It’s estimated that in our lifetime we’ll spend about 90,000 hours at work. For some of us, that adds up to about 50 percent of our waking hours. It’s no wonder that workplace wellness is a hot topic—work is a huge part of our lives.
A recent national survey conducted by the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) and Leger revealed that 67 percent of Canadians agree that their work causes them stress. A staggering 59 percent say their health is negatively impacted by stress experienced at work, and 63 percent feel the stress they experience at work negatively impacts other areas of their life.
As a holistic nutritionist and a working mom, I understand that managing workloads and at-home duties can be a fine balance. In an effort to reverse this trend and help Canadians manage their hectic schedules, CHFA has developed the Natural Guide to Workplace Wellness, designed to help Canadians keep up their energy throughout the day and meet their everyday demands, both inside and outside of the workplace.
The guide focuses on the following five pillars.
Punch up productivity with natural health products.
Natural health products are an easy and portable way to improve productivity in the workplace. Omega-3s contain the essential long chain fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been shown to improve both learning and memory, while vitamin D is important for so many body processes and has been linked to improved mood and increased problem-solving abilities.
Do more than namaste the stress away.
Recent research has pointed to a few natural solutions that can help Canadians stay calm on the job. Probiotic supplements help boost brain health by reducing anxiety and stress, and magnesium can help us remain calm in stressful situations. Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin B6, like avocados, baked potatoes and bananas, have been shown to help ease psychological stress since B6 is used to make serotonin, a brain chemical that calms and relaxes.
Go beyond “deskercise.”
Research continually shows the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and desk jobs have many Canadians sitting for hours at a time. Deskercise—using one’s own body weight or performing sitting exercises to encourage movement throughout the workday— is the new workplace-wellness phenomenon. But don’t stop there. Take advantage of the warmer weather and take your meeting outside—a walking meeting will get you moving, and fresh air always seems to provide a new perspective. Another simple change I’ve made is replacing my conventional office chair with an exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise ball forces you to engage your core and can help with posture.
Practice mindfulness at work.
Mindfulness, a top health trend this year, has been shown to help increase general awareness while decreasing stress levels. It can also be practiced in the workplace to combat overall stress. I set an alarm on my computer that reminds me to take three deep breaths every other hour. I also like to start and end each workday thinking of three things I’m grateful for; this helps me to set the pace for my workday and my commute home.
Eat for energy.
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but complex carbs like beans and legumes are actually high in fibre, which slows and stabilizes glucose absorption and reduces the risk of blood sugar spikes followed by crashes. Some studies even show that when stress-prone individuals are subjected to stress, they fare better eating a high-carbohydrate diet rather than a high-protein diet. Eating more complex carbs can increase serotonin, reduce stress hormones, improve mental performance and enhance mood.
Work may be busy, but it shouldn’t be stressful. Whether you work at home or in an office, I hope CHFA’s Natural Guide to Workplace Wellness provides some easily adaptable solutions to achieving wellness on the job. Talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine what’s right for you and remember that taking just a few small steps a day can help you achieve your optimal health.
More about the survey: An online survey of 837 employed Canadians from March 7 to March 10, 2016, using Leger’s online panel Legerweb. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.4%, 19 times out of 20.
In addition to being a mom, Michelle W. Book is the in-house holistic nutritionist for the Canadian Health Food Association, the largest organization dedicated to natural health and organic products in Canada. Through a variety of media outlets and print publications, Michelle uses her role as a health advocate to fulfill CHFA’s vision of a Canada where everyone benefits from natural health and organic products. Visit chfa.ca for more information.