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Top 10 best ways to keep your sanity in the office

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

How to love your job -- even if you don't

The cult-classic movie Office Space and NBC's laugh-a-minute take on a popular Brit-com The Office constantly remind us how daunting it can be to work the 9-to-5 grind .
Toby from The Office

In addition to maintaining a positive attitude, self-motivation and a good work ethic, here are 10 ideas to keep that smile on your face Monday through Friday.

Personalize your space

You probably spend more hours of your life at your desk than you do any other single location (other than your bed). You'll feel more comfortable at work if that area reflects your personal style, even just a little. Unless you work in a creative profession (writing, design, art, etc.), it's probably best to keep it simple. A few stuffed animals, figurines or photos will give you that sense of "home" at work. Some offices will even let you keep fish or terrarium bowls. Just check with your supervisor to find out if there are any guidelines or rules before you start.

Also, try to keep religion and politics (and anything else that might be a hot topic) out of it unless it's appropriate for your job. If you work at a church or synagogue, religious paraphernalia is perfectly appropriate, but at another place of work, your coworkers may find that offensive or even oppressive (especially if they're a religious minority), even if your message is one of hope and not intended to offend.

What to avoid:

  • Religious quotes or icons
  • Politically motivated quotes, signs or symbols
  • A desk so cluttered with "fun" signs and objects you don't have room for sticky notes or paperwork
  • Toys (unless you're trying to ensure every kiddo who visits the building comes to your office -- then go for it!)

Make work friends

Find at least one person you enjoy talking to. Maybe you wouldn't be best friends outside of work, but while you're at the office, there's something you have in common -- and common ground is the basis for any type of friendship. You may never see each other outside of work, but that's no reason to consider them strangers.

Even if you aren't best friends outside of work, try to go out for lunch or after-work drinks with them at least once a quarter. You can complain to them about things your significant other doesn't understand (or care about). And they may be a good sounding-board for your ideas or frustrations.

What to avoid:

  • Don't assume they're you're best friend -- no one likes people who are clingy
  • Respect their space -- you may be friends, but you both have work to do
  • Don't get too chatty or you may attract negative attention from coworkers or superiors
  • Steer clear of office gossip
  • Don't over-share -- if you aren't friends outside the office, you can't be too careful; some people will be nice to your face, then stab you in the back

Get your vitamin D

The smokers in the office aren't the only ones allowed to go outside. Your body can synthesize vitamin D (through cholesterol) very effectively with adequate sun exposure (though that's not an excuse to go overboard with tanning). Every four hours or so, pop out for a 15-minute "smoke break," even if you don't. Not only will the break from work increase your productivity in the long run, you'll get a chance to remember that there's a big, bright world outside your cubicle. It helps to keep things in perspective.

Vitamin D fact sheet: Celebrating the sunshine vitamin >>

Find a go-to blog or website

If your employer allows short distractions from work, find a blog or website where you can take a short break on occasion. This is especially important if you live in an area where inclement weather frequently prevents you from indulging in breaks outside. Find a blog you like to read or website with continuously updated content (like SheKnows... hint, hint). When you find yourself getting frustrated, go to your favorite site for a little midday R&R. You can even check out profession-related sites as long as you're taking a break from the grind. Just don't spend more than 15 minutes there. If you find several articles you'd like to read, save them for later by using a service like Pocket to remind yourself to go back to them.

Get in shape

Since your workday is already so structured and announcing it to your coworkers will keep you little more honest, try some little things to get into better shape at work (or just develop better habits). While you're at work, drink nothing but water and make sure you get your eight daily glasses. Skip lunch out most days in favor of bringing your own healthier lunch. When you do go out, order a salad or other healthy option. Remember when we said to go outside every once in a while? While you're out, walk around the block or building. In the evenings, keep your health-kick going by working out when you get home (to work off that at-work stress), but treat yourself -- within reason -- for dinner.

Great ways to stick to your diet:

  • Buy diet meals to keep in the fridge for when you can't make your own healthy lunch (and keep a couple in the work freezer if available just in case)
  • Keep slimming beverages in the fridge at home and at work for those days you don't have time for breakfast -- it will keep you from stopping at a fast-food place on your way to work
  • Set water-intake goals at work -- buy a reusable beverage container and know how much water it holds; then decide how many rounds of water you need to drink out of that container each workday
  • Keep healthy snacks like snack-sized nuts or trail mix in your drawer so you won't be tempted to head up to 7-11 for a Red Bull and candy bar
Photo credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Up next: More ways to stay sane at work >>

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