The Coronavirus pandemic turned most of us into remote workers overnight.
But unless you’re an old hand at working from home, you may have found yourself transported from your big screen and ergonomic office chair, to a laptop and perched on your kitchen stool. Whether you’re in the office or at home, you should be getting up from your chair, away from your screen at regular intervals. Set yourself a timer to go off every hour at least.
Shoulders and upper back
Even if you’ve got the ideal workstation set up, we’re all carrying around more tension than usual now, surrounded by partners, flatmates, kids,
…and we tend to feel the burn most in our shoulders and upper back.
QiGong arm swings
Arm Swinging is a really simple way to loosen up your shoulders and upper back.
Stand up with your knees slightly bent and arms at your sides. Raise both arms up to around shoulder height and then let them swing back past your hips and forward again with momentum.
Continue swinging your arms rhythmically. Apply a little effort to the backswing and allow the swing to the front to happen naturally. Repeat for 6-10 minutes. When you have finished, stand for a moment with your eyes closed to feel the effects in your body.
By strengthening the muscles in your upper back, you’ll improve your posture, ease tension in your shoulders and the muscles in the chest. This can then help you breathe more easily by freeing the diaphragm.
Cobra pose – basic back extension
Lying down on your front, bring your hands level with your shoulders with your elbows close to your body. Your feet can be together or slightly wider than hip-distance if you have any lower back issues.
Engage your abdominal muscles, and on an in-breath lift your chest into Cobra pose Think about this action coming from the upper back muscles working rather than pushing weight into your hands. Keep your neck relaxed. Exhale and slowly release back down to the floor. Repeat this two more times.
For the next two reps you can bring your hands up with you as you lift your chest if it feels comfortable, this will give your upper back muscles an extra challenge. Otherwise repeat regular Cobra two more times.
Upper back strengtheners
If you prefer not to lie on the floor, try this instead.
Standing up, bring your elbows to your side and your forearms in front of you, palms facing up as if you’re holding a tray.
Lift your shoulders up towards your ears and then roll them down and back, firming your shoulder blades onto your back. Then, keeping your elbows in the same position, bring your hands out to the sides, leading with your thumbs. You should feel your shoulder blades moving closer to each other. This activates the deep rhomboid muscles between the shoulder blades. The rhomboids work with the trapezius muscles to keep your shoulder blades back and down so this exercise is also helpful if you find your shoulders hunched up by your ears.
If you’re working from home and using a smaller screen, you might find your eyes getting more tired or dry than usual, this can also happen when our focus is fixed at one distance for too long.
In your screen breaks take care that you are not swapping one screen for another and reaching for your phone.
Try rubbing your palms together to create heat and holding your palms over your closed eyes.
Hands and wrists
When you’re not using your keyboard, let your hands drop beside you, shake your hands and flick out through your fingers. Keep your wrists mobile with rotations. These are particularly important if you can’t adjust your workspace so that your arms are level with your desk.
Mental reset – End your day
Try to do something that marks the end of your workday.
You can also end the day by shifting your energy. Shaking is a brilliant way to do this and it will help relieve some built up tension too. All you need to do is stand up and shake out your body any way you like – do it for longer than feels comfortable.
Lastly – Give yourself a break
These are not normal times. You might find your memory, concentration and creativity are not what they usually are, even if you’re used to working at home. Give yourself helping hand with notes, lists, reminders out there. But also know that there are different priorities now than before.