs went desert dry. That’s just the nature of the gig.

Strangely, I also found that even though it’s not physically strenuous, sitting still and concentrating on a screen for such a long time is hard on my body; I can become stiff from a lack of movement, and feel groggy from focussing too hard. And then I just feel blurgh.

But it’s not just me – apparently, it’s a real issue in Aussie offices. Safe Work Australia says “Health problems caused by prolonged sitting remain even if you exercise vigorously every day, highlighting the fact that excessive sitting and physical inactivity are separate health hazards.”

If that all sounds a little intense, don’t worry. There are easy fixes. The kinds that won’t sound earth-shattering by nature, but will actually make a big difference to how you feel.

1. Check your setup.

If you have a desk job like mine, you’ll know that back and neck pain, headaches, and shoulder pain are common computer-related issues.

In this case, prevention is better than cure; I found the top way to avoid these problems is ensuring my desk setup is optimal.

Poor workstation or desk design leads to bad posture, and I know that if I’m not careful, I’m suddenly two hours into crouching over my machine.

According to Better Health Victoria, you should have your screen either at eye level or slightly lower, and your keyboard positioned so that your elbows rest at your sides.

Then, your forearms should be flat – parallel with the floor and level with the keyboard.

Finally, make sure your chair is the right height – so your feet rest flat on the floor. If that’s not possible, consider using a footstool.

My other tip is to change your work position if you can, and not just be at your desk. Sometimes, I’ll write at the office dining table, or sit for 45 minutes in the casual lounge area. I find doing that keeps my body ‘awake’.

Of course, not all offices are designed for hot desking or regular movement. Another option is the standing desk; you don’t have to buy one, you can just get cardboard desk ‘toppers’ that raise your workspace and allow you to operate standing up. But there are some good ones you can buy for cheap, like this one on Amazon. Or ask your employer if they can provide.

posture
No to the top postures, yes to the lower ones. *straightens back* Image: Getty.
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2. Give your eyes a break.

There’s nothing like staring at a screen for hours at a time to give you a headache and that feeling of eye blurriness.

When I’m in ‘the zone’, I always forget to blink, which leads to dry eyes that I desperately want to rub. So, blink!

I also remind myself to look away every 20 minutes or so, otherwise my eyes feel strained by looking at the same thing for too long.

Another issue is glare from my screen; if it’s too bright, or I’m sitting by the window, I make sure I adjust the settings so the screen’s not reflecting too much light.

Because I am, ahem, no longer young, I’ve increased the size of the text on my screen, so I’m not ever straining to read.

My last tip to avoid the dreaded eye fatigue, which is just not an option when you have deadlines to meet, is to use eye drops.

I love the new MURINE Dry eyes®, because it’s a preservative-free solution.

If you stare at a screen all day in an air-conditioned environment, eye drops like these are your saviour because they moisturise and lubricate the surface of the eye just so.

Pop to the bathroom, wash your hands and remove the cap on the bottle (make sure the tip doesn't touch your finger so it's clean). Gently squeeze one or two drops into each eye as often as you need - you'll feel refreshed instantly. Ah, RELIEF.

3. Put some incidental exercise into your day.

I’m normally a pretty restless person, but when I focus, I don’t realise until later that sometimes an hour has gone by with me barely moving. And that aches in my bones.

To break things up, I make sure I do little things like walk over to a colleague to deliver a message instead of typing it on our office messenger service, and take the stairs to get my lunch instead of using the lift (although, I’ll be honest, that depends on how high my heels are that day!).

Some people set a timer or a calendar notice reminding them to get up. If time is really tight, I at least make sure I stand up at my desk and stretch my neck and arms. I’ve also been known to do calf stretches in the office kitchen while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil!

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For something a little more structured – and from a professional – fitness guru and ex-Bachelor Sam Wood shared some excellent tips with the Mamamia team (see below). He suggests 20 chin tucks to move your neck, 20 ‘towel rows’ with a buddy to get your shoulders and back stretched, 20 wide-arm stretches, and 20 arm swings for circulation.

Video via Mamamia

“Doing these movements four or five times a day will not only make you more productive, get some blood flow, but you’ll find it reduces headaches, and makes you feel great,” he told us.

If you think you don’t have time for these measures or may look silly, think of it this way; when you’re refreshed, you’re so much more effective in the work you perform.

4. Don't skip lunch breaks or water refills.

Speaking of the kitchen – you have to remember to eat and drink!

We can get so caught up in deadlines and ‘I just need to get this done before lunch’, that we don’t realise how sluggish dehydration especially can make us feel.

Hunger pains normally tell you it’s time to eat something, but I find dehydration a real issue.

So, I always have a bottle of water on my desk, and a hot tea or coffee, because I feel that drinking something can make you feel better immediately, stave off a headache, and help you focus. Hey, even pop two of those fizzy tables of Hydralyte if you're really dehydrated and feel way under the weather.

My favourite drink bottle is anything that’s BPA-free plastic (so it’s lightweight), with an easy sipping bit (so I don’t mess up my lipstick), like this one from Thermos.

Drinking also makes you want to use the bathroom, which is a good reminder for you to break up your sitting, too.

Follow these tips, and I promise you’ll feel so much better at the end of every work day.

What do you do to feel better in the office?

MURINE Dry eyes®

Did you know that dry eye affects 1/3 of Australian adults? Of which females are at greater risk of developing the condition.
Try new preservative free Triple Benefit MURINE® Dry eyes, to help relieve dry, irritated eyes. Available in leading pharmacies. Remember: Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

Tags: health , work
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