22 Feb Mindful Ergonomics
I recently stayed at a hotel and took a look at the Spa services that the Wellness Center provided. And lo and behold, among the traditional Hot Stone and Swedish massages, I spotted the Tech Neck Chair Massage and the PDA Pain Relief Hand Massage.
And that got me thinking about a few things:
- How prevalent aches and pains related to our tech devices are and,
- How unmindful we have become with regards to the signals our bodies give us in response to our work and tech overload.
- How important it is to not just be mindful of our ergonomics, but to actually practice something that I call Mindful Ergonomics.
What Exactly Is Mindful Ergonomics?
At first blush, mindful ergonomics is the practice of being aware of what your body is doing while working (or doing anything actually). Most, if not all of us, plug in and start tapping and clacking away at our laptops, computers, phones and iPads. Our focus is on what we are reading, typing or texting. Maybe we are slumped over a notebook taking notes or making our to-do list. Whatever the activity, our minds are engaged in the activity we are doing. And that makes sense.
You know what you are doing, but when was the last time you asked how your body is doing what ever you are doing?
Is your head bent forward? Shoulders rounded? Are your arms reaching forward? Are your wrists twisting from side to side? Are your fingers curled and gripping something? Are you too forceful in your motions? If you stand when you work, is your pelvis neutral? Are your eyes straining?
Get the idea?
Most of us become acutely aware of the aftermath of sloppy ergonomics because our necks, backs, shoulders and hands let us know that something didn’t quite work out so well during our busy work. Well, it doesn’t have to get to the point of alarm bells going off in order to make changes.
Here are some simple Mindful Ergonomics tips to get you started:
- SLOW DOWN! This is a must. If your brain is going a million miles an hour and juggling a zillion things to do, there’s no way you can have any room left over in your mind to plug into your body and be aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling.
- Take 10 Deep Breaths. This is one of the most powerful things you can do to reclaim the health of your mind and body. Push away from your computer, put down your gadgets, close your eyes and just breath. Deeply. Simply. 10 gorgeous deep breaths. You’ll be amazed at the effects!
- Now, Scan Your Body. After you take your 10 deep breaths, do a quick body scan from head to toe and just notice how you are feeling. Start with your head, eyes and face. Are you holding tension in your face? Is your head and neck balanced over the plan of your spine? Are your shoulders rounded? Hunched? Are you sitting on your sit bones? Is your spine upright and balanced?
- Notice Your Tension Hot Spots. Now that the noise of your work has subsided for a few minutes, tune into your body. Is anything hurting? Are any areas of your body feeling tight? Do you have any discomforts?
- Breath Into Them. One of the fastest ways to release tension in the body is to breath into them. This simple means, notice the pain point, scan for tension around that area and take a deep breath and imagine breathing the tension out, and breathing fresh new energy in. A good mantra when doing this is to say “Let go.” Let on the inhale and Go on the exhale.
- Relax Your Body. Now the trick is to go back into your work position and relax your body. If you notice that upon re-engaging, you tense up, the question is why? This is where you have to be a detective. That brings us to . . .
- Observe Your Posture. The first thing to be aware of is your posture away from the computer and work (that includes your devices) and learn where your neutral is. Re-engage and see what stays and what distorts when you engage. Do you sit well away from the computer but slouch when you start to type? Is that because your monitor is too low? Or keyboard too high and far away? Take note.
- Observe Your Movements. Observing posture is the first step. But remember, typing, texting, sitting, standing, reading, etc., all involve movements. Some large and some teensy, but they are all movements nonetheless. So be aware of two things. The type of movement you are making and the quality of the movements. So, an example is typing. You will find that you are making movements with your fingers, wrists, forearms etc. But are the movements tight? Tense? Do you have pressure points under your wrists? Are your wrists twisting to get to the enter key? Ask away.
- Reposition Yourself or Your Set Up. Awareness and questions are critical. But then what? Now it’s time to take action! Reposition yourself or your set up to maintain a healthy and comfortable posture and if needed, tweak your set up and the way you are doing your activities.
- Pace Yourself. Ask any marathon runner and they will tell you, the key to endurance training and marathons is pacing. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, no matter how daunting your work load is, you must pace yourself and take breaks. That means taking breaths & doing body scans. That means, clearing your mind and taking a walk, go out for lunch (and not skipping lunch!), and take exercise breaks. That means managing your time well and getting enough sleep. Just as you did a body scan earlier, take a moment to scan your day and if there’s no down time, calendar it in!
In short, be mindful, really mindful of what you are doing, how you are doing it and what is and isn’t working.
Until the next time!