THE BLOG

Wellness in the Workplace Is Contagious

02/13/2015 03:09 pm ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015
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Work environments differ and are continually changing.

In a home-economics book used in high school in the 1950s, young girls were taught to put fresh makeup on before their husbands arrived home. They were also advised not to bother their husbands with their problems because the men have real problems.

In the 1970s and early 80s when I worked in an office setting, people smoked. If you didn't smoke, you had an ashtray on your desk or in your office anyway.

Today women hold the same jobs as men, there is no smoking in the workplace, and many people work from home. Yet there are still wellness challenges within the workplace whether you're at home, in an office, a classroom, out in the field, or traveling. Unhealthy lifestyles frequently lead to chronic disease, requiring years of costly medications, medical treatments, lost time, less productivity, and an unhappy home life.

To illustrate this point we can learn from the experience of one of my clients. She claims when she ate poorly during her workday, she would arrive home hungry, weak, and cranky. Her small children would then have tantrums, she would argue with her husband, and their evening meal consisted of cereal or some sort of processed food. She realized much of her evening trauma was caused by her poor daytime eating, and her family was reacting to her mood. When she became cognizant of caring for her nutritional needs during her workday, not only was her day more productive but her family time was pleasant and loving. Her wellness followed her home and was contagious within the family.

Another client, a New York City Police Officer (NYPD) and his wife had called me to help them lose weight together. He had been issued his bullet proof vest upon graduating from the police academy. Because of his excess weight, he could only close his vest tightly on the right side, leaving a gap on the left side of his body. He knew that if he ever got into a shootout, he would have to face right as he drew his gun. After a 40-pound weight loss, he was able to close that vest securely. Now that's workplace wellness!

If you believe you don't have the time to care for yourself, you'll have to find the time to be ill, because preventable illnesses are brought on by unhealthy lifestyles. To focus on a healthy lifestyle consider your eating patterns. Create patterns that will benefit your health, give you stamina, and release stress related to over eating or poor eating during your work day:

  • Whenever your coworkers bring in leftover food from their weekend celebrations, know that they are saying, "Here, gain my weight for me."
  • Find time for breakfast leaving out sugary foods. A balanced breakfast will give you energy to perform your workday tasks.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day. Very often, thirst is disguised as hunger. When you are stressed or overwhelmed, drink water first so you won't grab just anything to eat. As you drink take a few minutes to breathe deeply and calm yourself.
  • Eat throughout the day and never be too busy to eat. Walk away from, or do away with, office candy jars, snack drawers, and vending machines. Bring food from home if necessary, and always schedule time to eat.
  • Avoid processed food for lunch. Less fat and sugar will curb your need for an afternoon nap.
  • Never allow anyone's illness to invade your wellness.

Following these tips will help regardless of your work setting, and wellness will become contagious because people want what others have. You will also find that a wellness attitude follows you home.

If you create an environment of wellness, others just might follow.