Healthy habits while working at a computer

I know what it’s like being a business owner, you’re sitting for hours at your desk editing / admin-ning / working away on your business, hacking away at the never-ending list. Having a sore neck, back and shoulders (and everything else in between) doesn’t need to be a given when working from your computer. I know from experience on running a full-time online business that self-care is important and gets pushed down the priority list *if only you could just send those final 10 emails already*. Phew.

I originally wrote this way back in 2017 (how is that 7 years ago?!), but it’s become a lot less ‘drink more water’ and a lot more ‘this is what I actually do’. So, here we are, we have 17 ways to take care of yourself when you work at a computer….

1. Unhunch those shoulders

I see you with your hunched-up shoulders. Release! Do you ever go into one of those work-time-warps and look up from your computer screen 5 hours later? Setting a timer on your phone can be a great solution, even if that mini-break only means putting the kettle on, you’re still encouraging yourself to get up from the screen for a few moments, move around and think about something else.

2. Tidy space, tidy(er) mind

I now have a little reminder in my task list on a weekly basis to clean and tidy my desk. Yes, it will get messy. But actually tidying your desk can help free up your creative juices. And don’t we all want more of that? This goes for tidying up your digital desktop too. Close down those tabs that you’ve had open for 7 years. Tidy up the files on your desktop. If you have files you’ve downloaded for free that you still haven’t read, now’s the time to delete them. YES I SAID IT.

3. Unfollow a-plenty

We all doomscroll on social media, whether we like to admit it or not. But you have full permission to unfollow people who don’t make you feel good about yourself and your business. It will massively help cut down on that comparisonitis.

4. Reach out for support

I know the entrepreneur thing is to be proud to go it alone, but I do strongly recommend spending time investing in your connections both online and in real life. Seeking out community, like the one I’m proud to have built with Visible Vibes, and sharing what’s going on for you so you can receive help, feels radical and not at all what we have been told is OK to do. We aren’t designed to try and exist on our own, and you don’t need to. 

5. Cut down on the caffeine

I love drinking tea, but I do not love how it makes me feel if I drink too much caffeine, particularly after lunch. Over the last few years, I’ve been switching over to decaf after lunch and I tell you, it really can make a huge difference to your concentration and energy levels.

6. Starting the day with gratitude

Every day I have a Google Doc where I write 3 things I’m grateful for, 3 things I’m looking forward to, 1 high of the last day and 1 low of the last day. They can be tiny little things (especially if I’m in a bad mood) but they always help start the day off kindly. I highly recommend it! 2023 update: I stopped doing this in September and let me tell you, IT SHOWS. I have a way more refreshed outlook on my day when I do this!

7. Writing a Ta-Da list every day

Call it an ‘end of day review’ or for me a Ta-Da list, where writing what I DID get done that day instead of focusing on what I didn’t, massively helps my sense of perspective.

8. Getting a screen that’s the right height for you.

Do you find yourself slumping over or rounding your shoulders when you work? I had the worst posture but when I had a laptop as my main computer, I used this laptop stand to prop up my laptop. It stopped my neck being at such an awkward angle, highly recommend it! I found it so supportive once I got a laptop stand for my work and I loved using it to achieve the correct height for my posture.

9. Sit in a way that supports your body

I used to berate myself for not sitting upright at my desk where I have a lovely chair at the right height but since realising I’m neurodivergent, my body needs more support to be comfortable. Thanks TikTok! For one thing, I started yoga this year which helps my posture. But another thing is to have more soft furnishings around me so I have plenty of cushions and pillows around me wherever I am sitting to work.

10. Your hands and eyes need looking after too

I was diagnosed with tennis elbow this year and I know it’s because of my screen use. I now do daily exercises to support my wrists and shoulders. I know this also shouldn’t be a revelation but I moisturise my hands more these days (call it my age?!) and the act of taking care of myself forces me to take a break as well of course. I was also given my first pair of prescription glasses this year and whilst I don’t need them for the computer just yet, it’s made me more aware of screenburn on my eyes and using eyedrops (I can’t use actual eye drops but I use an eye spray at night which is helpful).

11. Listening to chilled music whilst you work

Going back over the past annual versions of this blog, I have gone through phases of listening to Ibiza chillout tunes, classical film soundtracks, and best musicals soundtracks but now I’m very into ASMR, particularly Moonlight Cottage and also coffee shop jazz.

12. Leave the house every day

Confession: I go through phases of doing this, it’s definitely not a regular thing for me. We know the logic of something but sometimes you’re just too cosy, right? If you’re feeling like you need a breath, just do it! Go outside or open your windows and get some fresh air in your lungs. When anxiety, stress or tension comes up this can be a great way to just refresh. We love to do this, especially when it feels like you need to hurry and get something done, these can be the best times just to take a moment, and breathe.

13. Look out the window

I have my desk positioned so it gets plenty of natural light so I’m not straining my eyes, and also so that I can look out the window whenever I can, this helps to relax the eye, as by gazing into the sky you will relax the muscles that continue to strain while looking at the screen.

14. Go chat with someone in real life

I find that the best breaks can be catchups with friends. I’m lucky to live opposite a brilliant local pub where I’ve met some of my closest pals. I’ve also started co-working with friends who live nearby so we get to connect. Real life connections really do bring fresh air into the brain, perspective and sometimes even new ideas and solutions! It can be easy for us all to feel like there is always too much to do, but prioritising socialising is always a good plan.

15. Make time to switch off

Time off is just as valuable as time working. I experience a lot of anxiety and I’m also neurodivergent so trying to have too many noises on at once is overstimulating even at the best of times! Of course at the end of a busy day you want to sit and zone out to Netflix but what I’ve noticed really helps me is only having one screen at a time near me, so if I’m watching TV, I don’t scroll through my phone. If I’m on Instagram, I have the TV off. It’s a simple thing but it really helps my brain, my eyes and my mental health.

16. Try not to focus on being productive all.the.time

I cannot tell you how much time I have spent in my life learning what makes me more productive. It would seem that for quite some time I thought learning about being productive was being productive and so it went on and on in a vicious circle. I’ve now realised it’s not about how much you get done, it’s about WHAT you get done. Any one can be busy. It’s how we choose to show up and where we focus our time that’s important. My quiz on which kind of small business personality will help you see where you’re spending your time and what you can do about it.

I know as much as anyone how much our work days can feel like a complete time-crunch, however, it really does pay off to take a few moments throughout our day to just relax and prioritise our mental and physical health as well!

Do you have tips you’d add to the mix?

Maddy x

If you liked this, you may also like this:

Listen to my podcast

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On being kind to yourself

Maddy x
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Maddy Shine - Visibility Expert