Tuesday, April 14, 2020

6 Tips for Dealing with the Physical Toll of Working from Home




photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels





With so many schools switching to online teaching during quarantine, I thought it would be useful to have some tips on dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of working from home. In the next post, I'll give a few suggestions for dealing with the emotional toll. Today, I'd like to focus on how to counteract the physical effects of being more sedentary than usual and spending even more time onscreen.

You're likely spending most of the day typing and/or videoconferencing. There's a cumulative toll to staying in the same position, often with poor posture, and it can effect your energy level as well as straining specific muscles.



Tip 1: Don’t Eat While Looking at a Screen

Mindlessly snacking will likely leave you feeling more sluggish. Instead, take a few minutes to focus on what you’re eating.

You might want to try the Five Senses Mindful Eating Chart, to help you focus on what you're seeing, tasting, etc.  




Tip 2: Take a Real Break (not a virtual one) Between Tasks

We often feel like we're taking a break when we're really just continuing to hold our bodies the same way, shifting from one online task to another.

'OK, the Zoom meeting is over, so now I'll check my email, then Facebook, then hop over to Youtube for a while, and tonight I'll watch my favorite show on Netflix.' 

These may feel like different activities, but it's all typing and staring at a screen, likely with the same poor posture. So you keep straining your eyes and wrists and neck in the same way rather than really getting a break.

One of the best ways to take a break is to follow tip #3...



Tip 3: Get More Movement

We can all benefit from more mindful movement. Heck, we can all benefit from more mindless movement, as long as we're not injuring ourselves or bumping into anything breakable.

I know it can be challenging to do this if you’re under quarantine in a small apartment. Do whatever you can in the space you have available.
  • Stand up in between tasks;
  • Do some basic stretches while gazing out the window;
  • Walk laps around your room; or
  • Try a yoga or exercise video. (I’ll include several suggestions at the end of this post.)




Tip 4: Stretch Out Text Neck, Laptop Back, and Email Wrist


To straighten your back:

The best way I know to do this without over-twisting or straining anything, is to lie on the floor with my feet elevated. (My back tends to arch, so it’s not as helpful simply to lie flat—or not so flat—on the floor.)


To counteract ‘text neck’/neck jutting forward

Gently pull your head straight back until you look like you have a double chin. (Hey, I just said it worked. I didn’t say it looked pretty.)

Also try moving your head gently up and down, and side to side. VeryWellHealth.com has good illustrations of basic neck stretches.


To counteract the effects of too much typing:

Make circles with your wrists, gently moving them in all directions, then press your hands together.

HealthLinkBC has good illustrations of basic wrist stretches.



Especially if you’re new to stretching, go easy with any of these exercises. Responsible yoga and exercise instructors emphasize that you should only stretch to the point of tightness or stiffness, not until it’s actually painful. (If you’re not sure of the difference, move very slowly and pay attention to how your body feels.)




Tip 5: Don't Use Your Laptop on Your Lap.

Always set your laptop on a table or counter, not actually on your lap.

It’s also a good idea to raise it to a point where it’s still fairly comfortable for typing but it’s closer to eye level. Depending on your height and the height of your furniture, you could use something like yoga blocks or a couple of boxes of tissues, or whatever large books you have on hand.

I alternate throughout the day between doing this and making myself an instant ‘standing desk’: as in, the top of my dresser.




Tip 6: Rest Your Eyes

First of all, remember to blink as often as possible. We all tend to blink far less when we’re looking at screens, which can dry out our eyes.

Also take breaks to look at something farther away. Get outdoors if you can. If that’s not possible, at least look out the window or the other side of the room.

While you’re working, glance away from the screen from time to time, even if it's just for a few seconds.

Also, whenever possible, print longer documents rather than reading everything online.

There are more tips on how to Prevent Eye Strain from Digital Devices at WebMD.




Conclusion

Everybody is a bit different, and every body is a bit different, so you may need to adapt these suggestions to suit your own physical condition. But I hope I’ve inspired you to think about various ways you can keep yourself healthier while teaching from home.


With so much that we can’t control these days, self-care is about focusing on what you can control and what will make you feel better.

You may be interested in the following posts on Body-Based Practices and Mind-Body Health:

Also be sure to check out the Self-Care Video Playlists:
(Note: to avoid further straining your eyes, I recommend moving back from your screen as much as possible. Also, after you've done the same routine a couple of times, keep the screen off to the side and just follow the instructor's voice or glance at the instructor only when necessary to know what to do next.)


And there are hundreds more posts on mindfulness and self-care here at MindfulTeachers.org.




About the Author




Catharine Hannay is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance.