Working at a desk and on a computer is a necessity for working professionals. However, there are many negatives to working at a computer. You are likely familiar with the posture you often see people sitting in while working; back rounded and head forward. While at first, this posture may not cause issues, over time, it impacts your mental and physical health, including your ability to manage stress.
Improving mental and physical health, including stress management, is helpful for all individuals to feel better daily. However, it is particularly important in recovery. When you are recently out of treatment, finding ways to bolster your health will help you to remain sober. Working on your posture is an easy way to improve your mental and physical health and can even help you to improve your performance at work.
What Is Good Posture?
The most common image of good posture is of someone standing or sitting straight up tall and straight. While you may have had someone in your life tell you over and over to sit up straight, it can be hard to know what good posture means and feels like. Posture is both the position you sit or stand in and the way you move. It is the position in which you hold your body in. Posture is habitual. If you tended to cross your legs while sitting as a child, it is more likely you still do.
Good posture means that your body is balanced so that the muscles on all sides of the body are engaged and in their neutral position. In a standing position, this means having your foot parallel and under your hips, with your spine in a neutral position. When the spine is neutral, it makes an S shape so that you have a small curve or arch in your lower back and neck while you have a small curve the other way in your upper back.
While sitting in a balanced position, sit on your seat with your feet flat on the ground. Your spine will ideally remain in the same position, keeping a straight line from your hips to your shoulders and ears when looking from the side. From looking around the office, you likely notice a variety of postures that vary from this ideal position. This is because it is hard to maintain this position while sitting. However, with practice, you can change the habit of how you sit and stand at work.
Effect of Posture on Mental Health
Learning to sit and move in a more balanced position takes time and effort, and it is normal to wonder if it’s worth it. While difficult, the benefits of improved posture for mental health make it worthwhile. It can help you to improve stress management, decrease depression symptoms, and improve self-esteem.
As a working professional, you are likely to experience stress in the workplace. Whether it is a disagreement with co-workers or a looming deadline, stress is a normal part of life and working as a professional. Decreasing stress can also be helpful. However, another tool is to become more resilient to stress. There are many ways to improve your stress resistance, and one of them is posture.
At first glance, it may seem like stress and posture have little to do with each other. However, the way that you sit and move considerably impacts your mental health and how you feel. Consider days when you are feeling your best. You are more likely to lift your head high and stand tall. However, when you are having a hard day you are more likely to want to curl up or slouch over. Your posture is impacted by how you feel and can influence how you feel.
Published in 2014, a research study investigated how slumped, and upright postures impact stress response. They found that those with more upright postures were better able to manage their reactions in stressful situations, finding them more resilient to stressors. While more research is needed to fully understand the link, their findings indicate that how you sit and stand while in the office changes how you deal with the stress you experience.
Posture can also be related to depression. Research has found that there is an association between depression and workplace posture. More specifically, head forward, slumped upper back, rounded shoulders, and low rounded back are more commonly found in those struggling with depression. While the association is clear, more research is needed to understand the causality and how adjusting posture can help depression symptoms.
Many individuals struggle with both addiction and mental health disorders, including depression or major depressive disorder. Part of treatment and recovery is to manage both. Posture can help you to do so. By improving posture and decreasing depressive symptoms, you are helping to decrease your risk of relapse. This is because depression and addiction commonly make each other worse. Symptoms of depression can trigger cravings for drugs and alcohol, as in the past substances may have been your method to self-medicate.
Effect of Posture on Physical Stress and Pain
The posture in which you work also impacts how you feel physically. Working at a desk for eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week, means a large amount of time sitting. If the position that you sit in causes stress on a part of the body, it is easy to see how it can add up quickly.
After weeks, months, or years in a slouched position, your muscles will get sore and even pull on joints. In some cases, the cushioning between the vertebra in the spine may even get squished and cause pain anywhere in your back or neck. These issues result from a range of causes. However, sitting and standing with poor posture created imbalances that cause or worsen pain in the muscles and joints.
Overall, these effects range for each person. However, research has found that corrections of posture can help. By improving posture while seated, you can regain balance in your body. This helps to decrease back and neck pain that has resulted from poor posture. The solution for pain that has resulted from poor posture will vary for each person. However, improving your posture is a great place to start.
Improving Your Posture
Like many habits, sitting and standing with better posture is easy to say and much harder to do. However, with time and practice, you can change how you sit, stand, and move. The first step is to improve your awareness. There are many ways you can do this. For some, it might help to set an alarm to go off regularly as you work on your computer to check in with yourself and notice how you are sitting. However, taking quick notes or making regular mental notes is also an option.
Once you have learned what positions you tend to sit or stand in, you can start to make changes. For example, let’s say your habit is to lean forward with your face up close to your computer, rounding through your entire spine. The change you might try to make is to sit up so your back is flat against your chair, scooting your chair forward so that you can still reach your keyboard.
Remember that posture is a habit. The more you practice and fix your posture, the easier it will get to maintain it. However, it also takes strength to hold good posture. It is ok if you feel tired after sitting or standing with improved positions. Over time, you will get stronger and more able to hold yourself in these positions without as much effort.
While practice and building habits are necessary to improve your posture, the setup of your desk is also important. Ideally, your computer will be set at eye height with the screen zoomed in enough that you can see it clearly and work without having to lean in close. The best chair position is going to be close to your desk, so you do not have to reach out to type. Finally, your feet will be flat on the ground in front of your chain. This position allows your body to sit balanced and neutral. It can make it easier to maintain posture and help you to refind it if you find yourself back in your habitual slouch.
Value of Managing Health and Stress in Recovery
When you are newly out of treatment, it is difficult. You are reentering your life, but it is not the same. Staying sober requires making many adjustments. This includes learning what causes cravings and how to deal with these situations. To be successful in recovery, you will need to develop a high level of self-care that involves managing your mental and physical health.
Triggers are external or internal events or feelings that cause you to feel cravings for drugs or alcohol. Part of recovery is learning how to manage triggers. While each individual will have unique triggers, stress is a very common one. When you feel stressed at home or in the workplace, it is possible that drugs or alcohol may have been your coping mechanism in the past. However, in recovery, you need new ways to deal with it.
In moments of stress, your posture may be the furthest thing from the front of your mind. However, working on your posture during this moment and throughout your day will help you to improve your ability to deal with stress. By sitting up straighter, you will feel better physically. However, you will also be more capable of dealing with whatever stressors arise. There will always be stress, but if you have practiced habits that give you more resistance to it, you can deal with it before it is triggering.
It is important to remember that each individual will build unique skills to manage triggers. In treatment, you begin to learn about yourself and will continue to do so when you reenter your life after treatment. Working on posture is one tool that is easy to integrate into your day. Successful recovery takes a combination of tools that you can choose to use when they are helpful for you.
Many individuals who struggle with addiction and mental health disorders commonly need to improve their self-care skills. Self-care has a broad scope but includes caring for your needs. These needs can be emotional, physical, or spiritual. Caring for your needs is unique to you in terms of what your needs are and the best way to meet them.
Learning to care for your needs is a skill that is commonly addressed in addiction and mental health treatment. The process begins in treatment as you learn about what you need and how you can help yourself. In recovery, you will utilize these skills daily, and they will become a part of your daily life. In doing so, you are helping to manage your risk of relapse while you help yourself to feel better.
Improving your posture is one way to improve your self-care. Your posture affects both your mental and physical health. By improving your posture, you will feel better physically, be more resilient to stress, and have fewer depressive symptoms. Therefore, it is a tool that you can use for your self-care. Posture, like other forms of self-care, takes practice. However, the more you practice, the easier it gets.
Getting back to your normal daily routine after treatment can feel great. However, your life changes after treatment. As you begin to build a life where you can stay sober, you will need to build tools and habits that support your recovery. Posture is a simple and easy thing that you can practice and work on daily. By improving your posture, you can improve your ability to manage stress while helping your mental and physical health. At Pacific Sands Recovery, we support working professionals in building tools that help them to remain sober. Our programs are uniquely designed for working professionals to learn the skills necessary to be successful in recovery. To learn more, call (949) 426-7962 today.