Are you self employed with an online business that has you on the computer for hours on end? Being your own boss can have you sitting at the computer for hours and hours before getting up to have a snack or even use the bathroom. It's exciting and engrossing, sure. But before you know it, your health has taken a hit because you're too preoccupied with putting all of your energy into growing your business into something awesome. You've forgotten to take care of YOU, and that's so important if you intend to give this work-from-home effort your all, for the long haul.
Even if you're totally excited and hyper-focused on whatever business related task you're working on, at a certain point your body and mind will reach their maximum capacity for sitting still and concentrating. You might think it’s best to power through that discomfort in the hope of completing the current challenge. But continuing to sit there in one position is not good for anybody, even the most motivated! Too much computer time is definitely a problem, but it’s not without some simple fixes.
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How much time should you spend sitting still at the computer, and how often should you take breaks between computer related tasks?
Guidelines exist that say that if you're manually entering data at the computer, you should pause every 30 minutes or so. And if you're working for longer stretches of time, such as over the course of an 8-hour work day, be sure to get up from your seat every hour.
Of course, no one is expected to follow these rules to a tee. So if you lose track of time while deep in a work project, here are some signals to be on the alert for. This is your body telling you it's time for a break… so pay attention!
Shoulders feel tight.
If you've been typing at the keyboard for hours, you're probably slumping your shoulders. This causes tightness in the shoulder blades, which are being separated thanks to this unnatural position that your body is being forced to adapt to. If your shoulders ache and are slumping, take a short break and do some stretches. Try reaching your arms behind your back and clasping your hands at the small of your back while pulling your shoulder blades together. Also push your spine toward the floor while you gaze upward. Hold this pose for six slow counts while breathing deeply.
Your neck is starting to ache.
Another common ergonomic mistake is to sit incorrectly at the computer and force your neck to push forward as you squint at the screen. You may be doing this because you've been staring at one spot for too long and your eyes are fatigued. Or, perhaps your vision has worsened and it's time to see an eye doctor. One simple solution to this is to get a wireless keyboard, which you can position in a spot that's more comfortable for you while typing – for example, on your lap.
Your eyes water, itch, or burn.
Eye fatigue is a common complaint for people who work at a computer every day. As a small business owner, you're likely to be putting in long hours. Did you know that too much computer screen over years of a person's life actually contributes to macular degeneration? Give those precious peepers a break. After an hour of computer work, pry your gaze away from the screen.
Close your eyes. Take a ten minute break from all screens, phone included. Instead, spend some time in the sunlight. (Your eyes don't have to be open, and of course you should never look directly at the sun. But it will feel nice to bathe in natural light for a bit, let your eyes adjust to full-spectrum daylight, and catch some Vitamin D in the process).
Your hands and feet feel cold.
Your blood needs to circulate to deliver life-giving oxygen to every cell in your body. If you're sitting there in one spot for hours on end, your muscles taught and immobilized, your blood is likely pooling in your veins. If you want it to flow again, you've got to move. Stand up. Walk around. Touch your toes. If you have one of those stress balls that you can squeeze, use it to exercise your hands for a few reps. Even if you don't have a hand exerciser, you can clench and un-clench your fists to get the blood flowing to your fingertips.
You feel lightheaded.
Light-headedness is definitely a sign that you need to get away from the computer and get your body moving and stretching. It's even possible that you're cutting off circulation to your brain by not permitting full movement of your neck. If you're too involved in a project to step away from your desk, at the very least find a way to stretch at your desk. You can work standing up, do squats while you type, do a few knee bends or twist at the waist to the left and right. Don't rush your stretches. Go slow, take time to breathe, and feel the life returning to your limbs and brain. Another great trick for reducing that light-headed feeling is to give yourself a nice head or face massage. If all else fails… take a snack break. Light-headedness is sometimes a sign that your blood sugar is dropping and it's time to refuel.