It's 2PM, you have already eaten your lunch, digested it, and now you are sleepy. You look outside and wish you were running down a trail or feeling the wind across your face as you ride your bike, but you can't.
A small voice in your head says "what are you doing here?" You ponder it, debate it for a minute and continue on with the rest of your day at about 75% efficiency.
This is a large portion of the daily mental struggle that I've encountered when trying to help people that are office worker
List of items that will ensure a happier office experience:
- Surround yourself with plants. Here's a study about the benefits of indoor plants if you have to have one for reliability! I always say that most primal/paleo lifestyle habits are common sense.
- Visit your local plant shop for supplies. Local stores are usually much more helpful than others. Major chain stores also carry many bonsai or small indoor plants if you'd rather save a little money.
- Meditate from your office chair. Close your eyes and focus only on your breathing. Five minutes every 4 hours is a realistic amount of deep breathing time. If you are "chained to your desk", you must give your brain a mental escape.
Once you learn a little bit more about meditation and float tanks here, you will understand that profound changes in perception are highly beneficial and can spread to other parts of life.
- Keep a minimalist desk. Clutter is a headache waiting to happen. Not only does clutter create stress, it has the potential to reduce your productivity and cause you to half-ass many projects at once, rather than completing something thoroughly.
- Clear off your desk of everything and replace only what you need. You will realize you need a lot less in your work area than you thought before. The best way to get anything done is to narrow your focus.
- De-clutter your computer (physically & virtually). This includes the post-it notes scattered across your screen and the millions of icons on your desktop. The amount of concentration that you will gain from de-cluttering your life, your work area and your computer's desktop is amazing.
- Listen to positive podcasts. (like mine!) Depending on the level of focus or hearing your environment that your job requires, you may not be able to do this. This could be considered multi-tasking, but I find that listening to a positive/informative podcast increases my awareness, focus, happiness and personal drive towards life. Of course, I would recommend my podcast, I find it to be very motivating for myself; you will probably agree. Once you listen, leaving me a review on iTunes would help significantly!
- Don't overwork yourself. This is something that I learned the hard way. In my years working at UPS as an irregular package unloader, I was moving 70-150lb boxes from midnight-4am along with one other guy. Over the roar of belts, machines and buggies driving through the warehouse, supervisors were constantly "highly recommending" that we speed up and would egg us on in an attempt to satisfy there pph (package per hour) quota. I eventually suffered a low back injury.
- Taking breaks does not mean you're lazy. According to this study, 1 in 3 people are chronically overworked. After receiving a few emails about people being overly stressed at work, their response was "I'm not a lazy person though".
- Know your personal limits physically and mentally. Unless you would rather have a life-long injury from a physical job or a panic attack from not knowing your limits, you should learn them. It is one of many things learn by practicing deep breathing.
- Keep some essential oils on hand. I wrote about essential oils here. They are very concentrated plant extracts that smell wonderful, alleviate stress, induce a calm state of mind and improves breathing. You can simply sniff the essential oil vial, rub a few drops on your temples or wrists, or have an oil warmer in your office (I wouldn't recommend an oil warmer for the office because your entire building will smell delicious and everyone there will be happy and...Wait! Maybe you should bring that up at the next meeting)
- Have a source of running water on your desk. Having a fountain in your office is beautiful. Also it can reduce depression and stress, increase your energy and make you feel more at ease. A fountain can give some moisture to your desk plant, rejuvenate you by creating negative ions, filter your surrounding air, drown out the noise of your co-workers and more. Warning: You may have to pee more! Here's why running water makes you want to pee.
- Open up a new tab on your internet browser and load some peaceful sounds. I wrote about how important it is to wakeup to a peaceful sound as opposed to your normal alarm clock so you don't start the day stressed.
- Use music therapy. You can use them for writing, yoga, website coding, relaxation, focus, stress and depression relief.
- The sites for background relaxation are rainymood.com and moodturn.com. They each have unique sounds. Moodturn is amazing because you can select your theme such as "beach" or "birds" and relax to a particular natural setting playing in the background while you work. Of course, I recommend headphones for this.
- Download a free app called relax melodies. It allows you to play different noises such as "rain" "birds" "ocean" "humming" right from your smartphone. iPhone people can download here.
- Have some unscented candles near your desk. Don't light your office on fire (even if you want to) but have a couple candles in your line of sight. The fact that humans have been dependent on fire for survival for almost our entire existence means that our love and appreciation of seeing fire are still ingrained in us. Fire relaxes and can induce a more calm state. Have you ever had a bad time at a campfire?
- Have a good quality office chair. Although I recommend standing over sitting, many prefer sitting. Posture is something that is overlooked when dealing with happiness. I recommend getting a lumbar cushion like this one. I use that exact cushion when driving because it takes the pressure of my lower back and relieves the muscle tension.
Now that you've created a zen office, let's discuss the USA and our obsessiveness over working.
According to the following graphs and some common sense, there are a lot of things wrong with the current job market. I know, you don't need any more reminders about it. Don't stress!
Before you pack up and leave the United States, lets go over some ways to defeat this health-mutilating workaholic attitude that our culture can't seem to break. Source
As you can see, we are leading the way in reducing the amount of our people's free time to a bare minimum, I could go on about my reasons of why this system we operate in will not sustain itself forever, but lets move on.
Let's talk about office food choices
- Take advantage of turkey, beef, venison, bison and other forms of jerky. I also recommend this for people that work outdoors or are not able to reheat or cook their food. Jerky is a pure source of amino acids and protein; a staple for a busy lifestyle. It can be taken anywhere without the fear or hassle of refrigeration or reheating like most meat.
- Look for local beef jerky or make your own. There are a few companies producing grass-fed beef jerky which is great if you can afford it. I prefer the best bang-for-your-buck method which is to make it yourself! My fairly priced dehydrator works just as well as any other for apple chips, jerky and other snacks.
- Embrace the beauty of precooking meals in bulk. If I am preparing meat, I will cook a large batch at a time. Storing your meals in a large BPA-free tupperware container at home is preferred. That way you can take what you need to work and have some left for your post-workout meal or those nights when you don't feel like cooking.
- Learn to cook meat well. Here are some tips for cooking grass fed beef.
- Avoid the snack machine at all costs. Not only does the food in the snack machine contain a ton of preservatives and other low quality ingredients, I can almost guarantee that it doesn't contain many things off the Paleo food list. It's easy to fall for the color marketing and labels of the typical snack machine items, especially when you are someone with a past history of sugar addiction, candy bar fetish etc. Don't fall for it! You will experience post-meal guilt.
- Opt for Spring water rather than filtered bottled water. As mentioned on podcast #9, Spring water has the ability to hydrate the body better than bottled water. The filtration system is beneficial, but removes some of the essential minerals your body needs.
- Use caution with stimulants such as Coffee and 5-Hour Energy. Coffee has its time and place. If you want the best quality coffee, opt for Bulletproof coffee.
- Dr. Mercola wrote about the benefits of coffee here. Coffee can quickly become a habit, followed by a slight addiction. After that your coffee routine will turn into a full out crutch to make it through the day. There is a reason that Starbucks is on every corner. Our entire society is on the verge of adrenal fatigue and is artificially propping itself up to function.
- Avoid the microwave. Microwaving food kills phytonutrients. When your goal is to have a hot meal for lunch, the best method is to cook your meal in the morning and store it in a food thermos until lunch time. It will be steaming hot many hours later.
Here are a few quick Paleo staples for even the busiest person:
- Berries. Berries are one of the most antioxidant rich fruits while maintaining a relatively low sugar content. Organic and local are best. Frozen and organic are second best.
- Almonds. There has been a lot of debate about the phytic acid content in almonds and most other nuts. If you are sensitive to nuts you can try macadamia nuts. Also if you are struggling with weight loss and are looking for a place to cut some calories, nuts would probably be one of them. They are calorie dense, but are very healthy! I would hate for you to miss out on them.
- Pistachios - Robb Wolf has mentioned taking the extra time to pick apart the shells of pistachios, but de-shelled bags are also available.
- Jerky. We've mentioned the portability and ease of preparing, purchasing or transporting beef jerky. Opt for grass-fed and avoid any sort of "Hydrolyzed ingredients, corn syrup or MSG".
- Nut butters. Nut butters can be transported and easily scooped onto your favorite fruit, or even by the spoonful.
You should be happy and ready to conquer the day in the office now!
If not, hopefully you will make a few changes from this guide.
I also wrote about keeping your sanity in winter, you should probably check that out too.