You eat dinner later than usual, have a couple post-dinner beverages, wind up going to bed an hour or two late, and then get up for a couple bathroom runs during the night.

You wake up 10 minutes late, which puts you under the gun for eating a quality breakfast and still being on time for work. Feeling groggy, you take an extra buzz of caffeine before jumping into your busy workday. You assume you’re hydrated after the beverages you drank, so you work hard all morning, eat your lunch at your desk, and continue pounding away all afternoon.

By 2 p.m. you have a headache and your back feels miserable. You must need a sit-stand workstation, right? Your chair isn’t providing enough support to stay comfortable throughout the day.

Not necessarily. The reality is you may have a perfectly comfortable office chair that is finely tuned to your body, but your choices several hours and even the night before are still having consequences in the afternoon.

Below are six lifestyle factors that contribute to ‘2 p.m. discomfort.’

  1. Assuming you are hydrated. What you consumed the night before can lead to daytime dehydration and may be associated with sitting at a desk for too long without a break. It is better to drink mostly water in the morning, aiming for 2-3 litres before dinner. Consume other beverages in moderation only.
  2. Reduced sleep often leads to poor posture the next day. When the body is tired, you are more likely to slouch, which rounds out the spine and may lead to back discomfort. Aiming for eight hours of sleep each night should be a priority.
  3. Assuming extra caffeine gives you the energy you need. The highs and lows associated with caffeine can cause headaches, especially when caffeinated beverages are your only source of hydration. Replacing that second coffee with some H2O and drinking water throughout the day will help you move more (by visiting the restroom) and should reduce the likelihood and severity of headaches.
  4. Waking up late, even by 10 minutes, can be a contributing stressor that effects muscles and leads to headaches. Feeling like you are running behind frequently drags on throughout the day, catalyzing the buildup of muscle tension, often close to the spine. Waking up as planned every workday helps regulate the body and reduces muscle tension associated with stress management.
  5. Not taking breaks. Your productivity is not going to be as high when you never leave your workstation. Research continuously demonstrates that taking 1-2 minute postural breaks throughout the day often boosts productivity while reducing discomfort. Even if you think you don’t have time for breaks, you will get more done if you give yourself a rest!
  6. Sitting at your desk through lunch. This does not give your body a chance to decompress mid-day while eating, which should be enjoyable. Stepping away from the workstation to eat in a lunch room, and then taking advantage of the full break to get some exercise in, allows you to decompress and refocus.

There are times when changing your workstation setup will reduce and eliminate discomfort. But, this is only one piece of the discomfort puzzle. By focusing on your lifestyle, you may find small tweaks to your day have a long-lasting influence on your overall comfort and enjoyment of all your daily tasks, be it work, play, or sleep.

EWI Works offers many services that can improve your health and quality of life at work. Find out more about our Online Training, Services, and Resources.

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