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There’s nothing wrong with feeling tired at the office once every so often. But if fatigue and lethargy are the norm rather than the exception then it may indicate a deeper problem worth investigating.
There are many reasons why you might be feeling like crap, and you should always consult your doctor or a medical professional when possible, but the problem could be as simple as a few bad habits that you’ve picked up.
Breaking these habits won’t be easy, but with a bit of determination and small changes made little by little every day, office exhaustion could soon be eradicated from your life.
1. Late Night Digital Activity
This first habit isn’t an office habit per se, but can have a HUGE impact on how well you feel during the day and so it shouldn’t be overlooked. Long story short, digital screens can negatively impact your sleep quality.
Even if you’re getting the recommended 5–9 hours of sleep every night, you won’t feel rested unless those hours are truly restful. As with most things, sleep and rest are more about quality than quantity.
And as it turns out, the artificial light from smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions have been linked to worsened sleep quality.
So stop checking your emails right before you go to bed and avoid binging on Netflix into the wee hours of the night. Ideally, you should be digital-free for one hour prior to sleeping, but installing an app like Flux or Twilight can help.
2. Keeping a Cluttered Workspace
If you think a once-a-year spring cleaning is good enough for your workspace, you may want to reconsider and start being more diligent about regular cleanups.
A cluttered desk increases the amount of visual information we have to process on a moment-to-moment basis, and this processing requires a lot of cognitive energy.
That’s why, over the long run, clutter can drain mental energy and increase stress. You don’t have to go as far as adopting a minimalist lifestyle, but minimizing clutter as much as possible can have a tangible positive effect on your mental health and energy levels.
3. Neglecting Brightness and Lighting
Eye fatigue is a real problem in offices today. The thing with eye fatigue is that when your eyes feel tired, your entire body will feel tired too — even if you haven’t exerted much physical energy.
One of the leading causes of eye fatigue is a mismatch between screen brightness and ambient lighting. The brightness of your screen should be the same as your environment. If the screen looks like a light source, then it’s too bright. If it looks dull, it’s too dark.
That’s why you should enable adaptive brightness whenever possible because it takes the guesswork out of the equation. And, if possible, avoid working in rooms that are harshly lit or overly bright.
Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t use a computer in the dark? Because of this, there’s some truth to that. The darkness won’t cause any permanent eye damage, but it can expedite the onset of eye fatigue.
4. Neglecting Monitor Position
The position of your monitor on the office desk is important too. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no “right answer” here — all that matters is that you find a distance that’s comfortable for you.
Rule of thumb? Start at arm’s length and adjust so that the screen is comfortable to read. Smaller screens may need to be closer while larger screens should be farther away. Neglecting this can lead to eye strain.
Note that there’s no evidence to suggest that sitting too close to modern monitors can cause actual eye damage (that’s a common myth that isn’t true) so don’t worry about macular degeneration.
But don’t forget that monitor height is important too! Too high and you can get tension headaches in your forehead. Too low and you can throw off your posture and strain your neck. The top of the monitor should line up with your eyes when looking straight ahead.
5. Sitting Rather Than Standing
We’ve known for a while that sitting for extended periods of time can be detrimental to your health, but it can also sap your energy. According to the British Medical Journal, prolonged sitting contributes to fatigue.
So if you find yourself tired at the office but fine elsewhere, it may be the sitting that’s doing you in. As such, you may want to consider switching to a standing desk — a simple change that could have big results.
6. Sitting with Incorrect Posture
We realize that not everyone can switch to a standing desk at the snap of one’s fingers, so if you have no choice but to sit in an office chair, make sure you’re sitting with proper posture:
- Lean back at an angle of 120 to 135 degrees.
- Keep your butt at the back of the chair.
- Keep your feet flat (use a footstool if needed).
- Don’t sit up straight.
- Don’t lean forward.
- Don’t use armrests or lean on your elbows.
The thing about bad posture is that it wastes energy while good posture keeps your muscles in a relatively relaxed state and conserves how much energy is needed just to keep yourself upright. It’s perhaps key to defeating computer fatigue.
Over the long run, bad posture can lead to trouble falling asleep, muscle tightness, and a hunchback. Here’s a quick 3-minute exercise that can fix that.
7. Refusing to Take Regular Breaks
Short-but-frequent breaks are critical for staving off fatigue because they address most of the issues mentioned above (but only if your breaks involve getting up and walking away from the computer).
For starters, breaks are good at interrupting any prolonged sitting positions. Breaks are also good for getting your blood flowing and activating your muscles. Plus, you end up giving your eyes a much-needed rest from the computer screen.
And if you incorporate something like the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll also notice a big spike in your productivity. But even if you don’t use Pomodoro, there are other ways to remind yourself to take breaks.
One more thing: hydration is another key component in fighting off fatigue, so try to drink a cup of water every time you take a break. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel with proper hydration alone.
8. Working Too Long and Hard
As a workaholic myself, I can attest to the detrimental effects, both physical and mental, of regularly overworking oneself — and I can also attest to how much better you can feel once you stop.
Workaholism is a serious and growing problem for office workers across America. There isn’t a strict medical definition for workaholic, but there are several signs that could indicate you are one:
- Fear of being unproductive.
- Inability to get away from work.
- Chasing after more work during lulls.
- Neglecting health and hygiene.
- Never satisfied with one’s work.
It’s easy to see how these factors can contribute to not only mental exhaustion but physical exhaustion as well (because workaholism tends to result in long hours at the office, lots of stress, and insomnia).
Workaholism is a multi-faceted problem so we don’t have a one-step solution for you. If you think you suffer from it, please consult a therapist and/or a workaholics support group.
9. Ignoring Seasonal Depression
While seasonal depression itself isn’t a bad habit, ignoring that it exists is. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
“Some people experience a serious mood change during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms.”
Note that seasonal depression differs from clinical depression. Seasonal depression flares up and goes away with the availability of natural light whereas clinical depression isn’t related to light at all.
Common symptoms include anxiety, emptiness, irritability, fatigue, and mental fog. If you suffer from seasonal depression, there are several light therapy lamps you can try to help minimize these symptoms.
Tackle These Bad Habits One at a Time
If you’re feeling bad because more than half of these apply to you, fear not! Take a deep breath, relax, and realize that you don’t have to fix all of them overnight.
Some of them can be rectified in minutes (like the one regarding monitor placement) while others may take weeks or months (such as fixing your posture). Regardless, focus on one thing at a time. Don’t rush it.
To help you break your bad habits, look at these free printables and ebooks to help you track habits.
Image Credits: Dark Monitor via Shutterstock, Cluttered Workspace via Shutterstock, Tired Woman via Shutterstock, Graph Man via Shutterstock, Sleeping Woman via Shutterstock, Water Cooler via Shutterstock