Here are some tips from us at Tend to help unwind the tension and help restore ease
If you are like me, this time of social distancing has you spending a lot more time in front of your laptop. Here are some of the suggestions we have at Tend to keep up with the demands and challenges this new lifestyle is causing us.
1. Break Out of the Box
Laptops were built to economize size, not support healthy human posture! If you’re going to be sitting at your laptop for longer durations, it helps to shift things around a bit. Getting an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad is vital to keeping your neck and shoulders happy and safe.
Even simple shifts to make your working space more ergonomic are important and effective. There are many ways to set up your workspace and here are a few ideas that you can do without special or expensive equipment.
- Position your keyboard in a way that allows your elbows to be approximately 90 degrees from your shoulders in a relaxed position.
- Prop your laptop up on a couple of big books or similarly sized items, so that the screen is just below eye height.
2. Blue Light Begone!
The intensity of the blue light spectrum can strain the eyes and over a period of time, cause us to hold unconscious tension to combat that strain. LED screens (any computer monitor) can emit a lot of blue light, thus working on a computer all day necessitates a visual “diet” from this stress!
Try these simple fixes to help give your eyes a little break.
- There is computer software that cuts out the blue light from your monitor. We use and suggest: F.lux
Note: The default settings of f.lux have the blue light filter increase when it’s later, but you can play with the settings to make it so it filters throughout the whole day.
- Some people like “blue light blocking glasses,” and prefer that to the internal computer settings. If that interests you, you can find a number of options with a simple google search.
3. Change it up
There’s a lot of talk around the perfect desk chair and ergonomic setup. While that is valuable, it doesn’t factor in that humans are simply not made to sit static for prolonged periods of time. In order to minimize the effect of being on our computer on our neck, we can simply have multiple positions that we cycle through during the day. We don’t have to get scientific about this but I often suggest that people have two or three different sitting locations and chairs that they can move through.
For example, at my desk I have a desk chair, a ball and a kneeling chair, which I shift between at my leisure to maximize comfort throughout a day at the computer.
4. What about Stretching?
Stretching is great, provided it’s done in the right context. After a long day when our muscles are tense and strained, if we go immediately to stretching, it can have a negative rebound effect.
Why is that? Imagine you are a tight muscle who’s been used to ‘hold’ and protect throughout the day and worked overtime to do so, and then suddenly told (not even asked!) to, “open-up and relax!”. You wouldn’t be pleased, right? In fact, muscles generally don’t respond well to this request and often can fight back or resist the stretch entirely.
What we want to do instead is help discharge the strain accumulated through a work day and release the associated nerve tension. Here are a series of different exercises to do just that.
Contract/Relax: In this exercise we go into and out of the subconscious holding pattern laptop use can put us in. By consciously going into the pattern (saying yes to it) it then helps us learn how to turn it off (saying no thank you to it). Watch the video to learn how:
Underlying much of the muscle tension of laptop neck is a subtler, lesser understood nerve tension. Before we go to asking the muscles to loosen up, we need to get the nerves on board with a series of techniques known as nerve flossing. Watch the video to learn how:
5. Finally, sweet relief!
NOW, once we have worked to minimize the ongoing stressors with a better set up, started releasing the underlying strain with contract/relax and helped the nerves start to relax with some good flossing, we’re finally ready for some good ol’ muscle relaxation.
There is no one right way about this, so here are a few suggestions. Play around and see what you like best!
- Self massage with props – use a good massage ball, cane, or other tool to gently knead out tension in the neck and shoulders. You can use the tool against a wall or on the floor. Think less about attacking the muscle and more about softening into it, focus on relaxing with each exhale.
- Shoulder circles and light movement – Now that your body is more receptive to release, try light self directed movement on the shoulders, neck, and upper back. Focus on the sweet, positive sensation of it and go wherever that sense brings you.
- Stretching with support – Use a doorway or chair to grasp onto with your hand and lean away, holding a nice stretch for 30 seconds to a minute while moving within it slightly. This shouldn’t be aggressive, just a suggestion of lengthening is enough. Do at multiple arm heights and angles relative to your torso, “search out” the tight spots and lines to encourage length.