As if long hours at the office weren't draining enough, it turns out your work life could be introducing a host of habits that take a toll on your health. The worst part? You may not even realize you're doing them in the first place.
But here's the good news: it's never too late to change course. It may not take 21 days to form a habit, as the cliché goes, but repetitive actions do play a big role in your everyday behaviors. Now's the time to make that work for you.
Read on to discover some of the mindless workplace habits that may be influencing your health -- and what to do about them.
1. Skipping breakfast.
While the science is somewhat debated, most experts agree it's better to eat breakfast than to forego it entirely. It can be easy to breeze through your morning on only a cup of joe, but research suggests eating breakfast can help you kickstart your metabolism and help increase your energy so you're not feeling sluggish later on. If that isn't convincing enough, some experts even advocate for eating a doughnut over skipping the meal, though obviously that shouldn't be a recurring choice. If you're looking for some easy morning options, try one of these quick breakfast recipes.
2. Leaning your face on your hand.
Sure, it's comfortable, or perhaps you're not even thinking about it -- but touching your face excessively may be an enemy to good skin care or hygiene. "Touching can make the face more prone to breakouts or other conditions ... because it spreads bacteria and other bugs," board-certified dermatologist and Heal Your Skin author Dr. Ava Shamban previously told HuffPost. Yikes.
3. Eating a sad desk lunch.
Important PSA: Your brain needs a break. Without one, your productivity and your energy levels plummet. Besides, research shows multitasking is inefficient, so you're probably not getting much done by pushing through anyway.
4. Slouching in your chair.
Bad posture = Bad health? It's certainly possible. Studies show that when you slouch you may be negatively influencing your mood. Not to mention poor posture, which is frequently associated with staring at technology, puts a strain on your upper body, too, which could lead to neck and shoulder pain.
5. Touching your eye.
It may be tempting to swipe off that smudged eyeliner in the middle of your day, but be wary of hand-to-eye contact as it's another way to spread germs. Not only that, you may be damaging some very delicate skin. "Rubbing the eyes ... can actually create microscopic tears in the tissue (making the eye area look older faster), break the capillaries in the eyelids (causing little thread-like veins called telangiectasia) or break the capillaries under the eye (intensifying dark circles)," Dr. Shamban said.
6. Sitting all day.
Many experts claim that "sitting is the new smoking," which isn't such great news if you're chained to a desk for eight hours a day. A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease, and it's probably hurting your back. Make it a point to get up and move as often as you can or opt for a standing desk if the opportunity exists. You can also try this yoga move to undo some of the damage that comes with sitting at a desk.
7. Petting the office dog and returning to your keyboard.
If you've been lucky enough to receive a "there are dogs in the office today" email, you know what pure weekday joy feels like. Just be sure to wash those hands once playtime is over. Pets, including dogs, potentially carry germs that can spread from animals to people, according to the CDC -- but nothing a good scrub won't fix.
8. Bringing your phone to the bathroom.
Half of smartphone users ages 18 to 29 admit to bringing their phones with them to the toilet, according to a 2013 HuffPost/YouGov poll. It may be tempting to, er, multitask, but you're really just inviting germs into your body and back to your desk. In fact, research shows that your phone has more bacteria than that porcelain throne. Seriously, just leave it behind.
9. Not taking a sick day.
The common cold can take a lot out of you, physically and mentally. By not allowing yourself to properly rest, you may be prolonging the sickness. You're also compromising your co-workers' immune systems by exposing them to the virus. It's better for your health, their health and both parties' productivity in the long run.
10. Crossing your legs.
It can be easy to cross those legs to avoid playing footsie with your neighbor, but you may want to re-think your sitting stance. Crossing your legs too much may cause back and neck pain and even might elevate your blood pressure, Yahoo! Health reported. The ideal seated position comes with your feet flat on the floor and your knees and ankles at a 90 degree angle whenever possible.
11. Indulging in free office pizza.
The marketing department may be sharing the wealth with their leftover lunch food, but be wary if it's been sitting out too long. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that cooked commercial foods should sit out for no more than four hours, as that's the time in which bacteria can grow and multiply, the New York Times reported. Consumer and homemade meals have an even shorter timeframe of only two hours.
12. Not unplugging once you get home.
Burnout is real -- and it can sneak up on you fast if you don't catch the little habits that get you there. Mindless scrolling after dinner or checking your email before crawling into bed may seem insignificant, but it may be contributing to mental exhaustion. Try stashing the phone once you walk through the front door -- you'll thank yourself later.
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