How To Create An Ergonomically Friendly Home Office

If you’re like many of us, you’ve probably found yourself working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. Here are some steps to create an ergonomically friendly home office.

STEP 1: Define your work area

The most important thing you’ll need is a desk or table. If you’re lucky enough to have a desk or table in a designated room in your home, then excellent! But even if you do, or did, you may sometimes get kicked out of that space or need more privacy. Others may find themselves at the kitchen or dining room table or even coffee table. Whatever or wherever the space may be, claim it!

If you need more privacy, you can create your own cubicle environment by breaking apart a large cardboard box or using poster board to designate your work area.

 

STEP 2: Find and adjust your chair

In this step, you don’t need to buy a fancy ergonomically-designed chair. Use whatever you have at home and notice how you feel in it. Have a seat in your chair at the desk that you chose and notice where your arms fall when you place your hands on the desk. Ideally, your forearms should be parallel to the ground and your elbows shouldn’t be lower than the desk.

If you find that your chair is too low in relation to the desk, stack some pillows or books on the chair to raise the seat as much as you need. If available to you, you can also place a slate or piece of wood or books under the legs of the chair to raise the entire chair up.

On the other hand, if your chair is too high, then you can stack some books on the desk to elevate your work space.

It’s important to play around here and notice how you feel in your arms and chest in order to find the appropriate height for you.

 

STEP 3: Adjust your computer monitor

Likely, you’ll be using a computer, in which case you want to be sure it’s at the appropriate height and distance. The top of the screen should be at or just below eye and the screen itself should be at least an arm’s length away. Of course, the bigger the screen, the further away you’ll probably want it.  You want to avoid having to turn your neck much to scan the entirety of the screen. It’s much more efficient to move your eyes instead.

If your keyboard is separate from your monitor (whether it be a desktop or laptop monitor), then you can adjust your monitor freely.

If you’re using a laptop where the monitor is connected to the keyboard, then the situation is less than ideal because you’ll inevitably be looking down. You’ll have to find a compromise between not reaching too far out with your arms and not having to bend your neck too far down to see the screen.  Experiment with how you feel to find the distance that works best for you, knowing that it will require some intermittent adjustment throughout the day.

 

STEP 4: Choose your accessories

The most common accessory you’ll be using is your mouse so you want to make sure it fits comfortably in your hand, no matter the shape.

Another common accessory may be a headset or earbuds for audio. This, of course, will depend on user preference but you do want to be sure that the volume isn’t too loud because sound is going directly into your ear and vibrating your eardrum. I suggest using an external microphone and speakers instead, if possible.

The other thing to consider is a keyboard pad to rest your wrists. This will take the pressure off your wrists and keep them in a neutral position when you find yourself typing away throughout the day. You can easily buy one of these or make one by folding up a medium size towel. While you’re at it, you can roll up a small face towel to use as a wrist pad for your mouse, too.

In this step, you’ll also want to gather everything you’ll need that’s specific to your work (ie, papers, pens, stapler, etc) and keep them within an arm’s length away.

 

STEP 5: Be body mindful

This is the most important step and I could probably write an entire article (or book!) about this step but I’ll try to keep it simple here as a reminder to be aware of your body and how you feel throughout the day. Perhaps set an alarm on your phone every hour to pause, reassess, and readjust.

Take a break from looking at the computer screen by looking away. Stretch out those eye muscles. Notice your head on your neck. Is your neck reaching forwards? Tuck your chin and roll those shoulders back. How about your bodily functions? Are you hungry or need to use the bathroom? Take care yourself! Get up and walk around a bit. Stretch out those legs.

 

When, and if, you return to the office, you can apply these steps to your work area there as well and perhaps re-evaluate its efficiency and comfort. In the meantime, happy working from home!

If you need help creating a comfortable home office or want more details about how to be body mindful, contact me here.

 

COVID got you down?

Social distancing. Shelter-in-place. Lock-downs. With the active COVID19 pandemic and closure of schools and businesses, are you one of the many Americans stuck at home feeling bored and restless? Our lives are suddenly disrupted without work or school as our usual anchors. Let’s take this opportunity to get back in touch with ourselves, our families, and nature. Here are some ideas to stay connected and engaged during this time of social distancing.

  1. Call or video chat with someone. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Call a friend, family member, or someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Especially reach out to those who you know live alone. Everyone wants to feel connected, even if not in person.
  2. Cook more. With restaurants and bars being closed, this is a great opportunity to try a new recipe. Search eatingwell.com or epicurious.com for an abundance of options. If that sounds too intimidating, start simple with an online service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. They deliver the necessary ingredients right to your doorstep with easy instructions for a delicious meal. You’ll even be able to avoid the supermarket frenzy.
  3. Stay active. If you’re itching to move, there are lots of ways to exercise without going to the gym. Youtube has plenty of workout videos you can follow in the comfort of your own home. The options are endless with body weight workouts, kickboxing, aerobics, dance, taichi, yoga, etc. If you’re not a fan of exercise, there are always things around the house to be done (vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, mowing the lawn, etc). If you have children, play a game of tag, hopscotch, or hide-and-go-seek.
  4. Exercise the mind, too. I know perusing through your Facebook feed or browsing the internet is tempting but why not learn something new? Pick up a new hobby or get crafty. Try baking, knitting, cross-stitching, scrap-booking, drawing, painting, or model-making. Learn a new language so you’ll be ready to put it to use once the world is safe to travel again. Challenge yourself to a crossword, Sudoku, or brain teasers. For children, games like monopoly, scrabble, and chess are great avenues to foster strategic thinking and family bonding.
  5. Get outside. But avoid crowded public places like parks and beaches. Your backyard (if you have one) is a great place to soak in some vitamin D. Now that Spring is here, it’s prime time to get started on your garden. Pull those weeds, put down some mulch, and plant some flowers and/or vegetables.

As we head into our second week of closures, your household may have already developed its own daily flow and schedule. If so, kudos to you! If not, you’re not alone. Take some time to create a daily and weekly schedule for yourself and family that includes time for all of the above points. Let’s stay well together. But at a distance!

If you need help creating a daily or weekly schedule, contact me here.

Mindfulness

“Every mindful step we make and every mindful breath we take will establish peace in the present moment and prevent war in the future.”

These are the powerful words of Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who suggests that world peace begins with cultivating peace within ourselves through the practice of mindfulness.

“What is mindfulness?” you ask? Mindfulness is the act of being present and living in the moment. It’s about paying attention to what you’re doing while you’re actually doing it. You may say, “Of course I know what I’m doing when I’m doing it.” But, do you really? Do you notice the sensations in your body? Do you feel the emotions that come up? And even if you do, why is it important?

At the pace the world is going, including all the political upheavals, environmental calamities, and technological advances, our minds race to keep up. We often find ourselves going through the motions of everyday life, not thinking about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it but just going on auto-pilot. The stress of daily life begins to take a toll on us, and our bodies eventually let us know in a usually inconvenient way, by coming down with a viral illness, aches and pains, headaches, fatigue, etc. Mindfulness helps us stay in tune with our selves and our bodies, thus being better able to respond more timely and appropriately, and thereby improving our overall health and well-being. And, who doesn’t want to be healthy?

Now that we’ve decided that being mindful would be of great benefit to our lives and the world, we need to understand the attitudinal foundations for practice. Here they are:

  1. Non-judgment. Cultivate impartial observation to any experience, without getting caught up in our own opinions.
  2. Patience. Patience is a form of wisdom in understanding that things must unfold in their own time. It allows us to embrace change with compassion.
  3. Beginner’s mind. See things as if for the first time, with curiosity and being open to possibility. This frees us from expectations and judgment based on past experiences so that we can fully appreciate the richness of the present.
  4. Trust. By honoring and trusting your feelings and intuition, you take responsibility for your own being and become more fully yourself.
  5. Non-striving. Practice being instead of doing, without trying to get anywhere other than where you are now.
  6. Acceptance. Acknowledge things as they actually are in the present.
  7. Letting Be. Practice non-attachment, purposefully letting go of impulses and ideas and letting things be as they are.

Being mindful in every waking moment of every day doesn’t happen overnight but with commitment, practice, and intention, we can choose to approach each moment with the above attitudes and will begin to see positive changes in our lives and the world.

If you’d like more discussion about mindfulness and its attitudinal foundations and are curious about how to put it into practice, check out my events page for future workshops regarding this topic or contact me here.

SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS

Image result for holiday stress

We’re in the midst of that time of year again when the air is filled with joy and happiness and yet sometimes we can’t help but feel busy and stressed. Are you scrambling to buy gifts, busy preparing the home for guests, or cleaning and cooking in massive quantities? Even if you’re not, how can you avoid getting caught up in the chaos of it all? Here are some tips to help you survive this holiday season and beyond:

  1. Breathe. You’d be surprised at how many of us hold our breaths or take small sips of air, especially in times of stress. So, if and when you notice yourself tensing up, slow down and take just three deep breaths. Notice how much calmer you feel when you remember to breathe. Read more about breathing here.
  1. Smile. You may be on a deadline trying to get the shopping done but please don’t be a Grinch. A smile can go a long way. If you get cut off in line, if someone grabs the last toy you were about to reach for, or if someone takes your parking spot, just smile and let it go. Watch how that smile changes yourself and others.
  1. Shake it out. Sometimes, the tension builds up so much that you just can’t take it anymore. In this case, it’s best to have some healthy outlets in place so that you don’t end up taking it out on others or harming yourself. Exercise, laughter, talking with someone, dancing, drawing, and doing a hobby are all great ways to relieve stress but if you don’t have access to those things at the moment, you can always shake it out (preferable in the bathroom or behind your desk so no one sees you). And when I say “shake it out,” I mean let your whole body loose and SHAKE IT OUT! Now, doesn’t that feel good?
  1. Be present. Through it all, be present and in the moment. Be the eye of the storm and notice the energy around you. Enjoy the time with family and friends or the peace and quiet if you are alone. Savor the flavors of the delicious meal that you or someone else has prepared. Soak it all in for this moment is all we have and soon this too shall pass.

May you survive and THRIVE today and every day. See you in the New Year!

LESSONS ON AGING

You may be thinking, what clout do I have to be writing about aging? And you may be right. I am by no means an expert on getting old. However, I have the privilege of being surrounded by many energetic, fun, and vibrant people who’ve been alive longer than I have and I know that I want to be like them when I grow up! So, I started wondering, how can I be like that when I get to that age? From talking and rubbing elbows with my more experienced counterparts and from my grandma’s wisdom, here are some lessons I’ve learned:

 

1. Keep learning.

“Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.” My grandma lived to be 93 years old and up until the few months before she passed away, she took a variety of classes, ranging from English to Chinese painting and calligraphy to a computer class. She had her own computer and iPad and learned how to Skype. She was even on Facebook! This not only allowed her to keep in touch with her grandchildren and great-grand children, it also kept her mind sharp until the end. (Well, she also did Sudoku puzzles.) In my opinion, having a sound mind and being able to understand and communicate with others is one of the most important contributors to quality of life.

 

2. Stay busy and active.

“Age is just a number. You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” The body changes as we age and that’s part of living. I’ve met many people who compare themselves to their younger selves and get caught up in their own self-imposed expectations that they should be as nimble or as fit as they once were. The truth is, we can’t go back in time. Those who seem the happiest are those who don’t compare themselves to others or to their younger selves but instead embrace their potential and ability where they are now and keep moving. After all, if you don’t use it, you lose it! My friend, Helen, is 86 years old and continues to go camping and hiking in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter, often getting out on the trails 2-3 times a week! If she’s not out in enjoying nature, you can find her at the community center walking and participating in the group classes. She’s always doing something. Being active improves your functional status and as a bonus, it comes with a healthy dose of endorphins!

 

3. Play a little.

“You don’t stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing.”  I was watching a kid’s camp the other week and these children were running and screaming and laughing and having a good time, without a care in the world that anyone was watching. When do we lose that ability to just let go and play and, more importantly, can we get it back? I sure hope so. Why let societal expectations restrict us just because we’re older? My grandma loved to play games. Whenever we had a family gathering, she’d want us to have games ready. Over the many years, we played Charades, Mafia, Hearts, Mah-Jong, and Chinese checkers, to name a few. She even made her own Bingo set! It was her way of relating to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and taking age out of the equation. Having fun and laughing together from the oldest matriarch to the youngest great-grandchild strengthened our family bonds and are some of my fondest memories. It made us all feel like children again!

 

4. Surround yourself with positive people.

I think this is the most important because no matter what you do or don’t do, your attitude will be different depending on who you surround yourself with. Choose to be around positive people and all of a sudden, you start taking on an optimistic perspective of life and things don’t seem that bad. My grandma used to say, “Eat the best strawberry first because as you keep eating, you will always eat the best one until the bowl is finished.” I am so grateful to be part of an inspirational community center full of bright, energetic, fun-loving people. Every visit is greeted with smiles from friends and strangers who are trying new things, staying active, and having fun. Every healthy adult I want to be like has a positive outlook. I leave feeling more energized and happy, always with a smile on my face because it’s contagious and this is how I want to live every moment!

 

Reviewing this list, it’s not so much about healthy aging as it is about optimizing health, at any age. After all, age is just a number and life is about living. Hopefully, with these lessons in mind, we will not only be able to live longer but also be able to live life to its fullest!

If you’d like help living life to YOUR fullest, contact me here.

Pictured above are some of the inspirational, vibrant, fun, active, and more life-experienced individuals I am honored to rub elbows with.