Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Self Care for the Desk Jockey

This morning, I heard on the radio that today is called “Blue Monday” – the day that many people return to work after the Christmas and New Year’s break.  Even if you didn’t take time off of work, entirely, there’s a good chance you worked less hours, and less intensely. I know that’s how I rolled through the holidays.  As I spend much of my day at my desk, getting started on the admin tasks of growing my business in 2014, I think of how many people out there are doing the same.  But how many of you are taking scheduled breaks?
Here are a few tricks that I use to keep myself from getting too “stuck,” physically and mentally, while at the desk:

1. Get up regularly. For the love of all that’s holy…Just. Stand. Up.

I imagine it’s highly unlikely that this is the first time you’ve heard this advice.  It really makes a difference.  It’s not just a bunch of hooey.  It helps the body to “reset” itself into healthier joint and muscle balance, in a variety of ways (including neurologically).  Beyond the body, taking regular breaks will let the brain reboot…and taking a facebook break doesn’t count.  My friend, Peter, at ErnestHardy introduced me to a thing called the Pomodoro Technique, which has worked well for me – especially when I think of my tasks in terms of “pomodoros,” allowing me to plan my workflow accordingly.

2. Listen to your grandmother (or mine, at least) and sit up straight!

Even if you’re not going to make regular trips up and out of your chair, the least you can do is sit up straight and actively counteract the ravages of a typical desk: hunched shoulders, forward head, and a general hunchback shape.  It will probably prove easier to try a little of this, and a lot of taking breaks every 25 minutes, than to just practice.  But if you’re going to be stubborn about not taking breaks, then have at it.

3. If you can’t sit still, then make it a bit of a workout.

I was just going to suggest seated stretching, here, but the handy little collection I found on WebMD, Stretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Tips, covers some of the basics I had in mind, and then adds to them, making it a little bit of a workout.  So, if you can’t sit still in your seat, and you refuse to get up and take breaks, then this is for you.
balance ball
Photo by Robert Caplin for The New York Times

Lisa Sharkey shows how she uses the stability chair in her office at  HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide.

Get rid of your desk chair and substitute an exercise ball, is one of the suggestions that is making a difference for many people that spend hours at a desk on a daily basis. As stated  in a recent New York Times article, Have a Seat and Start Working Out, “stability balls — some of them souped-up specifically to address concerns about sitting, some covered in snazzy fabrics — are becoming a coveted office accessory.”
Whatever you choose, make sure that getting back into the swing of work doesn’t also mean getting back into the swing of letting your desk wreck you – physically and mentally.  Be proactive, and you never know, you just might be happier if you take regular breaks from your desk!