3 Ways to Reduce Screen Strain

There is a reason why screen time is the number one thing to be limited for those recovering from a concussion. There is a tremendous amount of brain stimulation that occurs through focusing and directing the eyes, but also interpreting the information being transmitted. For those without concussion, this stimulation and stress still occurs, we just have a greater capacity to adapt to it. In addition to the visual/ brain stimulation, when we are sitting in front of a computer, looking down at our phones or even sitting for long periods of time looking down at a book (hello students, I see you!) , we experience significant repetitive stress due to the posture we adopt. Over time, our neck and upper back fatigues and patterns of tightness and weakness occur.

Of course, ensuring your spine is aligned and of optimal function is a key piece to minimizing daily postural or screen stress, however there are a few things we can do on our own day-to-day that will offer further support.

20-20-20 RULE

I don’t recall where I originally heard this “rule” but it’s one I offer to anyone working at a computer for long stretches of time, people recovering from concussion or anyone really who notices a change to posture, eye strain or focus. Whether you perceive strain or not in your body, there is an inherent stress that occurs from staring at a screen. The 20-20-20 rule is a reminder that every 20 minutes to glance at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows our eyes to relax, our brain to refocus and most likely will ease the neck and upper back posture.

SPHINX POST

This is a key pose when if done properly can help strengthen the upper back, neck and open the chest. Not for those who have known facet issues (pain when standing or in a back bend), but basically is the needed tummy time for everyone from infants to adults.

Laying on belly, squeezing glutes if needed to protect low back, with arms out in front of you. Slowly inch elbows towards you. At the deepest expression, shoulders will be stacked over elbows with palms down and hands pointing forward. Keep shoulders “down” (avoid sinking shoulders towards ears) and keep chest “open”. Look forward, keeping spine long and breathe. Hold for up to 2 minutes, as long as integrity of posture can be maintained in the upper body and low back does not experience compression.

“Hands-Up Stretch”

When we are rounding forward and/ or looking down at our screens, certain postural patterns emerge. Typically we see a weakening of the upper back and front neck and a tightening of the chest and back neck. The “hands- up stretch” is a gentle way to take pressure off the areas working hard to keep you head up while opening the chest.

Lay on Floor with lower legs supported on stool or chair (hips & knees 90deg)

Head should be neutral so chin is not tucked or pointing to ceiling. You may need a pillow or support under your neck as long as it is not pushing your head forward (since this is what we are trying to reverse). If you do use a support, try using less after you’ve been doing this stretch a few times as you may not need as much.

Option 1: Arms lay flat on floor at 45 deg from side of body, palms up and shoulder blades tucked under and away from your ears.

Option 2: If no stretch is experienced across your chest in option 1, lay as above but with arms in the shape of a football goal post (straight out from shoulders, elbows at 90, palms up and ideally flush with the floor. Avoid joint strain and support your arms as needed until you can relax in that position flat on the floor for the full time. Hold for 10-20 min.

The little things we do on a daily basis can make a big difference. No two people are the same and no one strategy is the solution. Posture is something we can maintain and improve upon but it takes time and practice.

Clear the Clutter

I find that when I’m mentally cluttered (frazzled, overwhelmed, disorganized), my environment (my car, office, home, even my wallet and desktop) often reflects the mess. I’ve wondered if it’s the chicken or the egg…does the mess in my space create the mental clutter or is it the other way around? I’m guessing a little bit of both. What I do know is that the physical clutter is something I can take care of and at times can be easier to take action on. As I find order in my physical world, my mental world calms too.

Handstand.jpg

As we create systems in our lives from paying bills to meal planning to avoid the after work stress of figuring out dinner, we can find more sustainable order. No one size fits all, but slowly, I’m finding my groove with what works for me. As my physical world is finding more order (thanks to coaching, trial-and-error, reading, podcasts, you name it!) I’m noticing that intentional mental strategies are finding a place in my daily life. It is and will continue to be a work in progress, but so far it is creating a much gentler start to my day so that I am able to show up at my best, grounded and clear for my patients, colleagues, family and friends.

So my challenge to you…

  1. Where is clutter showing up in your life? Mentally? Physically?

  2. Start by cleaning ONE area up.

    Is your computer desktop littered with files you will “get to tomorrow”? If so clear it. Create folders of urgency, importance or those to look at on a “rainy day”. Delete redundant files and empty the trash can. Create a system so that every file you save has a home, action step or its gone.

    Do you have a hard time remembering to do a list of home exercises from your Physio or Chiropractor so instead of doing some, you do none and then stress about not doing them? Pick one. Commit to doing one when you brush your teeth or set your alarm before going to bed. You will make more progress doing a little than none at all, and you will reduce some of the “shoulds” in the list of things you have to do in a day.

  3. As your physical world becomes less chaotic, how do you feel? How does it feel turning on your computer and having a clear screen, or a concise folder of things that require your attention rather than splitting it/ distracting it among noise? How does it feel getting into a car that smells good and is clean? How does it feel knowing where that favourite shirt is when you get that unexpected invite out for drinks?

  4. Once your physical spaces are in order (or before, if it feels right) take a minimum of 5 minutes a day to declutter your mind. Focus on breath, stare at the clouds, centre yourself in gratitude or a greater intention for the day.

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.”
Albert Einstein

Waiting for Perfection

fullsizeoutput_1a2b.jpeg

It’s not hard to see that my blog writing has taken a back burner. I’m one who is full of ideas but when it comes to sitting down and articulating them in a coherent way I blank. To be honest I probably have about fifteen blog posts started, all of which go unposted because they aren’t “perfect”. They don’t flow or I wonder if its a topic that people will actually be interested in. Each week I push “write blog” into the next day, telling myself that “today is the day”. Well, today actually IS the day and I am committing to an improved blog contribution, to post things that I find interesting, hoping to resonate with those choosing to read it. I am going to post them even if they aren’t perfectly worded or are shorter than I’d like.

I’ve been reflecting on things I follow-through on, what unfinished business causes me stress, and where I’m being incongruent. I encourage my practice members all the time that it doesn’t have to look perfect to produce progress. Something is most often better than nothing. Of course in those circumstances I’m usually referring to healthy eating, stretching/ strengthening or overall physical activity, but doesn’t this apply to anything we are working to achieve? If I had written a page a day for the past year I would have 365 days of content. Small incremental (sustainable) steps are just as powerful (sometimes more) than a giant leap of commitment.

What things have you been “putting off” or procrastinating on? Is it no longer a goal? If so maybe let yourself off the hook and rewrite your next step. Is it because you are waiting for circumstances to be perfect or for it to be easy? If so, give yourself a firm deadline and a small incremental step to take. Once you start you will find that the hardest step to take is the first one.

A few of my Favourite Things

Last year around this time I picked up a book called the Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris. The book is phenomenal, sharing a series of 100 interviews with high achievers (some known to me, some not). Each interviewee was asked the same questions, and a selection of answers from each person were published. One of the questions asked was “what purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?” This question prompted me to think about my own answer to this question. Below I share some purchases that brought the most ease to my life and has had the biggest impact.

 
  • I mention this to many people, particularly as the days get shorter and darker. The Philips Sun Alarm Clock not only wakes you with a gentle increase of “daylight”, but the audio alarm also increases slowly as to not wake you with a startle. I found when using this for a period of time, my internal wake cycle adjusted and I found it easier to get out of bed even on those cold, dark mornings where it is much easier to stay cozy in bed.

 
rumina.jpg
  • Rumina Natural’s Totally Tallow. I am lucky enough to work with one of the brains behind the amazing Rumina line. One particular product produced is “Totally Tallow”, a clean multi-purpose moisturizer. I had heard great things about this product for months and it was only this past month I decided to give it a try and I quickly fell in love. The Fall and Winter months here in Calgary are very dry and I have struggled to find a product over the years that offers moisture without being waxy, greasy or too heavy. Warming the product in your hands allows it to apply smoothly and leaves skin feeling soft. It smells great too! *Apply discount code drkaren10 to receive 10% off your order!

 
podcast.jpg
  • Podcasts! I was trying to pick just one to put here but I couldn’t choose, so below I list my favourites at the moment. I started listening to podcasts 5 years ago when I had a long commute to work. I was tired of listening to the radio, and was lucky enough to come across “The School of Greatness”. From there I’ve listened to a variety of other uplifting podcasts offering perspective on everything from business, life, goals, relationships, health to finances. The best part? Its free. You can download them to your phone when in wifi so you can listen on-the-road and save on data. The information we feed ourselves is just as (if not more) important than the food we eat. Choose wisely, and expand what you know. Seeing the world through another point of view can be eye-opening and may just offer a simple solution to a problem you’ve been facing. Of course, sometimes I just crave entertainment and something less introspective and there are podcasts for that too! In addition to Lewis Howes’ podcast above, Some of my regularly played podcasts include: The Ed Mylett Show (growth, business, mindset), Oprah’s Masterclass (life, overcoming failure, growth), Heavyweight (life, regret, righting wrongs, undone and unsaid, revisiting the past, entertaining), Without Fail (life, reality, failure and success, entertaining).

 
H20-Audio-Waterproof-Headphones-and-Case.jpg
  • I used to run as an outlet. It was my activity of choice and it had few barriers to get out the door. All I needed was a pair of shoes. Over the years, my pull to run has been replaced with a desire to swim. Sometimes my motivation to get to the pool is the hot tub soak afterward, sometimes its the meditation that comes with the swim itself. other times though (and here comes an item that was worth every penny), it is a new playlist on my underwater mp3 player. There are far more sleek versions that I see out now, but I actually purchased this a few years ago and it has been great. It holds my ipod nano and slides onto my goggles strap without being overly bulky. Music has always been a staple in my life, and has the power to change your state in tremendous ways. If you swim and struggle to stay motivated or get bored with lanes, I encourage you to order some underwater tunes.

 
2019-Planner-Blk2.jpg
  • Through the years I have gone back and forth between digital and good old fashioned paper planning. I think I have found my happy medium, with keeping all things needing a reminder, or simple daily tasks I need to get done and can’t forget in my phone (i.e. bills, appointments, etc) and the big goals, and long-term to-do’s in a paper daytimer (i.e. work tasks, long term plans, etc). Last year I found the daytimer to rule all daytimers (for me anyway) and even better, it was made by a local Calgary company. I’m talking about Wrinkle and Crease and their yearly planner. With ample space for weekly planning, monthly snapshots and lots of space in the back for collecting ideas and jotting down info you want to keep nearby. I have yet to pick up my planner for 2019 yet, but I will be ASAP because I love love love this one!

 
  • Last and certainly not least, another Calgary-based company The Gut Lab and their superfood shakers! I have only tried a couple and am so pumped to try more of their product, but I was blown away by the flavour of the Super Q shaker. Plus I loved the name…super…Q? You know, because my last name starts with Q? Anyway, this one had an amazing BBQ flavour and paired perfectly over popcorn. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a popcorn nut, and after trying this product, this will be a new staple for me. Most importantly, their products contain “sustainably sourced natural ingredients, no sweeteners, preservatives, fillers or artificial flavours”. Cheers to that!

 

There you have it! A snapshot to some of my favourite things that keep me moving, motivated and organized. Here’s to a strong end to 2018 and a fresh start to continue the momentum!

Staying Active in Colder Snowier Months

If you are reading this in my hometown of Calgary right now, you are aware that we have received a way-too-early dose of winter. As the days get shorter, commutes get longer and temperature chills it can sometimes be hard to stick with any healthy routine. We begin craving heavier comfort foods and its easier to hit snooze and stay tucked into your warm bed then jump up to get out the door for a morning workout. It is during these hard, “I will tomorrow” days that we MUST push through and do it anyway. But how? It depends on your barrier.

“I’m just not motivated”

  • Find a list of indoor activities you LOVE to do. It may still be hard to get there but you know once you are there you won’t regret it. If not for the activity, for the community of people you will get to share an hour with. If you do well with intensity early in the morning, an indoor spin class can be great, or an indoor circuit such as “orange theory”.

  • Agree to meet a colleague or friend. Sadly we can easily let ourselves down but its much harder to justify if someone else is counting on you to show up.

  • Switch-it-up! If you are usually a high intensity person with your activities, maybe try a yoga class or go for a swim instead. Changing the pace may be what you need.

  • Download a playlist you only listen to at the gym. I do this through spotify and have a variety of playlists from acoustic chill, jazz, to more upbeat hip hop or dance. Hearing that favourite tune from 1994 can sometimes give a much needed boost

  • Listen to a podcast. This is also great for the commute TO the gym. Feeding your mindset with something constructive and positive can change your physiology before you even break a sweat.

“I can’t afford a membership to those fancy studios”

  • Make a home plan! Central Athlete is a great resource for a variety of exercises if you are strength training, but there are a variety of yoga classes on youtube, or membership sites that offer free or discounted intros you can try.

  • Many studios offer intro offers. Try a few and see what community and type of class pulls you the most!

  • Often studios will also have options to volunteer in exchange for a pass. Spare 3 hours a week for unlimited access. Sweet deal.

“I don’t have time”

  • We make time for what is important to us. Perhaps that Zumba class isn’t important to you, but the self worth you build by keeping agreements with yourself could be, or the tone and energy you gain along the way. Find the goal or intention that anchors you most and review as often as needed.

  • Set yourself up for success by preparing lunches, wardrobes and your gym stuff the night before, so getting out the door has fewer hurdles.

  • It does not have to be “all or nothing”. Sometimes the commute takes longer than expected and you’re cutting it close to get to a meeting on time. If you are unable to complete that workout as planned due to time, you have two options. Either condense it and put in 15-20 min of intervals or plan an extra workout that week so if one is missed or dropped you have your core plan still in place.

What will have greater affect on you? Action or non-action? Know what barriers tend to arise that keep you from moving (or following through with any of your healthy habits) and find options to overcome. The one work-out or one plate of vegetables isn’t what builds health just as the one missed workout or one fast food meal isn’t going to create disease. It is what we do consistently that matters most.