A few years ago, my hands were a wreck. My wrists had painful burning shots of pain that drilled into the very center of my elbows. I just figured that’s what happens when you work at a desk. I made it cute. I described my hands as “hurty” and sometimes talked about it valiantly like a battle scar.
It’s not cool though. It’s lame and avoidable. I want my body to function well when I’m older, and I’m sure you do too. Occupational ergonomics isn’t a cloudy science- you’re actually supposed to be out growing your own food and walking to sources of water every day. You’re supposed to lift and carry weight and feel the sun on your face. Heck, everyone heard about the research that sitting is pretty bad for you.
Beside the bike ride to work, your time on a treadmill, or an appointment with a massage therapist, here are a few ideas for how to spark a desk practice that’s mindful of your body. These are just a couple kernels to build a good practice from:
1. OSHA’s Ergonomics Resources
I’m self-employed, so that means that OSHA doesn’t apply to me. OSHA also doesn’t apply to folks like city workers, but most cities adopt OSHA rules as best-practice guidelines to keep people safe and healthy. You can too! The resources are readily available and we all pay for their hard work, so check it out.
2. Yoga and Stretching Breaks
Videos on youtube and free yoga in the park during lunchtime- everywhere you look you can get good ideas for what to do during frequent breaks. All I had to do just now was search for “stretching exercises for office” on youtube and I got this and this and this and this. There’s so much. Maybe you could build a playlist for the day.
3. Slight Distractions
I have a couple of things I keep around me so I get up and move more often. I have a squeezy ball that I keep next to the computer. Instead of keeping my hand on the mouse all day, when my hand doesn’t need to be there, I find that I’m drawn to play with the squeezy ball. You could have all kinds of stuff- some sort of puzzle, a tiny set of weights, one of these weird things or this neat thing.
I also keep a 1000 mL bottle full of water next to me at all times. Again, it gets my hands away from the keyboard, but my goal of drinking 2 of those a day means that I must get up from my desk from time to time to use the loo.
4. Schedule Breaks and Set a Timer
Three minutes every half hour, that’s what my friend does, and needed to do when his body was nearly broken from years of abuse. He couldn’t grip anything because of his repetitive strain injury (he’s a software guy, coding all day). It shouldn’t get that far, and I think you can give 6 minutes out of the hour to moving about.
During those three minutes, getting up is key. My friend has a bar he hangs from, a great stretch for your shoulders and arms. Various weights are spread around his house, and when the timer goes off on his computer, the notification pops up in a window over everything else and won’t go away until he hits snooze or cancel. He makes hitting cancel a no-no.
If you can get up more often or with a different scheduling regimen than this, that’s great. The idea is to use your free time to be human. Maybe you do tasks through the day that when completed, a break would not only be aptly timed, but a good mental clearing for the next task at hand. A brisk 5 minute walk and you’re back at it.
Do you already have a regimen you use to keep your body healthy or a stretching guidelines you love? I’d like to know about it!