Ergonomics and Wellness – Part 7 – Reduce Stress

Ergonomic risk factors arise when work tasks do not fit or exceed the capabilities of the worker.  I have written about how to change the physical work environment and tasks, but what can you do to increase your capabilities as a worker?  You should be able to work an 8-hour day without being extremely fatigued and without too much discomfort.  If this does not sound like your workday, consider making some changes:

6.  Reduce Stress –

Stress can contribute a great deal to how you feel physically and mentally at work.  Excessive stress can cause pain in your body unrelated to your working environment and can prevent you from being productive mentally.  Stress can also make existing problems worse.  For example, a common problem that comes up during many of my office workstation assessments is neck and upper shoulder pain related to the trapezius muscle.  Usually it is caused by keyboards and mice being too high in height and people compensating by raising their arms and shoulders to reach the keyboard.  But this problem is also caused and/or aggravated by stress.  People who are stressed will tend to hunch up their shoulders and lean into the computer when they are working.  If their keyboard is too high and they are also stressed, their pain will be worse.

Most people find relief from stress by participating in some sort of mind-body activity such as yoga or tai chi.  The movements and postures combined with quieting the mind through breathing brings a great sense of relaxation.  Meditation has also been shown to reduce stress and help people deal with all aspects of their life through renewed awareness.  Regular meditation slows down the brain and allows it to take a break from its mental chatter.  People who meditate regularly report a greater sense of calm when things go wrong during the day and a greater ability to manage their schedules.

If at the very least, try this the next time you feel stressed.  Close your eyes and take at least 3 big, deep, slow breaths in and out.  During the exhale of each breath, consciously make your body relax.  Focus especially on your neck and shoulders and allow your shoulders to drop.  Upon your opening your eyes, you will definitely notice an improvement in how you feel … and you’ll be ready to take on the rest of your day.

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Ergonomics and Wellness – Part 6 – Housework and Hobbies

Ergonomic risk factors arise when work tasks do not fit or exceed the capabilities of the worker.  I have written about how to change the physical work environment and tasks, but what can you do to increase your capabilities as a worker?  You should be able to work an 8-hour day without being extremely fatigued and without too much discomfort.  If this does not sound like your workday, consider making some changes:

6.  Housework and Hobbies –

If you work at the computer all day, do you come home at night use the computer as well?  If you work in a factory assembling small parts, do you come home at night and knit or clean the house?  Do you work as a plumber during the day and do home repairs at night?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider bringing some variety to your daily tasks.  If you work at the computer all day and most of the evening too, your hands, wrists, and arms don’t get much of a break from repetitive keyboarding and mousing.  If you use your hands a lot at work, then come home to knit or scrub the bathtubs; once again your hands, wrists, and arms don’t get a break.  Same with plumbing and home repairs – these involve arm work, but also legs and back.  Physically demanding jobs especially require proper rest in the evening and sleep at night so that muscles, organs, and tissues can recover for the next day.

It would be a good idea to evaluate at your job’s movements and postures and then take a look at your leisure time to make sure that you aren’t performing many of the same movements and postures at night.  Don’t forget sitting and standing – if you sit all day, it’s best not to sit all evening too.  And if you stand all day, some sitting at night is recommended for recovery time (enjoy it – this may be only time someone will tell you it’s beneficial to watch TV!)