Remember textbooks? Files? Spiral folders? Notes? All those portable little bundles of information that didn’t require you to squint at a screen or started beeping if you didn’t plug them into a socket every few hours? Those were the days, man.
I never used to sit while studying up till high school. I used to grab my notes or a textbook and used to study while walking in the garden or up on the terrace of my two story house.
Studying: check, workout: check, vitamin D: check, appropriate oxygen supply: check.
Of course, by the time I started college, everything went digital. From books to notes everything was available on laptop and as a benefit, much cheaper. We just had to pay in an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Sitting in front of the laptop for hours in the most awkward postures became a habit.
When I started working there was absolutely no sign of paper in our office and our whole world was summed up in laptops and cell phones. Add a little mid work junk binge and you got a recipe for bad health. Of course, come adulthood and your body starts taking lesser crap from you. It demands that you take care of it and it’s important that you listen.
By the end of my first year at work, my body said, “That’s it. Enough of the stressed out overworking that too in a terrible posture. You must learn a lesson.” I developed a case of tennis elbow in my arms and pinched nerve in my neck. Yikes! Let me assure you it’s not pleasant and I had to quit my job to focus on my health.
I’ve spent the past year trying to mend the damage and in doing so I have done loads of research. In this blog, I’m going to share some little preventive measures you can take to avoid a situation like mine and continue to have a career that you like. Here goes.
Avoid the forward neck position.
We are not chickens. Remind yourself that whenever you find your neck stretched forward or downward while using cellphones and laptops. We came after the homo erectus so our necks are meant to be kept straight. The more we slant our necks forward the more weight it adds to our heads. That’s when your spine cries from the inside and your muscles start to resent you.
Slouching is for the weak.
As much as I loved the punk era, its over. Slouching is not in fashion anymore. Sitting in front of the laptops for hours in a slouched position can permanently ruin your posture. It is the root cause of various kind of neck, shoulder and back pain. So make a conscious effort to pull your shoulders back and try to keep your back straight when you sit.
If you already suffer from a bad posture watch this video for some corrective exercises.
Unshrug those shoulders
You might notice even while you’re reading this that you have your shoulders slightly shrugged. I do it all the time. Either because of some subconscious stress in my mind or if I’m anxious about something (hello, deadlines). Again make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders. pull them back down. You don’t want to end up in knots.
If you’re in any sort of profession that requires you to sit for hours on an office desk, stretching is your best friend. Not only does it feel good but it also helps keep the rebel of the muscles at bay. Make sure you take regular stretch breaks at work and mix it up a little. It’s also a good excuse to get your head out of the screen and say hi and catch up with your colleagues.
Depending on the nature of your work you can find out some great videos for stretching on Youtube. Incorporate those into your daily life and you will feel a world of difference.
Invest in workplace ergonomics
If you’re not already familiar with the term, it means setting up your workstation in a way that poses the minimum hindrance to your body while you work for long hours. It helps you increase your productivity while minimizing the chance of injury and pain.
I recently invested in a laptop adjuster/laptop table and a set of wireless keyboard and mouse to set up my workstation according to my physios directions (who told me that 90 percent of his patients are office workers with bad working posture). As a general rule, if your job requires you to sit at an office desk, make sure you’re not making these mistakes. Your laptop screen should be at your eye level so that you don’t have to bend forward or downward. Also, ensure that you’re not overstretching your arms for typing or using the mouse (that’s how I got my tennis elbow btw).
If you feel chronic pain or numbness in your limbs while working make sure you contact a physiotherapist.
Last but not the least, my favourite rule: avoid stress like the plague. Your mental health has a direct effect on your physical well being. Happy working!