Remote learning, Working form home & Being kind to yourself
Remote learning, working from home and being kind to yourself
By Mathew Richardson
As the second lock down rolls on and with the threat of stage 4 restrictions, Melbournian’s are waiting anxiously to see if the stage 3 restrictions will decrease the spread of the virus. With remote learning #2 due to start next week, another layer of stress for parents, students and teachers is added to the mix. During remote learning #1, tears were commonplace in the clinic and I was flooded with parents trying to juggle home schooling, working from home, financial worries and a lot of their coping strategies had been taken away. Our lives revolve around routine and habits in order to make us more efficient, but now we are attempting to juggle many balls in the air at the same time and trying to make sense of new ways of being; and this is exhausting. Patients were coming in with severe, disabling pain and in high levels of distress. If we look at this pain as being less about tissue damage and more about the body’s evaluation of threat (either perceived or actual) then this makes sense (click on this link for a short video on sensitivity and protection). Our body has a bias towards protection and if we are surrounded by threats, we are far more likely to have protective responses like stress, pain and muscle spasm. This is our body doing its best to keep us safe and protected, but what was designed to keep us safe, can end up being the problem itself.
A common question I ask patient is: “Before Covid, what were normal ways that you look after yourself?”. People often answer: yoga, gym, catch up with friends, bowls, meditation etc. A big part of what I do in the clinic is try to find ways for the client to get back into what they value and love, as this can be a great way to buffer the stress and pain responses. The activity may not look exactly the same as before, but we will try and capture as many of the values you hold dear and make you feel a little bit like you again. Allowing time to look after yourself and giving yourself space is important and don’t feel guilty about it. For me, personally, during this time, I have tried to increase the coping strategies that move me towards who I want to be. These strategies include meditation, mindfulness, education, fishing (lock down #2), running and helping others whilst decreasing the coping strategies that move me away, like alcohol. During this time, find ways to include coping strategies that make you feel more like you again, re-gaining control and prioritizing your wellbeing.
As well as juggling life, a lot of us are trying to work from home and we have lost a lot of incidental movement like walking to the train station, going to the toilet, social interactions and all the other movement we would normally do in our workplaces. Thus, stressing the importance of more movement into your day at home including large holistic motions and not just little stretches. Whether it is dancing around the kitchen, yoga or a 5 min walk, I don’t really care as long as you are moving. Power it up, combine it with something you love like music or your garden (don’t forget to smell the roses). Our body loves motion as it keep our tissues healthy, puts nice feedback through our systems and gets us out of the postures we have been stuck in for hours. So, let’s try and replace the incidental movement we have lost from our workplaces by trying to include more of these movement strategies into the day… set a timer and just do it.
Practitioners over the years have put a lot of emphasis on ergonomics in your workspace, but this is just one piece in the puzzle. If your body is already stressed and edgy and ready to protect you, then yes, the ergonomics of your workstation can play a role with pain and stiffness. However, it is also important to look at the other things you can change too, like more movement strategies, stress reduction, working less hours, adding breaks whilst including things you do to make you feel more like yourself again. By doing this, you might find that the ergonomics matter a little bit less.
Be kind to yourself during this challenging time and use coping strategies that move you towards what you value and who you want to be. Don’t feel guilty and show yourself some self-compassion, because it’s important to prioritize and look after you, so you can look after others. (click on this link to see a short video by the brilliant Russ Harris on face covid)
Triple peaks model, Butler Moseley, Explain Pain sec ed, Noigroup publications, 2012