by Aimee Metcalf
Assistant Director of College Relations
Central Oregon Community College, OR
Intuitively, we know that recess is good for kids. It gets them out in fresh air, let’s them burn off some energy and gives them time to socialize. Ask any elementary school teacher around and they’ll say that recess is a critical component of bringing focus and some semblance of peace into the classroom. Once we become adults, however, we often forget that these simple concepts for staying healthy and engaged apply to us, as well.
It’s also a challenge when you discover that when you ask your co-workers how they are, the answer is always “Busy. I’m so busy. I can’t believe how crazy things are.” It makes you wonder how you can even consider spending a couple of minutes each day trying to take care of yourself.
Well I’m here to tell you, you can … and you should. And by incorporating just a few of the suggestions below you will feel so good when you leave work, you’ll swear you had an hour-long recess with your playground buddies.
Nosh Like a Boss: O.K. Maybe you are the boss.
But are you doing your body any favors by relying on vending machine snacks and breakroom donuts to get you through the day? Doing just a little bit of prep each week can completely change your eating habits at work.
Set yourself up for success by keeping great snack choices tucked in your desk drawer. Nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense and easy to keep fresh in ziplock bags. Try almonds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts or sunflower seeds. Add in some whole food power bars, a bag of air-popped popcorn and individual packets of oatmeal and you are ready for whatever the day throws at you.
If you have access to a refrigerator, stock up on hummus, carrot sticks and cheese slices. Bring a small bowl or container from home and on Mondays fill it with fresh fruit – apples, pears, bananas and grapes are great choices. When fresh, delicious options are available it makes it a lot easier to grab snacks that fuel you for the workday.
Go Screen-Free: A show of hands, please. How many of you eat your lunch while glued to a screen – whether it’s a desktop, laptop or phone?
We all know this isn’t a good idea, for so many reasons, but we do it anyway out of the desire to do one more thing … or check last night’s game highlights. A simple trick that works for me is gathering up all the magazines I pile up at home to read “someday” and tackle them on my lunch break. Whether it’s reading a magazine, having lunch with a co-worker or daydreaming about your upcoming vacation, put the screen away and give yourself a well-deserved break.
Your brain, your body and your inner child will thank you for it.
Get Thee Outside.
Remember when your 2nd grade teacher kicked you out the door for recess, regardless of the weather? Well, it’s time to show yourself that same form of tough-love. Getting outside for even just a few minutes during the workday is really nonnegotiable. Make it a habit and your mind will be clearer.
Move That Body.
If we work in front of computers all day, we know we need to move more … and science proves it. “Time spent sitting and being physically inactive at work has increased in recent decades. Long periods of sitting may increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, and premature death.” (Nipun Shrestha, et al., 2018)
In terms of workday movement, find what motivates YOU. It may be tracking steps on a pedometer, scheduling regular walks with a co-worker or setting movement reminders on your computer. Whatever it takes, do it – and mix it up when you need to. It helps to get others involved, so check-in with your co-workers to see if others may want to join you on your quest for more movement. Are there times when you can suggest a “walking meeting,” rather than sitting down around a table? Or are there like-minded colleagues who would help you stay motivated by signing up for a 5K walk for a charitable cause?
You can also seek out small opportunities during the day to get up out of your chair, even for short periods of time. Use the central recycle bin that requires a short walk, find a “stretch at your desk” routine that you like, park your car farther away from the office or walk up and down a few flights of stairs each morning and afternoon. Once you get in the habit of moving more, you’ll wonder how you ever sat at your desk for hours at a time.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
If you truly can’t leave your desk or get outside, here’s a workday technique in which your phone may come in handy. The two most popular mindfulness apps – Headspace and Calm – have meditations that last just a couple of minutes. Or, if you can’t put on headphones and close your eyes, slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth five times.
While it’s not quite the same as a 30-minute recess on the playground, you may find that in combination with these other tips, it can be just as effective for clearing your mind.
Nipun Shrestha, Katriina T Kukkonen‐Harjula, Jos H Verbeek, Sharea Ijaz, Veerle Hermans, and Zeljko Pedisic, (June 2018) Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work
Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6513236/
Aimee Metcalf is the assistant director of college relations at Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon. She and her husband, Tate, also own Sisters Athletic Club. She was NCMPR District 7 director in 2017-18.