Dealing With Roadblocks
A big thank you to Izzy Begej, a Licensed Rehabilitation Massage and Bodywork Therapist in the Triangle, for writing a two-part blog on ways to beat mental and physical fatigue.
There are two ways we talk about stress. First is a label of where it came from: “I am stressed because of _____.” If there is a second statement, it refers to where it resides in your body: “I hold all my stress in my ______.” Because of this language, the way that we assume that we must adapt to stress is by working on the external situation. In reality, we want to address both physical and cognitive burdens, but we don’t start from the outside. Long-term sustainable change is from the inside out.
Stress took up residence in our fascia before we cognitively noticed or labeled what was going on in our environment. We know this because all stimuli that we receive from our senses are first routed through the limbic system (reptilian brain). The limbic system only cares about how to keep us alive and out of danger. Without the ability for language or labeling, it diligently puts our experiences into large “look-alike” bins where it stores thoughts, feelings, and emotions throughout the body.
What can we do about this? We start by releasing stress from our physical bodies. AFTER that, we can manage cognitive load (and overload) by looking at tactics of reducing mental fatigue. Let’s dig into these two roadblocks and how to address them.
Roadblock: Physical Pain
One of the main detractors from work and life is physical pain. It is derailing in the moment, and often challenging to navigate how to get rid of it. We understand pain as one of the last symptoms of dysfunction, so it becomes our responsibility to prevent muscular imbalances as a part of our daily workflow in order to feel better more of the time.
Prevention and Rehabilitation Practices for Posture
When addressing potential pains that we might have throughout the day, we can start with posture.
In the first exercise, we can set ourselves up for success by making sure each of our joints is in line based on its relative location stacked in the body. When sitting, that means: head sitting on top of the spine and over the center of gravity, shoulders stacked above hips, elbows above wrists, hips higher than your knees, and knees stacked over ankles.
Maybe you just read that list and thought “I’m going to spend more time thinking about my posture than working!” You’re not alone. I thought that when I first learned about the Alexander Technique. What I found was that the reason I would break from my workflow to notice my posture was the distinct lack of discomfort. (Full disclosure, I’m not an Alexander Technique Practitioner, but a curious student.)
How To: Movement During Breaks and Micro-breaks
Breaks A 50 minute work / 10 minute break is a pretty useful model to pair with our movement exercises, based on how our brains most effectively encode data. (Your timing might be slightly different, but typically we see less productivity in blocks longer than 90 minutes.).
Micro breaks Are defined as 30 seconds to one minute, every 20-30 minutes.When you’re sitting, there has also been research into micro-breaks and movements that support us musculoskeletally. Readjusting during your workday has been shown to decrease upper body muscular adhesions and pain over six weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice to have less pain between your scapulas or in your neck in a few weeks? 
Roadblock: Mental Fatigue
Another component of breaks is they allow us the space to switch directions. Say you have three projects: in order to maintain clarity on all of them, alternating throughout the day gives your brain a break and allows more mental flexibility around challenges that you might have faced when you return to the project.
How to: Reduce Mental Fatigue
As noted above, the breathing exercise can be a really helpful tool for focusing. I would recommend trying it before and after you take your movement breaks to disconnect from work and then reconnect and feel ready to work again.
You can also be more creative in your work if you switch between distinctly different tasks to avoid retroactive and proactive interference during brain encoding/processing. When two tasks are similar, we are less likely to be able to come up with different and creative ways of addressing problems because the mind sees the tasks as being the same. Information can also be lost in our encoding process that might be determining features of one project over others.
You might not be inclined to switch your project every hour, but if you can focus on mapping out your objectives in small increments within your 9-to-5 schedule, achieving mental and physical balance is easier than you think.
Izzy Begej is a Licensed Rehabilitation Massage and Bodywork Therapist in the Triangle. During COVID-19, she launched phase two of her dream and created the Resilience Coaching Space. RCS is a virtual platform built to support folks writing their empowerment journey; navigating change and adversity; and building resilience. RCS is focused on building a future that is individually and globally sustainable. Connect with Izzy on Social: