Less Work, More Home

Now that we’ve been back at it for a couple weeks, as a massage therapist I can confidently say that your home office probably needs work. I know that in my industry we had literal hours’ notice that we weren’t going to go back to work in a typical capacity any time soon, and unless your HR department is psychic or extremely proactive you probably got surprised by a sudden work from home order. I’ve been massaging clients who have all sorts of weird WFH setups: most often a kitchen table, but some work on a couch, a few clients I’ve talked to are working at a breakfast bar and sitting on a stool (they definitely needed a massage.) We all did our best with what we had available, but now that we are settling into the distancing groove, you owe it to your body to find more comfort while at work. Below is a shortlist of tweaks you can make to your workspace to make it a little more livable, plus some low impact stretches I recommend to my clients to undo WFH tension. I know it doesn’t compare to a vacation to reverse the stress of quarantine, but working in uncomfortable circumstances will only serve to compound our stay at home frustration.

Which area is acting up?

× Low Back: Bringing a curve back into your lumber area is more natural for that muscle group, so to reverse some desk tension find a chair with a back to work in, grab a rolled-up towel and use it to cushion your low back and create a small curve. If a chair with a back is not accessible to you, taking intermittent breaks to lay on your floor with a rolled towel under your low back for a few minutes will save you a world of hurt in the long term. I also recommend using a tennis or racquetball under your hamstrings to release tension in your lower body. While you are sitting at your “desk” take a ball and find a juicy spot in your hamstrings and then let your leg rest on it until the muscle relaxes around it. Trust me, it sounds weird but it does wonders for low back pain.

× Neck/Shoulders: Every second that you are looking slightly down, the muscles on the back of your neck are hanging onto the 10-12 pounds of bone and tissue that make up your head. To give those muscles a little love, take a hand towel and wrap it around the back of your neck, then let your head fall back gently and rest for a minute. I have a short neck so I use a Turkish towel for this and it’s perfect. Set a timer for every hour or two to do this, and your neck will thank you. If you have a foam roller at home, lay on the floor with the round side of the foam roller under the bony ridge at the bottom of your head. Slowly shake your head yes and no. A rolled-up yoga mat can work for this release as well.

× Your Stress/Anxiety: If work stress had a habit of following you home before, having your office in your kitchen is probably not making it any easier to manage. If your job is very stressful, closing your laptop and turning on the TV is likely not an adequate release of the day, since there isn’t even commute time separating you from your workday. Meditation does not have to look like a monk sitting on top of a mountain asking themselves cryptic questions for days. Meditation can (and often does) look like you sitting on the lid of your toilet to hide from your kids so you can take some deep breaths and let go of your workday for 5 minutes. If you find you can’t keep your eyes closed, focusing on the flame of a candle (called trataka) or a spot on the wall (or dristi) will work just fine. If your head is still buzzing with thoughts that’s okay! Just make sure you don’t keep thinking about that thought- just let it pass. Make an honest effort to do this every day after work and see if it makes a difference in your evening stress levels. This small break from your life will serve to help you mentally “close the door” to your office life and reclaim your living space.