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Survival tips for tech-intense times

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT


What a crazy time! Aside from front line healthcare workers, who need all the support we can give, we're all on our devices much more often now. They not only serve as a way to get work done, but also a way to stay socially connected and keep in touch with each other.

I've heard from lots of you about the havoc this is wreaking on your neck, shoulders, back and head, and I totally get it. Most of us don't have the most ergonomic work station set up at home, or a work station at all. This coupled with the increase in time we have to be on our devices makes it all the more important to remember to take intentional breaks for self care throughout the day. All the extra screen time will lead to headaches, sinus pressure, eye strain and stiffness and pain in the neck, shoulders and back.

Here are a couple easy self care tips to help you through this tech-heavy time:

1. Schedule in breaks. Set an alarm on your phone for every 20-30 mins when you know you'll be at your computer for a prolonged time. During those 2 to 5 minute breaks, do some combination of the following:

Close your eyes. Concentrating on a screen close up puts a lot of strain on your eyes and the muscles at the base of your skull. Closing your eyes helps to disengage those muscles & gives them a much needed break from that strain.
Move your head around. Look left to right, then look up and down, and then right ear to right shoulder & left ear to left shoulder, repeat a couple times. Roll your shoulders in circles one way, and then the other. Arch and curl your spine, as well as you can while seated in your chair. I usually couple this with closing my eyes.
Get up and walk around. Even if it's just a lap or two around your couch, get moving with the intention of releasing any pent up energy. Maybe shake your body a bit while up.
Stretch. Get up and do a quick hamstring stretch, or quadriceps stretch. Stretch out your calves. Bend your torso from side to side. This doesn't have to mean rolling out your yoga mat, just spending 30-60 seconds in each stretch will work wonders when done throughout the day.
Focus your eyes on something far away. Our devices utilize our ability to focus close up, so during breaks pick something at the other end of the room, or even out a window, to focus on for a couple seconds. Also, look up, down, side to side and in circles. Cultivate all aspects of our visual capacity to keep your eyes from straining and causing headaches.

2. Take 1 to 2 minutes to breath into your belly as your sit down to work and also when you're done. This is extremely helpful when working at home as the lines between work and not-work become blurred. It can be super helpful to do with kids before they start their online school work. Really mark the fact you are starting this new activity now so that you're not still half-way doing the billion other things you were just doing. Do this in between subjects if your doing school work, or in between online meetings, or tasks.

3. When you do take breaks from work, do not reach for your phone right away. Give your body some time without tech.

4. Drink water. It can be extra tough to remember to drink water throughout the day when we are out of our routine. Fill up a water bottle or big glass and keep it with you so it's right there as a reminder. Our body needs hydration to function properly. Dehydration will absolutely lead to headaches, muscle pain, eye strain, irritability and food cravings.

5. Use a heat pad on your shoulders at the end of the day, or throughout the day. This will help keep your neck and shoulders a little more relaxed while you work. I love the microwavable heat pads; you can re heat them as needed, they hold in heat for a while and you're not tethered to an outlet.

6. Remember to breath into your belly throughout the day. Even in the most ergonomic chairs, we can get ourselves into a hunched up position if we're at a computer for a while. This is even more pronounced when we're on tablets and phones. That hunched up position is an indication that our breath has gotten stuck in the upper lobes of lungs. When we expand the breath into the belly, the muscles of the upper body have a fighting chance at relaxing a bit. Belly breathing also calms the nervous system and helps bring the body into homeostasis.

I am happy to talk more in depth about any of these tips, please reach out any time! There is so much information out there right now to help get us through this time, please use and incorporate whatever resonates with you. This is a time to re-set our norms and re-asses our priorities, a time for great growth and unprecedented change!