2020 was...well, it’s in the past now! It brought us quarantine, working from home, and a whole lot of sitting in front of a screen. Now 2021 is here and your body AND MIND are probably feeling the repercussions of 2020.
Here at CANA Advisors we’re used to working from home, it’s how we roll and how we’ve rolled since our founding day over 12 years ago! So, we know a little about an abundance of screen time, desk sitting, and seclusion in one place all day every day. What we also know about, a lot about, are the most beneficial ways to avoid the mental, emotional, and physical stress and strains that come along with these, what our world now calls, new norms.
Let’s start with the mental and emotional effects of working from home. You no longer have to leave your house for work, and with online shopping, home grocery delivery, telehealth, and the like, you may very well not be leaving your house for much of anything. Along with staying at home likely comes not changing your clothes, not fixing your hair, and… psst… did you brush your teeth today? Plus, ladies, no-make Monday is now 7 days a week, right? Losing a daily routine might seem nice at first, a little time-saving, and maybe it even reduces the stress of your morning, especially if you’re not an early bird like this night owl here. But a routine, especially a morning routine, is so important! In a world that throws so much uncertainty at us, we need to have something solid, something steady in our lives to keep us grounded and sane. For some of us, coffee is the one thing we must have before we can proceed on with the rest of the day. For others, a few minutes in a good personal development book or devotional can set your day on the right path. For me, nothing wakes my soul in the morning like music and my nutritional supplements. It gets me ready for the day's work and workouts! Remember, I’m a night owl, not an early bird! If you don’t have that “it factor” in your morning yet, try one of these to see what works for you. If nothing else, get up, change your clothes, and brush those teeth! You’ll thank yourself all day long!
Alright, that body! It is sitting, staring, slouching, for hours on end. It goes from bed to desk chair, to lunch/dinner chair, likely to the couch, and right back to bed. If you squeeze some exercise in there, you’re rocking it already but you can always do more! If you’re not exercising, it’s easier than you think! I want to share two things with you: basic daily movement and simple exercises suitable for nearly every BODY. Let’s actually start with exercises because it really doesn’t need to be fancy and complex. Number one recommendation… walk! Walk around your room, throughout the house/office, if it’s nice (or if you don’t mind a little weather) take your walk outside. You don’t even need to leave your yard, just get those legs moving. You’re so busy though, right? You’re too swamped at work to leave your desk let alone the house. First of all, that’s an entirely separate blog about not becoming too “busy” and understanding what “busy” really is and is not, but I digress. Second of all, I get it, sometimes you’re in an all-day training, conference call, review session, and that’s understandable. Walk before work, walk after you’re done working for the day, or place that phone on speaker and walk in place during your meetings. I promise, it’s doable. Want something more? Squats, lunges, pushups, planks, are all basic exercises* that can be done right at your desk and can be modified to suit any physical limitations. A fantastic idea to help you stay accountable, and promote corporate wellness at the same time, is to engage your co-workers in these exercises. Here at CANA Advisors, nearly every meeting is a video teleconference. On several occasions, CANA team members have shut their cameras off for a few moments and engaged in some motivational, mid-day push-ups. When they come back on screen, their blood is flowing, their face a bit pink, and their mind is ready to get back in the game. It’s just one part of the CANA culture that I love!
Still focusing on that body but let’s talk about movement. Something as simple as just getting out of that chair for two minutes every hour can make a world of difference. Movements involving stretches can relieve body stresses, muscle strains, and (shoutout to mental and emotional benefits) can reset your clarity and focus. Any movement, even rotating your ankles while still seated in your chair is beneficial but there are two focus areas that suffer the most from extended periods of sitting and computer work: shoulders/neck and lower back/hips. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “he/she carries the weight of the world.” Do you know where we carry it? We carry so much tension in our shoulders which ultimately affects our neck as well. Do me a favor, right now, just sit back in your chair, roll your shoulders up-back-down, and hold them there. Do you feel that? I bet you took a nice deep inhale and exhale when you rolled those shoulders. You just exhaled stress! Now while those shoulders are relaxed, allowing your chest to rise and fall with more ease, slowly tilt your head side to side, holding for a few seconds on each side. So simple and so effective! These are two phenomenal moves if you find yourself suffering from headaches as well.
You’re going to need to push your chair away from your desk for this next part. Our hip flexors are one of the most overused yet overlooked areas on our bodies. Brace yourself, this next movement tip is more challenging and intense. Stand up. Ok, so I exaggerated a bit on the level of challenge and intensity but the level of benefit is definitely high. If you can spend even a small part of your day standing, I encourage you to do so. Once you’re on your feet, be sure to take a few moments throughout the day to hinge at the hips, bending forward to reach for your toes. Then stand tall, reaching your arms overhead, arching back and side-to-side to lengthen along with the hip flexors, obliques, and abdominal muscles. An instant “wake-up” for your body which not only improves your posture, circulation, and muscle health but, again, these stretches improve mental clarity and focus.
So whether your work situation has changed over the past 12 months or not, whether working from home is new to you or business, as usual, get dressed, brush your teeth, integrate frequent movement, stretching, and exercise throughout each day, and just take time to breathe.
Written by Stephanie Allison, Senior Project Manager at CANA Advisors and also a certified group exercise instructor and wellness coach with over 9 years experience in the health and fitness industry.