Modern ergonimics - 'Check ourselves before we wreck ourselves'

Neck-ache-from-working

Donna DeFalco tells us to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. Or to put it another way, we need to reconnect with our inner ergonomics child.

“My home office setup was good for a while, but now I feel sore and wiped out by lunch.”

“I adjusted my screen height and lighting, but my low-grade headaches are not going away.”

“I thought this chair was going to solve my posture issues, but I keep catching myself slouching anyway.”

Just like there’s an app for everything nowadays, for virtually every ergonomic concern, there’s a tool. Desks, chairs, cushions, mats, keyboard trays, stands, surface arc mice, the list goes on, ad infinitum. Many of these products are excellent, and have never been more in demand.

So why aren’t they really working?

Before we dash off an irate email to the manufacturer, or upgrade our equipment yet again to the newest products on the market, let’s take a breath and consider: the best tools on the planet can’t do anything if we’re not in the right condition to use them.

A Cervelo R5 racing bike is useless to someone with a torn meniscus. Translated into ergonomic terms, if our mental and physical wellbeing is not being tended to, our streamlined sit-stand mount system isn’t going to help much.

Effective ergonomy is comprehensive ergonomy. To achieve this, we must work from the inside out.

2020 has been nothing short of extraordinary for us all. To say it’s taking its toll is an understatement. We have been running on empty in the face of enormous uncertainty for nearly a year, constantly trying to reconfigure and keep on, some of us in crowded chaos, others in total isolation. The world has shifted, and so have our priorities. Right now, the first and most crucial area to address is mental fitness.

Our mental state holds tremendous power over our physical health, functional and cognitive abilities. It affects our work, our relationships, how we interact in the world, our sense of self, our perception of reality. Fostering mental resilience requires daily awareness and targeted action. The rapper Ice Cube summed it up perfectly nearly 30 years ago: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” That’s what we must do now: check ourselves. Rather than rely only on external tools to support us, we need to focus on our current state and develop habits so we become our own support system.

Sound heavy? It’s not! Just ask a child – they’re naturals at this. For example, I can tell you that movement throughout the day is a major defense against mental distress, anxiety, hormonal sluggishness, physical discomfort.

Kids will instinctively get up and play when they need to. They will walk away and take a time-out during a stressful moment. They reach for things that make them feel happy. Without being guided to, they always seek balance.

This is something society has bred out of us, and to thrive, we must build it back in.

Make playful, meaningful movement a priority every day. Stepping away when you’re feeling stressed about a looming deadline or exhausted from a round of Zoom meetings to just be with yourself and moving – stretching, walking, dancing, whatever brings you pleasure – will have immediate effects on your body and your mindset.

Look at it not as exercise or a break, but an instant recharge, a joyful necessity. It’s then, revived physically and emotionally, that you can put all those ergonomic tools to work for you, as the final component of your strong support system.

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