Vacations can be so refreshing. Two weeks later—even with the demands of a full-time practice—I’m still feeling revitalized. In the last article , I discussed two ways to squash a mind-numbing, “auto-pilot” kind of daily living and adopt a more balanced and healthy mental state. Today, we look at the other half of the picture: tips to maintain a healthy, balanced physical self even while you keep up with work.
We’re a connected culture—maybe too connected. How much time do you spend each day hunched over a desk, attached to a telephone, or staring at a computer? Sitting still while talking and typing may not look as physically challenging as pro sports, but in their own way these sedentary activities are stressful and take a toll on the body.
The solution? Adopt this new rule: Don’t sit for prolonged periods of time without some form of movement or stretching. Get into the habit of taking a break every 20 minutes to add a bit of mild physical activity.
I hear protest. Did you automatically react with “A break every 20 minutes? I can’t do that and keep my job!” Not to worry. There are many simple options for these breaks. None of them take long to accomplish and will help reverse the effects of sitting still at a desk or not being active enough during the day. Rounded shoulders, beware.
- Get some fresh air: Close the door and practice a little careful deep breathing. Inhale slowly for a count of 7, hold for count of 4, and exhale slowly for count of 8. Repeat at least six times or for a few minutes. The effect of this simple technique is incredible—it’s like taking a spa vacation.
- “Play” ball: Put a tennis ball on the floor. Place one foot (no shoes, of course) on top of it and roll it under the foot, arch, and heel in a back-and-forth or circular motion. Change feet and repeat. In reflexology, the foot is a representation of your whole body, so by massaging your feet, you’re actually giving yourself a body massage (!) as well as grounding and energizing yourself. What an easy way to reap big rewards.
- Meet the band: Bring in a band─a long piece of firm, flat elastic. Extend your arms in front of you, then grasp one end of the band in each hand and pull to stretch your upper back, neck and, arms. Stretch again while holding your arms over your head, and then reach behind your back for a third stretch.
- Show stress the door: While standing in a doorway, press your hands against either side of the doorframe and push yourself gently forward to lean through. Do this three times, each with your hands in a different position: below, level with, and above shoulder height. This will engage all the muscles that are overused and abused by slouching over a computer or desk. Ahhh…feel the tightness in the pecs and traps dissipate.
- Try “netwalking.” This technique comes courtesy of Joe Sweeney, author of the book I Know I Should Exercise, But… . It’s a wonderful idea for busy professionals who work in proximity to or in a building not far from colleagues. Joe advises planning walking meetings outside to discuss business instead of the usual communication by phone or email. This “netwalking” accomplishes three important things at once: business, exercise, and a clearer mind. My reaction to Joe’s advice: Wow…why didn’t I think of that?
Remember that taking a physical break has powerful mental value, too, in that you return to your task rejuvenated and focused. There are no losers in this game.
Maybe not all of these tips are right for you, but you won’t know until you try. Make a commitment now to test-drive at least one or two of them. If you have a history of losing yourself in your work, set a timer to remind you when it’s time to take a break. I promise you won’t regret it. The reward—a body that carries home less achiness and tension at the end of a day—is worth the effort.