9 Work Habits That Can Actually Lead To Inflammation
Most of us spend at least eight hours a day at work, either sitting at a desk, running around with a busy schedule, or both. And during that time it's easy to fall into a routine, and maybe even adopt a few work habits that can lead to inflammation. Whether it's slouching over your phone, skipping lunch, or stressing out, it can all have an impact on your health.
There is good news, though, in that being aware of these common work habits is the first step in making a few adjustments. And as soon as you can start replacing them with different habits, you'll feel better not only at work, but in life in general.
"Inflammation is supposed to help the body heal and repair any damaged tissue, though it's only beneficial in precisely targeted and specific instances," Nate Masterson, certified health expert and CEO of Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "When there’s too much inflammation, many more problems can develop as a result," such as pain and chronic disease.
And these can easily develop if you're wrapped up in a busy schedule, do the same things day in and day out, or put your body under a lot of stress. Read on below for a few work habits that can lead to inflammation, according to experts, as well as what you can do instead.
1. Relying On Break Room Snacks
If you're low on energy, you might go to the break room and hit up the vending machine, grab a slice of somebody's birthday cake, or look through the cabinets for pretzels. But relying on snacks to get you through the day isn't always the best idea.
"These processed foods can contribute to both brain and body inflammation," Dr. Sara Gottfried, tells Bustle. So make sure you bring something else to eat, or pop out for lunch, as well.
Dr. Gottfried recommends eating cut vegetables, nuts, seeds, a big salad, or any leftovers from dinner the night before. That way you won't be increasing inflammation by relying solely on processed foods.
2. Slouching At Your Desk
"One of the worst habits that leads to inflammation during work is sitting in poor posture for long periods of time, while working on the computer," corrective exercise specialist Leon Turetsky, NASM-CPT, NASM-CES, tells Bustle.
So take a moment to asses how you sit. "Most people’s shoulders get rounded and their heads move forward," he says. "This puts great stress on the muscles of the neck and back, leading to painful trigger points (muscle knots) and inflammation."
Whenever you catch yourself slouching, try to sit up a bit straighter. "Ideally, if you draw a line from the head down to the hips, all should align," Turetsky says. "This will put the least amount of stress on the muscles and joints, thus avoiding/reducing inflammation."
3. Sitting For Long Periods Of Time
It's easy to get absorbed in your work and accidentally let the day go by without getting up to walk around. But this habit can be a major contributor to inflammation.
In fact, "Sitting Disease is an official coined term in the medical community," chiropractor Dr. Claire Jessen, DC, ART, SFMA, tells Bustle. With a sedentary lifestyle, the risk of 34 different inflammation-related diseases goes up, Dr. Jessen says, including diabetes and heart disease.
But you can lower your risk by moving more throughout the day. Dr. Jessen recommends walking during meetings, instead of sitting around a table. Or you could walk on your lunch break, exercise after work, or even stroll to the break room. Just don't sit for extended periods of time.
4. Skipping Your Lunch Break
Along those same lines, working through the day without taking a break can also increase inflammation not only because it encourages you to be sedentary, but it also prevents you from having a well-deserved break.
"When you constantly stay on-the-go [...] and keep a neck-breaking pace, you push your body into survival mode, affecting blood sugar, blood pressure, cortisol, and hormone balance," stress management coach and nutritionist Ericka Eller, BS, CHC, tells Bustle.
Even if you've gotten into the habit of working through your lunch break, switch things up and take that time for yourself. Get up, eat lunch, walk around, and unplug for a while, Eller says, and your body will thank you.
5. Over-Scheduling Yourself
Work can get busy, and you can't always prevent a packed schedule. But you can pay attention to your stress levels throughout the day, and do whatever you can to remain organized, calm, and as stress-free as possible — especially since too much stress can increase inflammation.
It can help to organize your day the night before, Eller says, so "you are working with intention and not reaction." And also taking time to yourself to de-stress.
If you're feeling on edge, take a walk, read a book for a few minutes, or have a non-work discussion with a coworker, Eller says. And whenever possible, keep your daily schedule manageable, so you aren't under unrelenting stress.
6. Missing Out On Exercise
Sitting for an entire eight hours can lead to inflammation, and so can the habit of skipping your usual workout routine.
"With our busy schedules, it can be tempting to put self-care activities like exercising on the back burner," Dr. Will Cole, a functional medicine practitioner, tells Bustle. "However, exercising is essential for keeping inflammation at bay."
He points to workouts like yoga and tai chi as great "inflammation calmers," but says that any movement can be a big help. To move more, you could also walk to and from work, do some yoga on your lunch break, or hit up the gym on your way home. A moderate amount of exercise will fight inflammation, and help keep you healthy.
7. Staring Into Your Computer Screen
While looking at a computer screen all day might not be avoidable, there are things you can do to keep your eyes safe, and prevent inflammation.
One way to do that is by having some tech-free time in your day, where you look away from screens for a while and give your eyeballs a break. But for the rest of the time, you could also don a pair of blue light blocking glasses.
As Dr. Jessen says, blue light can affect your circadian clock, which is what helps you feel tired after a long day of work, so that you can get good sleep. "With less sleep, a myriad of diseases occur that all stem from inflammation as our bodies aren’t recovering overnight like they should," she says.
So make sure you protect your eyes, and monitor just how much you're staring at a screen, so that blue light doesn't keep you up.
8. Hunching Over Your Phone
"Being hunched over a small screen (either laptops, mobile devices, or smartphones) can lead to a condition known as 'tech neck,'" chiropractor Sherry McAllister, DC, tells Bustle, so if this describes your work day, take note.
If your shoulders and neck have started to hurt, it can help to "place your screen at eye level to reduce the strain on your neck," Dr. McAllister says. "Purchase a holder to elevate your device or hook up your laptop to a larger monitor."
Or, at the very least, give your neck a rest. "Take a break every 20 minutes to walk around or move your shoulders and stretch," she says. And you should have less pain.
9. Ignoring Signs From Your Body
If you lift heavy things, stand or sit all day, or do the same motion over and over again, it can increase the chance of a repetitive strain injury (RSI), health expert Dr. Carolyn Dean, tells Bustle, which can lead to pain, swelling, and tenderness in your tendons.
While you can't necessarily avoid doing a repetitive task, if that's what your job entails, you can pay attention to these signs from your body and make a few tweaks, such as pausing to stretch, or doing whatever your jobs recommends to avoid hurting yourself.
These work habits can definitely increase your risk for inflammation. But often all it takes are a few adjustments and changes to your routine to help keep you feelin' good.