Simple Desk Routine
The following 5 things are small, quit simple habits, that you can add to your every day work life to feel a bit better in your body. You don't always have to do all of them. Just pick and choose. For the best results possible, connect the habits to something you already do regularly.
- Which of these practices sounds like you need it most?
- Which of these practices do I think I need the least?
- When can you add in on of these practices into your daily life?
- Are there any things, that you already do, that you could connect these practices with?
1. Move Your Spine
We all know that we should move around more and that sitting in front of a screen all day is probably not good for our spines, eyes, wrists, and also our minds. It is really healthy for your spine to move in all it's 6 directions, but when we are sitting we are usually limiting ourselves to one of them. Our shoulders roll forward, our upper backs are rounded and our head is farther forward than it should be.
Here are 3 simple movements that only take a minute or two and that can make your spine happier.
I suggest that you do them every-time you come back from the bathroom. You can do them seated, or standing, you can move your whole body or just your neck but whichever option you choose... MOVE THAT SPINE!
The 6 directions of the spine are front, back, left, right and twisting to either side. If you do these exercises like they are shown on the animations, or standing up, you can move the whole spine. If your neck needs attention, you can also only do the movements with your head. Look down, then up. Look to the left and to the right, only by moving your head. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder and then your left ear to your left shoulder. Be gentle.
2. Stretch out Your Wrists
Our hands are not made to rest on a keyboard all day. They are made to be used and moved and because our daily environment doesn't provide the right kind of movement we need to remind ourselves to do it! I am sure there are times in your day where you wait for something. No matter if it's an online meeting that should start any minute or your coffee that is slowly dripping out of the machine. Use the waiting time to stretch your wrists. If you talk on the phone regularly (which I would recommend you use a headset for, because the phone-holding elbow is a thing!) you could use hanging up as a trigger to remind you to move your wrists or stretch them while you talk. Honestly, any kind of movement that is different than typing is good. Rolling, stretching, moving the fingers. If you want instruction, click the toggle below to see my favorite stretches!
Reach your right arm out in front of you, palm facing up. With your left hand, catch your middle and ring finger of your right hand and gently start pulling back. Your wrist pushes forward, your fingers pull back. If you feel comfortable, try straightening your elbow. You can hold, or move your arm up, down, or to the sides for a couple of breaths. Before you switch sides, let go and turn your hand around. Palm facing down. Hold on to the knuckles of your middle and ring finger again. Slowly start pulling back, while pushing your wrist forward. You can just hold or move around. Then switch sides.
3. Wiggle Your Toes
Our feet are the part of our bodies, that connect us to the ground most of the time. Being aware of your feet and how they rest on the floor has a grounding effect on body and mind.
By wiggling your toes, spreading them apart, and trying to move them individually and as controlled as possible you can gain even more awareness of what is going on under your desk. If you are like me and prefer to sit with your legs elevated or up on the chair, it can be helpful for your posture to set your feet down and sit upright for a while. That doesn't mean that you have to sit like this all the time, but you can go back there every now and then to lengthen and ground.
If you can, you could get up every time your phone rings and walk around a little while you are talking. When you sit back down, make an effort to ground your feet, and sit with a long spine for a couple of minutes. (Be aware of your surrounding, though. When my fiancee and I share our kitchen table as a home office, it freaks me out when he starts pacing while talking on the phone 🙈)
If you are more flexible and are not sharing your space with anyone, you might even stand up and stomp your feet on the ground several times. This is a grounding exercises and also helps to get rid of big emotions. If you don't wear shoes while working, it might also be fun to keep a little lacrosse or tennis ball under your desk. You can kick it around, move your lower body and can also use it to massage the soles of your feet. There is a lot going on on the soles of our feet. Massaging them can provide some facia release in other body parts, like your legs and lower back as well.
4. Give Your Eyes a Break
You might already know it, but a reminder is always good. When you look at the screen all day, your eyes get tired. They are never challenged to adapt to different distances or light and that makes them lazy.
- Turn your screen on night mode. If you are on a Mac this is already pre-installed, for Windows and Linux users this is a good alternative. I know this doesn't work all the time, you might work with visuals that require the real colours or you might not enjoy watching Netflix with the screen looking slightly yellow, but whenever you can and whenever you think of it, go to night mode and give yourself a break.
- Look away from the screen. Challenge your eyes by looking away every now and then. The best results are achieved when you look outside a window or at an object that is far away because it forces your eyes to refocus. You can also practice with your finger in front of your face. Bring it close and look at it. Move it to the side and look at it. Move it up or move it down and follow only with your eyes. Make them work! You could do that, every time you finish writing something. An email, a text, a slack chat message. Whenever you finish, look away for a couple of seconds.
- Close your eyes ever now and then. Take three breaths and then open them again. If you want even more of an effect, you can use your hands to cover your eyes. If you want more of a sensation you can rub your palms together before you do it. This can not only relax your eyes a bit, but it can also help you center yourself. Taking three breaths, without looking at something and just focussing on the body, can be like a tiny vacation on your desk.
5. Breathe (Into Your Fists)
Our breath is the perfect anchor whenever we feel like we lose the ground under our feet. When you feel like things get too much or you feel swept with emotions, coming back to your breath might allow you to ground yourself, step back and take a minute before you snap or react in a way that you would regret after.
Of course you can just take a couple of breaths or count your breaths to bring your focus there, but there is an exercise that is even more effective and that works especially well when you feel angry or frustrated. (I usually teach this when I teach kids or teenagers, but I think it works just as well for adults)
Sit tall, look at the palms of your hands, and then take a couple of breaths. Imagine how you send all the things that annoy you, all the big emotions, that keep you from thinking clearly, and everything you feel like doesn't serve you in to your palms. Feel how everything starts to gather there and when you are ready slowly start making fists, with your thumbs on the outsides. Curl all the fingers in and when they are closed, start to squeeze. Squeeze the fists together as much as you can! Take a deep breath here. Take one more inhale and with your next exhale open your hands and imagine everything you just gathered there just falls out. You can repeat this exercise a couple of times until you feel like everything is gone. If you want even more you can lift hour fists up overhead and squeeze them even more there before you release them.