So, you’ve been putting in long hours on a project and are feeling pretty good about yourself and your progress. You look up from your computer screen, catch a glimpse of yourself in some reflective surface or other, and are shocked to find that your profile resembles that of (a) a full-time French cathedral bell ringer, (b) a tyrannical Shakespearean monarch, or (c) a crime-fighting turtle (sans the upper body strength).
You are, officially, developing what is known as a work-related hunch. (And not the “I’ve got a funny feeling about Larry in HR” kind.) Here are some tips for taking control of the situation before your commitment to your work turns you into a human question-mark.
1. Try Yoga
Whether on your own or in a class, practicing yoga at any level is bound to do wonders for your posture (and, as deadlines loom, your spirit).
There are all sorts of poses (Mountain, Cobra, Child’s, Hero’s, Locust) designed to strengthen your core, open your chest, and lengthen your spine. And the benefits don’t end with your practice, especially if you can remember to…
2. Stay Vigilant
Yoga (and all exercise) increases overall body awareness, so you should be able to feel the slump coming on and actively avoid it even while you’re working. Just thinking about your posture is half the battle when it comes to improving it.
A little reminder in the form of a phone alarm or a note on your calendar can help you stay mindful. And even while working from a seated position, a quick 30 seconds of shoulder rolls, neck stretches, and deep breaths will do you no end of good. That said, don’t forget to…
3. Take Real Breaks
So much of our mental stress manifests itself in physical ways. (It’s why our shoulders tend to end up around our ears when we’re in the midst of muscling our way through a problematic assignment.) And this doesn’t mean playing games or surfing Facebook, either.
Actually stepping away from the computer for about ten minutes each hour – stretching your arms, taking a stroll, speaking to another human, getting some fresh air along with your coffee – will help your body (and your mind) to reset.
Of course, one can’t be expected to do everything on one’s own, and even though we freelancers usually like to go it alone, all this exercise and vigilance can be a lot to ask of oneself during “crunch time”. So, if you find yourself in the position to throw some money at the problem, you may want to…
4. Invest in Ergonomics
An “ergonomic” workstation is one that is intended to provide optimum comfort and to avoid stress or injury. Maybe your chair is the problem. Or your desk. Or your very keyboard. Or all of these things simultaneously. At this very moment, you may be saying to yourself: “Stupid chair/desk/keyboard.
O, how I hate you. Look what you’ve done to me. How am I supposed to date anyone when I look like a cartoon vulture?” Well, have no fear! There’s an entire industry out there devoted to making sure we don’t end up looking like a generation of mole people, and sampling their wares might not be the worst idea in the world.
Don’t let your keyboard own your spine! Take a little time to unfurl… your back will thank you.