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Earlier this month I posted this on Instagram:
Happy Monday! I’ve been working on making some changes to my writing routine in order to promote health and wellness, even while I spend time at a computer. It started with frequent breaks to get up and move and stretch and give my eyes a break from the computer. And then I started exercising right before a writing session. (This has also helped so much with staying focused while I write!) Last week I decided it was time to work on posture so I ordered a stand to put my computer on and keyboard to use. I set it up and put it to use it this weekend while I worked on NaNoWriMo and I absolutely love this new set up! Next up I plan to look at a pair of computer glasses (does anyone use these?) and I want to dust off an exercise ball to sit on at my desk. What what do you incorporate into your work routine to promote health and wellness?
And it sounded like a few people were interested in reading more about it on the blog. I was happy to hear that, because I wanted to talk about it more!
We’ve all heard that spending extended periods of time on the computer and sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day has a negative impact on our health, but for so many it’s unavoidable. We work on computers and if you work for someone else it’s likely that you’ll be sitting at a desk for a majority of your day. If you work from home, you get a little more flexibility, but you still have to put in the time and there’s a good chance it’s more than what’s recommended.
If you’re like me, you’ve read so many articles about how damaging computer work and sitting can be for your health and you’ve thought, what am I supposed to do? Not only is my work done on a computer, but if I want to pursue my own passions, it means extra time spent on the computer on evenings and weekends.
So I decided it was time to take control of my work routine and incorporate some healthy habits. I’m not under any illusions that this will take away the negative effects of sitting at a desk and working on a computer, but I can say that when I incorporate these habits into my routine I feel better and I think I’m more productive while I work. A great side effect of increased productivity while working: I can turn off my computer faster! Here are a few of the changes that I’ve made.
(Also, please keep in mind that I am not a doctor. I don’t have any medical training. If you have any health concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor.)
1 // Get some movement in before sitting down to work.
I got this idea from a writing class that I took recently. The class was on Silencing Your Inner Critic and the instructor led us through a meditation that we can do before writing. I loved the idea of doing something beforehand to help relax, but meditation isn’t really my thing. Instead, I thought of yoga. Why not stretch and move my body, before sitting down for a writing session? Did I do a nice, relaxing yoga routine the first time I incorporated movement into my writing session? Nope! I did an intense toning workout, then hobbled to my computer and sat down to write. The thing is, it did the trick. I wasn’t restless while I wrote and getting movement in helped me loosen up so that I wasn’t so critical of what I wrote. Have I done this every time that I sit down to work? No. And I don’t expect to do it each and every time, either. I don’t think it’s a realistic expectation to have. But I do know that based on how I feel while writing after getting some movement in, I am totally fine with shortening my writing time if it means I can get at least 10-15 minutes of movement in beforehand.
And when I say movement I mean anything: yoga, walking, running, dancing… If you want to incorporate this change into your routine, I would say go with movement that you enjoy. I hate running, so I don’t think that running will have the same benefits on my work that yoga or dancing will. If you’re looking for a yoga workout, I enjoy this one from Shiva Rea that allows me to customize my yoga routine. I can make it as long or as short as I’d like and I can make it intense or relaxing. I’ve tried others from her, but this is definitely my favorite.
2 // Arrange the workspace to promote better posture.
My posture while working is something that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time. My desk at work isn’t set up well to promote a good posture and none of the changes I have made to that workspace have done the trick. And I knew that my lack of attention to my posture while working at home wasn’t helping. As much as I love being able to sit with Little One curled up next to me while I work, sitting with my computer on the couch and in bed is not ideal for promoting healthy posture. Even when I was at a table or this beautiful desk that my dad built for me, I was hunched over my computer. I decided that going forward I will work at my desk–I’ll just have to find a chair for Little One so that she can sit by me! And to prevent myself from hunching over my laptop, I bought a stand to put my computer on and a wireless keyboard, since using my computer’s keyboard while it’s raised isn’t ideal.
Also in the back of mind: I should have invested in an ergonomic keyboard. However, I was already putting some money into my workspace and, to be honest, I wanted to make sure I’d stick to these healthy changes before investing in a bluetooth ergonomic keyboard. They aren’t cheap! So in the future, that’s probably a change I might make.
3 // Take frequent breaks.
This one is something that I do more when I’m at work or working on my blog. When I’m working on a story, I want to stay in the flow of storytelling once I get into it, so I’d rather work straight through. Of course, if I find that I stop and need a break I’ll take one, but it’s less likely to happen once I’m in the zone. But at work, I make sure that I get up frequently and walk around my office to take a break. I’ll even do a few stretches to help unwind and loosen up. It’s so helpful to get away from my computer for a few minutes and to move. If I haven’t taken as many breaks as usual, I can tell once I stand up. One day earlier this week I spent most of the morning sitting at my desk and when I finally got up to move I felt so stiff and tight!
4 // Use an exercise ball instead of a chair.
I used to have one at my desk in my previous workplace and I didn’t use it all the time, but I really enjoyed it when I did. Using an exercise ball allows for some movement while sitting and it also helped me stretch when I needed to while seated at my desk. I plan to pull an exercise ball out of the storeroom and keep it near my desk at home so that I can use it when I want to.
5 // Invest in computer glasses to help with eye strain.
Eye strain is probably the most tell-tale sign that I spend a lot of time on the computer and for years my eye doctor has reminded me that one way to help with eye strain is to spend less time on a computer. While my instinct is to accuse him of killing dreams, I know he’s right, and I have taken his advice. I spend less time on the computer than I used to–intentionally, to take care of my eyes. But I’m also looking into investing in a pair of glasses that helps your eyes while working. I’m still doing some research and looking at my options, but this is something I plan to invest in soon!
Do any of these changes to your workspace speak to you? What are some healthy routines or workspace tweaks that you’ve incorporated?
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