The toll of overwork and burnout is an essential conversation for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Your state of mind is intricately linked to how your body experiences pain and strain and how your thoughts impact your emotions, potentially leading to more muscular tension and discomfort. While the rise in work-from-home jobs promotes greater schedule flexibility, being sedentary all day can negatively affect your well-being, physical aches, and posture. Even worse, sitting on a couch, bed, or chair that lacks the design to support your back, pelvis, thighs, and feet properly can have long-term effects. There are ways to listen to your body and give it the care it truly deserves to counteract these harmful effects.
- Respect Your Body
Truly caring for your body begins with a baseline of respect. Instead of focusing on all the negative aspects of your body, concentrate on what makes your body great. Focus on what it does for you and how well it serves you throughout the day. Does it just move you from Point A to Point B? Or can you appreciate how the body, through movement, offers you the freedom to experience life, offers the chance to connect with others, and supports your mind and spirit? Does it only allow you to get the laundry done, clean the house, and walk the dog? Or can you engage and experience the joy and fulfillment that certain hobbies give you? Can you notice how the very act of noticing your breath while resting your hand on your cheek and forehead for 20 seconds can calm and soothe an anxious, tense, and over-stressed nervous system?
- Move Every Hour
Take a break every hour to move your body in ways that feel energizing. Stand up—stretch your arms to the ceiling and your feet into the floor. You don’t need to commit to a workout session, but three to five minutes of getting up and walking around can do wonders. Walk outside, down the driveway, and back to your chair. Walk through the different rooms in your house without getting distracted. If you have more than one bathroom, walk to the furthest bathroom, or better yet, walk upstairs and then back to your chair. Moving your body allows you to interrupt the effects of sitting, a passive activity our bodies were not designed to do all day.
- Use a Supportive Chair
Finding the best chair that fits you is no easy task and can be costly, but you may have some items around the house that can make sitting easier on your body. A supportive chair is one that gently reinforces the curve in your lumbar spine instead of degrading it. Placing a small towel roll or pillow slightly above your waistline can help. So does choosing an adjustable seat that lowers or raises, allowing the chair to support your back better while keeping your feet flat on the ground.
Notice your sitting habits: do you find yourself always leaning to one side of the chair, crossing your feet at the ankles, at the knees, left over right? Interrupt and change up these habits. Chairs that do not support your posture eventually lead to weak abdominal, buttock, and thigh muscles, especially when you sit for long periods. Can you intermittently squeeze the gluteal or buttock muscles, 5-6 repetitions, and feel how the feet reflexively push into the floor, making it easy to draw in your abdominals?
- Address Inefficient Movement Patterns
When we begin to ‘actively notice’ something new about the way we move, we become mindful and wake up our brain in a powerful way! You require a keen awareness of your body to understand which movement patterns are using more (or less) muscular effort than they should.
For example, the longer we sit, the brain turns off muscles needed to overcome gravity. Over time, muscles in the abdomen, buttock, thigh, and feet become weak. You may begin to actively notice that when you stand up after sitting for long periods, you rarely fully extend the front of the hip, lengthening the groin muscles. Most people will think they are ‘standing upright,’ but in actuality, they are lifting their torso back and increasing the tilt of the pelvis.
Over time, you may be relying on your hip flexors to do most of the work in your day-to-day life instead of your hip extensors. When your body is dependent on your hip flexors instead of your abdominal and hip extensors muscles, you might find yourself with lower back and hip pain.
- Don’t Ignore Your Chronic Pain
Pain and inflammation that have persisted for a while will only worsen if you continue to be sedentary. Not addressing a nagging ache or discomfort can eventually lead to a higher level of pain and, of course, inefficient movement patterns, a weaker body, and a loss of mobility that no longer allows you to do the activities you love or need to do. Many choose to ignore their pain in hopes that it will just disappear, or they may not realize there is a better path and ways to overcome the unhealthy effects of sitting.
Listen to Your Body
Respecting your body means listening to your body. If you suffer from chronic aches and pain, it’s time to listen to your body and make a change. What movement feels right? Don’t know? With the proper somatics and physical therapy techniques, you can take back your life to establish a pain-free lifestyle. Begin your journey and set up a consultation with me today.