Many of us are approaching a third month of WFH. It looks likely there are more ahead as we continue our new ways to stay safe during this pandemic. This new WFH experience can be very different to that of our regular workplace. As we increase screen usage, limit our movement due to lockdown and social distancing takes its toll, the strains and stresses associated with staring at a screen or sitting for long periods may be intensifying. While we quickly established routines outside of the working day to maintain our physical and mental health, what have you in place to help take care of your wellbeing while working from home?
We know taking breaks during the workday help keep energy levels high, maintain focus and combat the effects of sitting for long periods . Now may be the time to review your break routine and introduce the 30 second to 2 minute microbreak. These short periods of downtime can be done at your desk, to counteract those stresses and strains our new working environment can have on our body and mind. In a flash these small interruptions can release tension, improve mood, reduce fatigue and help regain focus.
Here are a few suggestions to get started.
Our Face Muscles Deserve the Micro Break!
Like muscles in other parts of our body, the face muscles absorb and store a lot of stress and tension. As we squint or strain to look at screens this tension can lead to headaches, dizziness, eye strain and disturb sleep patterns. It can also spread to cause neck and shoulder pain. These two simple micro breaks take less than a minute to relieve facial tension and reduce eye strain.
Rest the eyes: the 20-20-20 rule
Lockdown and being indoors for long periods limit our range of vision, this can add to eye strain caused by staring at screens for long stretches of time. Eye fatigue can become serious in as few as two hours, causing headaches, blurred vision, neck pain and disturbed sleep patterns. In today’s world we really do need to give the eyes a rest and follow the 20-20-20 rule. That means every 20 minutes, stop staring at the screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Extra bonus: Look up and avoid feeling down!
When doing the 20-20-20 rule, choose to look up at something 20 feet away! Lifting your head and your eyes upwards will put you in a good mood!
Release jaw tension
We unconsciously hold tension in the jaw area when stressed or worried. That habit of clamping down and clenching our teeth leads to pain, headaches and dental problems. Add this simple jaw release after 20 – 20 -20 above.
Slightly open the mouth to relax the bottom jaw – the upper and lower teeth don’t touch. Resting the tongue against the roof of the mouth can help keep the teeth separated. You should feel the face muscles instantly relax as the tension releases in the muscles that operate the jaw
Take a Breather
Learning to consciously alter the breath can have a huge impact on both our mental and physical wellbeing. Choosing to focus on slowing and deepening some of the 23,000 breaths we take each day is a powerful way to boost the rest and restore system. Try one of these two simple breathing techniques, once every hour.
Give your brain a rest:
Our brains are a bit like toddlers, they need to flip between rest and stimulation to stay happy and energised. This breath counting technique triggers the relaxation response to help change mood, improve attention and reduce the effects of stress.
Sit upright, close your eyes, relax your jaw (as above). Begin by breathing in and out through your nose. After several breaths, inhale for a count of three, exhale gently for a count of five. Continue this way for anything between 30 seconds to two minutes. If the 3: 5 count feels too short you can extend it to 5:7, 7:9 and so on. The key to trigger the rest and restore system is to make the exhale longer than the inhale.
Extra bonus: Use this at night to helpget to sleep when a racing mind keeps you awake.
Breathe like a baby
Have you ever watched a sleeping baby breathe? Their bellies push out on every in breath and drop on the out breath. They are abdominal breathing, the typical breath pattern adopted in the regenerating processes such as, when you are digesting food or when the body is relaxed or at peace.
The abdomen like our jaw, is a hotspot for holding tension when we are worried or stressed. Think butterflies in your stomach when nervous or an upset stomach when anxious. Sitting can also cause the abdomen to compress leading to bloating, heartburn and constipation. As few as three slow, deep abdominal breaths can counter that tension and compression.
Sit upright, close your eyes, relax your jaw (as above). Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Breathing through your nose, inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for count of 6. As you breathe, can you feel your chest hand remains still while the abdomen expands into the other hand? Continue for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Move Your Body, Shift Your Mood
The mind-body relationship is a two-way street – our mind not only influences our body but our body also influences our mind.
Studies have found that by standing or sitting upright we can not only reduce physical symptoms such as fatigue and stress, but we can also improve our self esteem, reduce negative mood and increase positive mood.
If you spend your day hunched over a computer, taking 2 minutes to disrupt poor posture by standing or sitting upright is a surprisingly easy move to make you happier.
Bringing the healthy habit of these tiny breaks into your workday routine can be a simple yet powerful way to help you take care of your wellbeing while WFH.