Tips for Staying Healthy at Your Desk

Laureen:  For our last question: Tips for Staying Healthy at Your Desk. We had a student ask, “I want to make some changes in 2017, all I do is sit all day coding or studying. What tips do you have to stay healthy with this kind of job?”

Alicia:  I can tell you guys, I felt really bad when I was getting ready to go to the first conference, the first AAPC conference because I was overweight. Hey! Coders are generally women that are overweight; I had a person call the other day and she said, “Am I too old to be a coder? Because I’m going to start a new career.” She had a career in the medical field, but she’s 57. I said, “You’re like the median age for coders.”

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Coders, it’s a sedentary job whether you work in a facility or an office or you work remote like the CCO team does. One of the downsides is that, one, we enjoy what we do usually so we sit all day and before you know it, you spent like five hours and you haven’t moved. I’ve done that before. It is just not healthy for us. This time of the year, everybody is always thinking, “New year, I’m going to be healthy in the new year.”  


I found this fabulous article on exercises, they call it deskercises. Things that you can do. Now, you can go to the article and some of them were things you’ve already heard of, the idea though is to just actually move. You can move while you’re at your desk. My husband bought me those little tiny pink arm weights, I didn’t use them, but that is something that you can do. But you don’t have to go out and spend money at that, you can just go get a can of beans; you have two cans, green beans and corn and every once in awhile just pick them up and move.

This was a really cool article. Some of them may not be applicable for us if we work remote from home; we’re not going to have a staircase to go on. They tell you when you want to lose weight: to park the farthest in to the parking lot, use the stairs, and stuff like that.   

Laureen:  It doesn’t help us when we work at home.

Alicia:  No. We’re not going to be doing these split squats and stuff. I don’t see coders doing that, but, when you get to the butt section, there we go. They come up with little names and little sayings. It was fun to read this, I went to it. The arms, especially were some good ones, the cubicle dip, the stapler, things like that.  There are definitely things you can do; one of the ones that I always remember that we can all do and I encourage us all while we’re watching this “Live with Laureen” is to just tense your gluteus maximus together as hard as you can; hold it for five seconds and let go. You can do that ten times while you’re working and before you know it, you don’t have to buy any special creams, your butt is going to look as wonderful.

But one of the other places that I notice – and this nape shaper – not only do we have trouble with working at a desk, we tend to be doing this. We’re over our computer, our heads, our shoulders start to slump and we get real sore in the neck. There are some definite exercises that are helpful for that, and one of them that was so easy was just to take your hands and squeeze them into your head and then push against your head right and left, without moving. That will loosen up the tension in your neck.

I went to take my mother somewhere and I was driving her truck, and I got in, we were driving, she said, “What are you doing?” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “You’re all hunched over” and I literally was hunched over because I’ve been sitting at the desk working and I was like this. I was like, “Oh my word, I had no idea how hunched over I was.”

So, take some time, look at this article, it was fun. They’ve got this all over the place, but this one was really fun and applicable to the way we work, whether you’re in a cubicle, facility and office. Maybe you can get the rest of the people in your team or in your office doing the same thing.

Then, the other tip that is pretty pertinent for us as coders, our job it’s not necessarily that it’s super stressful, sometimes it is. You’ve got a deadline, you’ve got to get so many charges done in an hour, or they’ve made changes and you’re leery, or the hospital put in a new system and it’s not user friendly for coders. They’re always thinking about the provider, but they’re never thinking about the coder and how to fit those programs together; so we get stressed and stuff.

Emergency Stress Stoppers

A great tip that I found on an article, they had lots of tips, but this one really resonated with me: “Emergency Stress Stoppers.” It’s one thing to meditate, to put nice smelly things in your house. But, what do we do when we get stressed at the moment? This had some real quick tip: Count to ten before you say anything. Now this would also be relevant if you’re working remote and you’re going to send a response: count to ten; give yourself a break. Take three to five deep long breaths. When you oxygenate your blood system, it gets into the muscles, it makes those little grey cells start popping and working better.

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Another thing, when you’re stressed you tend to clinch and not breathe properly, you make a shallow breath. Just stop, take a couple big deep breaths, get the oxygen out, exhale, you’ll notice the difference.

Ask for time. When somebody, when Laureen says, “Hey! We got to get X, Y, Z, and we got to do it by…” OK, OK. You say, “Hey! I need time then, let me move…” “Just do that!” That doesn’t really happen a lot at CCO. But if they put a whole pile of stuff on your desk and say, “This needs to be done by 4:00.” Take some time and say, “Hey, I need time to adjust some of the stuff.” Get up and go for a walk; if you’re starting to feel that heaviness in your chest, you’re starting to feel flushed, walk away from what is causing that. Get up, walk down the hall, go get a drink of water from the water cooler. Go get some peanuts from the snack vending machine, something like that. Or if you’re at home, go walk outside and check your mail. Just get outside, look around a little bit and come back.

The last thing was the tip that was on that for de-stressing. Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry.” If you make a mistake, we all make mistakes; I’m always screwing something up. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I own it…” I hate it when people say “My bad.” I hate that. Say, “I’m sorry. I messed up. I did something wrong.” Then, it’s like a release, the weight off your shoulders. Some people are forgiving in work and stuff like that, not when you made a mistake. Don’t try to get out of it or give an excuse; that just makes you look more guilty. Just, “You’re right, I screwed up” and move on, and you’ll have a less stressful life.

Make a Pact with Yourself

The last thing, one that I love to do, I spent one year, I made a pact with myself that I was going to Always think in positive terms. Never make a negative comment. It’s really hard to do, let me tell you, because negative spills out of our mouth automatically and to be able to turn a negative into positive is hard. One of things that you can do is constantly go in and look at positive quotes. This Brainy Quote is one of my favorite ones to see, and so I pulled out like three or four of these.

The first one that I put down, I don’t know if you guys remember Delta Burke. She was one of the ladies, the Southern lady on the show (Designing Women), she was always so positive and stuff. But this comment, she actually suffered from depression; I had read some articles about her. This one says: “And I have to work so hard at talking positively to myself. If I don’t, it’s just real hard to get through the day, and I’ll get really down, and just want to cry. My whole body language changes. I get more slumped over.”

It’s true! You know how they used to say “Put the little positive quotes on your bathroom mirror. When you’re brushing your teeth and say, ‘I’m a good person. People like me.’” There’s nothing wrong with that.

Look in some really good positive quotes. I don’t know if you guys remember Joyce Brothers, “A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success.” Absolutely.

Willard Scott, I thought that was a good one. There are pages of these, but Willard Scott was really good. “Positive feelings come from being honest about yourself and accepting your personality, and physical characteristics, warts and all; and, from belonging to a family that accepts you without question.”

That’s true. That’s very important. You may not get that at work but having that at home is great. And my all-time favorite one is Scott Hamilton, which I think you guys know who he is. He is the skater; he had cancer and stuff like that. He was a little guy and had some challenges in his life, but he said: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”

I’ve watched some inspirational things on YouTube here in the last month, there were two guys and they don’t have any arms and legs, and they’re successes in life. So, again, they are not disabled. It’s their attitude that has gotten them to where they’re world-renowned figures because of their attitude. So, go to Brainy Quotes or find something like that. If you’re starting to feel like you’re stressed, put some of those positive quotes or just take five minutes for a break, get out and go look at them in a day.

Laureen:  Come over to the CCO club and chat it out with us a little bit. I did want to dovetail on this, a strong positive self-image, I think too a strong positive belief because we’re talking about preparing for certification exams and on the job, that preparing for exams you have to really picture you’re going to pass. I can’t tell you how many students I talk to, they’re so down on themselves and they’re like, “My family doesn’t think I’m going to pass. I’ve taken all this time away from them,” and they put so much pressure on themselves. That if you can flip it around and really think positive, like, “Wow! All this studying that I did today is going to help me get to that goal.”

Just flip it. Like Alicia said, turn it into a positive thing. It’s practice to be able to do that. And when you catch yourself going into negative mode, try and turn it around. I do it all the time. I’ll go through a couple of months, I’m really positive and I can feel that you attract people to you that want that positive energy, but as soon as I go in a funk, it’s like, oh boy I attract all the people that are in a funk. I’m like, “Oh I got to quickly change this around.” But all good advice, it is a sedentary job, so we do want to get up and move.

Standing Desks

Someone asked in Facebook: have we heard anyone doing the standing desk? I looked into that, and I had to do the “OK, Laureen, this is going to be something that is a good idea but you don’t execute,” like I did the exercise ball where you sat on it. Boyd, made me get rid of it because I’ll be on videos bouncing up and down… [laughs]. But, I think it’s a great idea. They have the one now where you could literally put it on a regular desk and raise it instead of buying the super expensive, thousand, two-thousand dollar desk.  What I would try doing is try standing up with your laptop or something and see if you really could commit to doing it before spending the money.

Alicia:  I did see that one of the exercises was on that 33 exercises, it said stand up. Like, you’re on calls and you have the headset like Laureen has hers, there’s no reason why you can’t stand up to take a call. Make yourself stand up once or twice and do some things standing up. You don’t have to have your desk necessarily. Don’t try to walk away and forget, that would be bad [laughs]. Then everybody would get some oxygenation in their body because they’d be laughing at you.

Laureen:  Oh, and Jen told us that Delta Burke was in Designing Women. That was the name of the show.

Alicia:  That’s it! And you know what, another thing that is good to do when you want to change your attitude is watch a comedy. Watch the Designing Women or what were the three ladies – Golden…?

Laureen:  Oh, The Golden Girls.  

Alicia:  Yeah! That’s some good laughs there; good clean laughs, it just changes your attitude.

The “Tips for Staying Healthy at Your Desk” video segment was originally shown on Live with Laureen #011.

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