Work Happy Tip – Alarm Stretch

cell-phoneI caught myself deep in work, hunched over my keyboard. I must have been working for four hours straight, with just one bathroom break and one tea break.

I was so in the zone that I didn’t realize that my back was killing me. I stretched out my neck and back, but it was too late. My back was throbbing.

The more I stretched and brought awareness to the pain, the more it ached. It was a catch 22 of pain.

I told myself that I was going to stretch every two hours.

Yeah, that worked really well. I just went back to my same old routine. So I decided to set my cell phone alarm for 10:30 am and 3 pm.

Worked like a charm.

Every time my alarm went off I took a little break, gave myself some attention and felt much better.

You may work in close quarters with some co-workers, but who cares. Actually, try to get them to join in with you. Make it a way to give back to your co-workers. See if they will take 5 minutes to stretch with you. You’ll be bonding and at the same time making them feel better.

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Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation wrote a cool post called How to get your mojo back. It’s worth your time.

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Image courtesy of Katie@!

13 thoughts on “Work Happy Tip – Alarm Stretch”

  1. Karl, that’s such a great idea. Even for people who work at home — it’s so easy to get caught up in the zone, as you said, and boy the body does NOT like that!
    Thanks for this tip! I think I can set my Mac to alarm me (?) every couple hours.

  2. This is a fantastic idea Karl, and one that I very, very much recommend. Having transitioned to working at a desk and on the computer sometimes all day, if I let it…or am just so passionately enthralled with what I am doing like you, I know it doesn’t feel good at the end of the day.

    So the cell phone alarm is great, what my husband put on his computer is a program called “Time Out” (it is for Macs, but there are ones like that for Windows too)- so we both enjoy the benefits of it, since we work beside each other :)Mind you since it is on his computer, I am not as diligent with it yet as he is…

    You program when you want to be alerted to take a “time out” and for how long, how often, etc. There is even an option where you cannot skip it, so it forces you to do something as it makes your computer unavailable. We try to have a 30 second break at least once an hour to rest the eyes, and a 15min break once every 2 hours (this is not including bathroom & food breaks).

  3. Hi Karl,

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that we should take a two minute break to stretch and breathe every hour! That might seem like a lot, but it’s a smaller price to pay than the errors–to say nothing of the aches, pains & twinges–that can arise out of not taking enough short breaks. It might also be good to try and balance “being in the zone/flow” with being mindful of things like posture, breathing, or subtle twinges that might be trying to let us know it’s time to at least shift our position a bit. It’s also very important to make sure that the work space is ergonomically correct or it can really cause a lot of muscle aches and pains, exacerbate or contribute to repetitive strain injuries, etc.

    Humans just weren’t made to be sedentary for hours on end, and our bodies let us know it and tell us when we’re doing things that are contrary to our well-being. I do wonder if in these days of economic restraints and tight job markets, people may fall into the trap of thinking that working really hard will keep their job secure, so they don’t want to be seen “slacking off” for even a minute. I get that a sense of scarcity and fear can put us into that mind frame, but I’d suggest that health and well-being have to come first: If you don’t have those, you can’t work effectively or feel particularly happy while doing the work.

    To those of you in the U.S., have a happy thanksgiving tomorrow.

  4. Thanks for this Karl — I think just remembering at work that you’ve got a body and it has wants and needs is a great step toward reducing stress, and it sounds to me like this exercise is a great way to get into that mindset.

  5. Hey Karl,
    I really like this idea!! So true about how we can get caught up in what we are doing, and not listen to what our body may be needing.

  6. Hi Megan, Mac alarms seem like a good tool too. Too bad I mostly use a PC.

    Hi Evita, That’s cool. The computer shuts down and makes you take a break. I love the ideas that Apple implements.

    Hi Sue, You make a great point. We feel the need to work so hard to prove ourselves, but we are doing more damage than good. We have to think about her health too.

    Hi Chris, Stress can overwhelm us if we aren’t careful. That’s why a good stretch helps keep our muscles and minds relaxed.

    Hi Lance, We just have to listen to our bodies before they scream. We have to meet them halfway when they are just at a whisper.

    Hi Nadia, No problem. Hope it makes you happier while working. 🙂

    Hi Vered, Working for too long of a stretch isn’t good for motivation. By just taking a short break you can actually work happier and more efficiently.

  7. Hi

    Great tip!
    You can also use a ringing phone as a reminder for something. For example, if the phone rings, you always bring yourself into the present or take 3 deep breaths.


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  10. this is a cool idea. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. I never thought about using the alarm clock to remind me to stretch.

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