These Bad Desk Habits May Be Aging You — Here’s What You Can Do About It
We obsess over getting our ideal eight hours of sleep a night, but what about the eight hours spent in front of the screen? Are we taking care of ourselves while hunched over our desk for a third of our lives? Here, some bad desk habits that are contributing to your premature aging, and what you can do about it.
The average 40-hour workweek means spending a heck of a lot of time seated at a desk in front of a digital display that’s bad for your eyes. And there are a host of other work desk habits that we don’t even think about — things that all add up to a lifestyle that can age us quite a bit. The good news is, there are a number of easy fixes you can adopt to keep you from becoming a wrinkled, half-blind, dehydrated nine-to-fiver with a bad back.
Give your eyes a break
Oftentimes, you get to work in the morning, turn on the computer, and plop down in front of it until you have to get up to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. Checking emails turns into a long list of work tasks, and before you know it, you’ve been staring at the bright screen for hours. Continuous exposure to the harsh light emanating from electronic screens can lead to eye strain, irritation and eye damage. As I’ve mentioned before, blue light also disrupts sleep, which is another factor that contributes to premature aging.
It’s a good idea to take a 60 second break for every hour of screen time to give your eyes a break from the glare. And if possible, invest in a pair of blue light glasses or install a backlight filter to make the experience gentler on your eyes.
Two birds, one little machine
A humidifier should be a wintertime staple for everyone, but not only because the mist combats the harmful moisture-sapping effects of the cold, dry air that comes with this time of year. It’s good for your health, too. The infusion of moisture in the air keeps your sinuses moist and your breathing optimal, staving off the likelihood of respiratory issues like sinusitis and other infections.
In addition to the cold, dry air, artificial indoor heat can disrupt the skin’s moisture barrier, causing flaking and dullness. A small desk humidifier for your work desk can fix both these issues, providing humidity for your skin to pull from when necessary. Just make sure to clean and disinfect it regularly to prevent mold and bacteria from growing in its nooks and crannies. It would be quite counterproductive to buy a humidifier for wellness purposes, only to wind up making yourself sick with said appliance.
Eat your greens, drink your water
Opinions differ on what the recommended daily water intake is, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting your daily dose of H20. Water, the true adult beverage, is the substance that keeps the wheels spinning. Water does everything from aiding nutrient absorption to lubricating joints. Our bodies are made up of up to 60% of the stuff!
If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to go the whole day without drinking as much as your body needs to function. If your day at work is particularly busy, the task of staying hydrated gets doubly difficult. You have a coffee at the start of the day, perhaps grab a bottle of water with lunch, and the next thing you know, it’s 9 pm and you’ve only had three glasses of water all day.
One way to make sure you’re drinking enough water is to keep a personal water bottle at your desk, and refill it each time it’s empty. Of course you could wind up nursing the same bottle from your first top-up all day so pair it with a tracking app to ensure success. There are numerous apps available on pretty much every kind of operating system, so you can track daily water intake and get reminders to make sure you don’t lag behind.
Mists are your skin’s best friend
As a disassembled human on the planet of New New York in the year 5,000,000,023 once said, “Moisturize me!”
Cassandra O’Brien might only be a stretched-out bit of skin with eyes and a mouth, but she’s got the right idea. Misting is a great way to give your skin an occasional moisture boost as you make your way through a workday. Keep the SanDaWha Camellia Flower Hydrating Mist in your desk drawer or next to your humidifier so it’s within reach whenever you need a quick spritz.
Be careful though when choosing your mists. Apparently humectant ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which are usually great at attracting moisture, can have a detrimental effect in drier environments. Humectants work by attracting moisture from the air and binding them to what is already present in the skin. Hyaluronic acid is especially great because it can hold a thousand times its weight in moisture. In drier climes, this can work against you because these humectants will pull the moisture from your skin when there is none to be found in the air. So instead of getting hydrated skin from the products in your routine, you end up with an even worse case of dehydration than you started with. Long story short, stay away from humectants in the winter and focus their application on the layers beneath your occlusive. Now, go forth and mist away. Channel your inner Daesung ajumma for even more fun.
Take a stretch break
There are a number of solutions to the unavoidable neck and lumbar discomfort that comes with a desk job. Yoga ball chairs, standing desks, memory foam cushions, special ergonomic chairs … you name it, it’s out there. If you’d prefer to save your money for the important things like, you know, ginseng serums and unlimited sheet masks, there’s a free way to keep your bones and joints happy. You can do stretches at your desk, or do a number of easy exercises (e.g. calf raises and overhead stretches) every time you stand up.
The other alternative is an activity tracker. I know an activity tracker requires spending money, but I quite prefer those over the other posture solutions. A yoga ball chair might be great for your spine, but it’s not going to make sure you get 10,000 steps in or move every hour. Today’s smart watches are pretty nifty and even come with a relaxation feature for whenever you need a quick de-stress sesh. Pretty great, right?
SPF rules for the workplace
You might have your sunscreen game down pat, applying the correct amount in the morning every day before you venture outside and even knowing the rules about when and how to reapply, but that’s not all there is to it. While you might think re-application is only relevant when you’ve been outside all day picking apples or whatever, there are other situations that call for it. You should take care to ensure that your skin is getting adequate UV protection at all times.
If your workspace has got a lot of sun exposure, from say, sitting by a window, you definitely need to put on some more sunscreen for every two hours of exposure. It can be a tedious exercise, but avoiding sun damage is worth it. Imagine if only one side of your face was exposed to the sunlight every day without a cosmetic shield. Prolonged exposure could have you looking like the skincare version of Harvey Dent — all baby butt smooth on one side and wrinkly on the other. So be vigilant about sun protection even at work.
What are some bad desk habits you have and how are you working to fix them? I used to be bad at drinking water and resting my eyes. Now, hourly reminders on my phone help me drink as much water as my body needs according to my activity level and the weather. And I’ve got blue light filters installed on every device with a screen. The more you know!