Have you been slouching on the couch?

Our make-do office solutions

Many of us, used to working in a proper office, with a proper desk and a proper desk chair, have been working from home the last few months without any of those proper things. Some of us have set up a make-shift desk with any old chair or have been working on the dining room table.

Others have been sitting on the couch with our laptops heating up the cushions.

Mom’s not there to correct your posture, and we’ve been slouching.

Come on, you know it’s true. Your mom hasn’t been around to poke her finger into the middle of your back and tell you to sit up straight.

As a result, your back is killing you. We’ve talked before about some simple ways to correct your behavior to prevent back pain, and these tips will help if you fall off the wagon with that, too.

Help your back after slouching on the couch with these 5 tips

Aside from buying an entire office suite for your home (or following Bob Vila – from the vintage series “This Old House” and his suggestions), there are ways to help your back after slouching on the couch right away.

  1. Every twenty minutes to a half hour, take a break. Stand up. Walk around. Even march in place. Take a drink of water – that may not be for your back, but it is good for your general health and well-being.
head rolls to help your back after slouching on the couch
  1. Every hour or so, shrug your shoulders and roll them. Exaggerate the motion so that you feel it. If you can do it without your neck screaming at you, roll your head gently from side to side, up and down, and around. 
  1. Suck in your stomach as you sit up straight. All the time. It really does help to strengthen your core and your back.
  1. Your next break, sit up straight, suck your stomach in and hold your arms straight out to the side. Your core has to work that much harder to keep you upright.
  1. The break after that, stand up straight then roll down to reach toward your toes. It’s OK if you can’t reach them. Make sure you’re holding your stomach in for this entire exercise. Hold for just a few seconds then slowly roll up. One vertebra at a time. Breathe in as you roll up – if you’re prone to dizziness that will help. Stomach still sucked in? Good. Now breathe out and breathe in again. 

Go back to work.

Pull yourself out of the dumps

Some days are real downers. On those days, it’s easy to see how some may become chronically depressed. You’re so sad that even though you don’t drink to excess, a cocktail sounds mighty good. At 2:00 in the afternoon. Not even the sunshine can cheer you up. Your adorable dog doing something amazingly cute can only make your mouth turn up a little. You don’t see how you’ll ever be happy again. But it is possible to pull yourself out of the dumps.

I’m not a psychologist, so I can only use myself as an example. But I’m pretty average, so it works.

My personal trash heap – Time to pull myself out of the dumps

The pandemic is still running rampant, but fortunately vaccines have been approved and are available. But not widely available here. I’m lucky enough to live in a Village that has its own Health Department which has vaccine clinics available by appointment. However, the supply in my area is extremely limited and the demand far outstrips the supply. I’m so happy that most people in my area want to get vaccinated, but every time I learn by email that supply is available and try to make an appointment, they’re all gone. No appointments available at local pharmacies either. My friends have been vaccinated. My sister got her first dose. Even my 20-year-old neighbor got his. I know that I will probably have an opportunity soon, but in the meantime I’m sad and frustrated.

I hardly ever remember my dreams. But a couple of days ago I dreamed of my mom, who’s been gone for over 20 years. I miss her every day, so it was great seeing her. I woke up and tears started flowing. 

When I add my newer physical ailments to these things, I’m even more sad. Every so often my thumb joint hurts like crazy and it’s hard to hold things in my left hand. It’s good that I’m right-handed, but it’s still painful.

Wallow? Not me…

So yesterday I felt myself wallowing. I decided it was time to pull myself out of the dumps!

I started with some deep diaphragm breathing. Sitting straight, bring air in through your nose and let your diaphragm inflate. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds, then breathe out. 

Meditation is one step to pull yourself out of the dumps.

Then a little meditation. Just a couple of minutes. I use my own guided meditations. (I’m a fan of the water, so the River and Ocean ones are my favorites.) Eyes closed, seated comfortably – and not in the Lotus position. My knees don’t move that way.

A couple of shoulder rolls followed. It was my regular workout time, so I changed and chose a really sweaty routine. I’ve written about focus enough lately that you know I was completely into the workout. (http://fitness-over-50.com/2021/04/no-one-is-watching-so-just-do-it/ ) And it was done almost before I knew it. A nice warm shower made me feel almost human again. 

And while I can’t say that I was happy after all of that, I was definitely less sad.

So, it is possible to pull yourself out of the dumps. And trying these methods is certainly more appealing than wallowing in your own tears.

Get focused, get happier

Is your brain like a birdie flitting around a cloud?

Some days are lost causes. You feel scattered, your thoughts are all over creation, you’re not getting anything done, and you’re unsettled. That could be because a weather front is coming through. Your significant other told you a big whopper. Your dog threw up on the rug. And your loss of focus makes you feel guilty for not getting things done. And you’re not happy.

Then it stands to reason that if you regain your focus, you’ll be happier.

So, how exactly can you get focused and get happier?

Lists!

My Google Calendar with Google Keep helps me get focused and get happier.
A portion of my calendar, with Google Keep to the side. It helps me get focused and get happier.

I’m a big fan of lists. I have multiple lists in my Google Keep. (If you use Google Calendar, Google Keep works with it seamlessly, as you would expect. You’ll see a portion of my calendar here, with Notes. And, yes, I have the Chicago Cubs games on my calendar so I can listen to games when I can.) Lists for every aspect of my life. Of course, some aspects overlap, so as long as you check all your lists when you have time to actually do something, you won’t miss anything.

If you prefer actual written lists – even better. You can carry it with you and not worry about battery life. As long as you have a scrap of paper and a pen (or pencil), you’re good to go.

Now, list all the things running around in your mind. For this exercise, just the big ones. We’ll do a deep dive into all the things flitting around bugging your brain at another time. 

Tackle the big ones

Take a look at them. What’s most important? Do that. Then move onto the next. For however long you want to devote to this exercise.

Feel a sense of accomplishment?

Now, go sweat

And go exercise. Studies have shown that exercise improves clarity and focus. I’ve written about this before. Plus, when you’re done, you’ll have an incredible sense of satisfaction, having burned all those calories.

Or meditate. Or practice another mindfulness technique, like deep breathing.

You should be much more focused now. More able to face life. And that should definitely make you happier.

How do I motivate myself to work out?

You know that I don’t like to work out. I’ve said it before and I’ll most likely say it again. If I didn’t have to do it, I wouldn’t. So how do I motivate myself to work out?

I’ve talked about getting motivated before, about losing motivation, about getting motivated to start exercising, but I’ve been at this a while. What does it take to get me off the couch?

There are 3 things I think about when I need to get myself motivated:

1. It’ll be over before I know it.

How do I motivate myself to exercise when I don't want to

Once I start, I know that it’ll be over. 45 minutes is nothing. Some workouts are just 30 minutes. Once I push “play,” I let the instructor take over my brain. I release all thought and simply focus on the moves.

Unless the dogs get into it. Then I push “pause” and deal with them. Then I push “play” again.

The exercise programs I choose usually have very upbeat music, so it’s easy for me to get lost in the music and the movements and just concentrate on holding my stomach in, keeping my back straight, using the proper muscles – the workout itself.

2. If I don’t workout, then I’ll have to …

I know that I’ll feel guilty if I don’t work out, so I tell myself that if I don’t work out, I’ll have to do something that I don’t want to do even more. Like cleaning out the pantry. Or my desk. Something even lower on my list of things I don’t like to do.

In this case, exercising is the lesser of 2 evils. So I exercise.

3. That shower is going to feel so good!

The third thing I say when I want to motivate myself to work out is to promise myself a reward. Yes, that steamy shower with the fragrant body wash is a reward. It’s the incentive I give myself for getting as sweaty as possible. Any reward will do, but it’s a reward I give myself almost every day so I can’t go too crazy!

And that’s how I motivate myself to do something I really don’t want to do. Easy.

No one is watching

No one is watching – so just do it.

Judging at the health club

In the olden days – pre-pandemic, when gyms and health clubs were open and we could go to restaurants without thinking twice about it – if we joined a yoga or an aerobics or step class we might be self-conscious about how we looked. We were eager to burn calories or figure out that pose, but didn’t want anyone watching us. Years ago (before I discovered the joys of working out at home), I went to a health club or yoga studio. But when I joined a class, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious. I didn’t look as fit or as well put-together as the other women. So I shrank back, took a spot at the back of the room, and did everything I could so that no one would look at me. That was definitely not maximizing my workout time.

Nothing to see here

Do you feel the same way? “There’s nothing to see here. Just a middle-aged schlub getting a sweat on. Don’t look.” I was making sure that no one was looking at me rather than paying attention to the instructor and trying to improve my form or get the choreography right.

All in my head

Of course, no one was looking at me. Everyone else was probably feeling the same way, no matter how I perceived them. And yet it seemed that all the perfect bodies in front of me were eyeing me sidelong and judging. 

I knew I couldn’t be seen as confident or self-assured. No matter what I wore to the health club – whether it was shorts and a T-shirt or leggings and a yoga top – I was sure I looked frumpy and out of place.

Home workouts for me

No one was watching so I was able to focus and finally do the side plank star in my home workout area

Finally I realized that I wasn’t getting anything out of my health club membership and searched out ways of becoming fit at home. I set up a very small space for my workout area , bought a cheap set of free weights and invested in workout tapes. (Yes, VHS tapes at that time. I’ve moved on to DVDs now and pretty soon it will all be streaming.)

And I worked out in the basement. For the first time, no one else was around to criticize or judge. I could pay attention solely to what I was doing, and make sure that my form matched the instructor’s on the tape. I could focus on pushing myself while being safe. And being able to focus gave me the freedom to really get stronger and finally able to do the Side Plank Star (above).

And sometimes I put music on – really loud – and just move. No one else is around to see or make fun of my dopey dance moves. So I just move how I feel. And sing along. No one can hear just how bad I am.

Really focus!

At home no one else is watching (except for the dogs and they’re good at not judging), so I can really get the most out of my workouts. I can dress in a torn T-shirt and baggy shorts if I want to. Most importantly, though – I can really focus on what I’m doing.