I had the chance to interview my physical therapist, Dr. Stephanie Owens-Burkhart, on the Design Your Dream Life Podcast.
Dr. Burkhart has taught me so much about my body, more than I ever imagined, really.
If you’re working from home right now, I want to share all the goodness I learned from her.
Background: I started seeing her because of shoulder pain caused by sitting all day. I’m also hypermobile, so there are some other things she helps me with now, too.
Since working with Dr. Burkhart, I’ve realized there are so many important stances on proper posture we’re never taught.
How to sit, how to stand, how to sleep, how to release tension, how to know when to see a physical therapist, and the list goes on.
Enter my new desire to share all this information with you in today’s blog post. Starting with tech neck…
How To Have Better Posture When You Work From Home
We can all relate to staring at a computer screen or sitting at a desk chair for hours on end which can lead to tech neck. Tech neck is the result of leaning forward towards a computer. You’re constantly leaning forward and looking down. Possibly for long periods of time. This causes you to start to slouch and leads to poor posture.
Working From Home Leads To Tech Neck
The biggest problem Dr. Burkhart sees that’s preventable is Upper Crossed Syndrome, aka tech neck.
Characteristics of tech neck are…
- You’re hunched over on your phone.
- You’re hunched over, working on your laptop.
- Your neck is extended.
- You’re not sitting up straight.
- The front of your neck gets very weak.
- Your upper chest gets very tight.
- Your back hurts.
- The back muscles are getting weak and stretched out.
Tech neck feels tense, yet we’ve normalized it.
Once you start to notice yourself postured this way, you’ll find it’s probably something you’re doing all day.
That was my experience, at least…!
Tech neck shows up regardless of whether you’re standing or sitting, two things I want to talk about with you next…
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The Correct Way To Sit
What you might not know is there’s a proper way to sit that leads to good posture.
I had no idea. Seriously.
I’ve got money on you not getting this right. Mostly because I didn’t know anything about this until recently, and everyone I’ve asked about it since also has had no idea.
So, here’s the right way you want to sit when you’re working from home…
Keep Your Computer At Eye Level
The first step is to keep your computer at your eye level or just slight above eye level.
You don’t need a fancy new home office set up. You can also just put a few books under your laptop.
Getting an external keyboard and mouse is helpful, too. This can keep you from having to hold your arms in a weird position, increasing the tension in your shoulders (as you’re reading this, you’re probably noticing yourself doing all these positions incorrectly; it’s fascinating!).
You want to be typing much lower than your eyes are. Don’t pull your shoulders up by your ears (you’ll get tight this way).
Your shoulders hold so much stress and tension. When you change how you type, you’ll feel so much better because your body is positioned properly.
Changing your screen to be eye level is simple, but not necessarily easy. If you’re like me, you’re not in the habit of doing it this way, so you may find it takes some practice. But trust me, it’s worth it.
- Resource: Time Management Tools (free course)
Place Your Feet Evenly Balanced Flat On The Ground Without Crossing Your Legs
The next step is to uncross your legs. Completely.
Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Knees at 90 degrees.
Don’t cross your legs at the knee.
Don’t cross your legs at the ankle.
When your legs are doing something different, you’re getting imbalanced, which isn’t good for your body.
Personally, I found myself with legs different lengths because of my habitual leg crossing (that I’ve since stopped, by the way).
Try it right now. Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Then make sure you’re sitting with your weight on your sits bones. You’ll also notice the rest of your posture will follow. It makes it so much harder to lean forward.
In fact, learning the right sitting posture will save you from lots of pain down the road.
You also may not be able to break the habit overnight. But start today.
Take a second to adjust your posture. So sit properly as you read this. Make a habit every day to sit the right way for at least a little bit. Soon it will become completely natural.
Now let’s discuss standing…
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How To Stand Properly
Knowing how to stand properly is just as important as sitting properly.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram you know I recently purchased a standing desk.
However, I’ve noticed my standing posture isn’t good now either!
So here’s what I learned from Dr. Burkhart about standing properly…
Don’t Lock Your Knees
When you stand, don’t lock your knees.
Locking your knees is so bad for you. You’re putting so much stress on your tendons and ligaments.
You always want a little bit of bend in the knees.
Also, keep your belly away from your shirt. But this isn’t sucking your stomach in. You’re focusing on keeping your tummy away from your shirt. When you do this, the rest of your posture will follow suit.
- Resource: Body Love (podcast)
Keep Your Weight Balanced
Also, when you stand, keep your feet evenly balanced with both feet flat on the floor.
Don’t lean into one hip.
Don’t cross your legs.
Don’t stand in a really weird position.
Stand with two feet evenly placed on the ground.
The reason this is important is so you don’t create an unbalanced body. One side will get stronger and longer or shorter and weaker, and no one wants that.
It amazed me how much more challenging this was than I expected.
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How To Release Tension
Next up is TENSION.
You may not realize you’re holding onto tension at all.
Check in with your body. Here are a few things you may notice…
- Your shoulders are up by your ears
- You’re grinding your teeth
- Your legs are crossed
- Your eyes are squinting
- Your fists are clenched
Dr. Burkhart has an amazing tool to release this tension and reset your posture.
Curl all of your fingers and toes in. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears. Close your eyes super tight. Then clench everything in your body as tight as possible. Hold it for about ten seconds.
Now let everything go.
You’ll experience a release in tension back to neutral, which shows you the difference between the before and after. If you felt much better after than you did before, you were tense.
This is a simple way to increase your awareness to your body and specifically tension.
There’s an amazing resource you can check out. It’s called Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation. It’s on YouTube. In fact, it’s a full-body check. You’re also finding every part of your body that has tension. You’re learning to let all of that tension go. You can access it here: How To Reduce Stress With Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
I strongly suggest checking in with your body. Make it a priority. Your physical health is so worth it.
Being Aware Of What You Need To Focus On
Something I learned from Dr. Burkhart is that not everyone needs to focus on the same training. We’re all so different.
For me, I’m super flexible. I loved to dance and do yoga because it was easy. So I needed to turn my focus to strength training.
So how can you be aware of what you need to attend to? You check in with your body.
Do you lock out your joints? You may need to work on controlled motion and mobility.
Are you really tight? You should also start working on your flexibility.
This is so important to think about for YOU.
What do you need to focus on? Do more of that.
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The Surprising Truth About Your Jaw
You may be shocked to find out how much your jaw holds tension (I know I was).
Do you grind your teeth? I do. So I wear a night guard at night.
One of the most common problems Dr. Burkhart treats patients for is their jaw.
Let me say that getting my jaw massaged by Dr. Burkhart has been life changing.
What you can do is start paying attention to your jaw.
This awareness alone will help you.
What I do is say “release” during the day. This helps me release the tension instantly (that I barely realized I had been holding).
See your dentist and physical therapist for more help with your jaw. It’s money well spent.
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How To Get A Great Night’s Sleep
Now, let’s jump right in to discussing sleep.
So many people have a hard time getting good sleep.
What are some changes that can help? Dr. Burkhart says it’s a personal preference. For her dad he once had a $250 pillow that was amazing. But later on, an $8 pillow was incredible as well. So it’s all about what is comfortable for you.
When you’re sleeping, keep the following in mind:
- Sleep on your back (this is the best way to sleep)
- Make sure your spine is aligned (and not bent all over the place, like my neck often is)
- Try with one pillow beneath your head, and not more (you don’t want to be hunched over while you sleep, too)
- Put another pillow (or a roller) beneath your knees
- Keep your neck straight
If you’re a side sleeper, it’s also the same. One pillow beneath your head. You also want one pillow between your knees. Even on your side, you also want your neck to be straight. Then you’ll notice a difference if you have shoulder pain.
You may wake up completely different then how you fell asleep. But you can try your best while you’re conscious.
Put yourself in the best position possible.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach if you can. You can even try barricading yourself with pillows. So when you go to move, there will be resistance.
It’s possible to retrain your body to sleep optimally. I’m doing it right now. It’s slightly uncomfortable but really worth it.
- Resource: 21 Habits For A Successful Life (blog post)
Take Breaks When You Work (And Move Your Body)
Learning how to sit, stand, release tension, and sleep is really powerful. But what’s also important to remember (although I say this knowing it’s probably not new information to you)… you want to take breaks and move while you’re working.
What may be new to you is how to do this.
I learned from Dr. Burkhart that you can do this in really new and differently ways.
For example, you can set a timer for every hour. On the hour, you do a different activity, such as: push ups, stretches, climbing the stairs, sit ups, etc. You just do this for one rep. That’s all it takes.
I’m doing this and it’s so much more helpful than I thought.
Future you is going to love you for this!
- Resource: Grow You (life coaching)
A Final Note!
What you do for one day may not matter. What you do day after day after day is determinative of your quality of life. So your life depends on it. It’s also the difference between success and failure and sickness and health. Start small focusing on this just 15 minutes each day and build yourself up to a whole day.
This post is an introduction into big changes that you can start seeing in your life right now. They’re so simple and they work.
Here’s to taking care of ourselves for the rest of our lives.
Up Next, watch the YouTube video…