Mann mit geschlossenen Augen für Entspannung im Homeoffice
30 April 2020

Concentration and relaxation when working from home – the 10 best tips

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Unlike computers, we humans need breaks to regenerate. Scientists have discovered that the human brain goes through different phases of performance. According to this, our attention dwindles after about 90 minutes and we experience a drop in performance. If we then continue to work, we make more mistakes and require more time. Ideally, we should take a break of 3 to 5 minutes every hour. However, shorter relaxation breaks are also sufficient to recharge and lower your stress level. We stay fit while working from home with the help of these 10 tips from health coach Johannes Lauterbach.

1st tip: Tension and relaxation  

An idea taken from progressive muscle relaxation: we tense as many muscles in our body as possible, hold this tension for approx. 7 seconds, then let go again and feel the relaxation it triggers. We perceive the relaxation more clearly thanks to the previous tension. We can also tense and then release individual muscle groups, e.g. In the hands, arms or legs. Repeat several times.

2nd tip: Take long, deep breaths

We breathe in air as if through a straw with pursed lips – in doing so, we reach the deeper areas of our lungs and expand our chests. And when we exhale, we puff out our cheeks a little with the air and then let it slowly flow out through our relaxed lips: the lips slow down the air escaping from our mouths a bit and our lungs can relax. Repeat several times. And by the way: longer exhalation through the mouth always reduces stress.

3rd tip: Facial expressions are everything – smiling helps

People who laugh or smile regularly not only live healthier lives, they are also always able to free themselves from stress traps. Smiling causes a positive feedback effect between the facial muscles and the brain. The signal is: “I feel good”. Endorphins are emitted and we calm down. Studies show that even a fake smile is worthwhile. Similar to a real smile, it accelerates recovery after a stressful experience. But for it to work properly, we have to grin for 60 seconds.

4th tip: Relax your eyes

Working with a screen strains the eyes. The eye muscles become tense because of the rigid concentration. However, tired, burning eyes and headaches are easily preventable: sit down and relax; support your elbows on the desk; cover your closed eyes with your (warm) palms and concentrate on the darkness, which becomes deeper and deeper due to the relaxed state of your eyes. This allows our eyes to recover from the bright light.

5th tip: Get moving

Experts say that sitting is the new smoking. It is, therefore, important for our physical and mental well-being to occasionally stand up for a short while. For example, we can:

– make phone calls standing up
– do five squats before sending every email
– go and look out of the window
– stamp and kick with our feet for 5 seconds, then get up and enjoy a good stretch.

6th tip: Communication is everything, even with your own body

When we work, we often no longer perceive our needs. It is like we are in a tunnel. By focusing our attention on our bodies, we get can get ourselves out of the tunnel. For example, we can ask ourselves: Is my jaw tense? Can I feel my buttocks? Are my feet firmly on the ground? Where are my hands? How is my neck? How are my shoulders? If, during this “body talk”, we notice that our sitting posture is uncomfortable or our shoulders are raised, we can correct this and feel better immediately.

7th tip: See the world with different eyes

We have a tendency to see things that are difficult and unpleasant. Stress is inevitable. Positive things can only exist in our lives if we are consciously aware of them. So, let’s focus on the nice things in life and remember three to five things that were nice every night just before going to sleep. Maybe a difficult phone call went well, maybe it was a nice email, maybe lunch was particularly delicious, etc. We look at positive things again in retrospect, gratefully acknowledge them and fall asleep satisfied. We look for positive things much more consciously the next day. Appreciation always reinforces the positive things in our lives.

8th tip: Try out the Pomodoro technique

Anyone who has problems structuring a working from home schedule can try out the Pomodoro technique. The day is structured with short working hours and breaks. How it works:

1. Formulate the task.
2. Set an alarm clock for 25 minutes.
3. Work on the task until the alarm clock rings and tick off what has been achieved.
4. Take a break (5 minutes).
5. After doing this four times, take a longer break (15-20 minutes).

9th tip: “Mouse arm”

When our hands are bent over the keyboard or mouse for a long period of time, the muscles shorten and the tendons can become inflamed. We can prevent “mouse arm” by shaking our hands occasionally. The “Merkel diamond” (Angela Merkel’s typical hand gesture) is also effective. Simply position your hands in the “Merkel diamond” so that the fingers of each hand are spread and hold them in this position in front of your stomach for 10 seconds.

10th tip: Rituals at the end of the working day

The boundaries between professional and private life become blurred, especially when working from home. Even after work, we are mentally at work or even spend our evening in front of the computer. By establishing a ritual at the end of the working day, we leave any stress at the home office. For example, we can wash our coffee mug, tidy up the desk or wash our hands. This sends a signal to our brain: work is over!

Nobody is perfect – and that’s a good thing. Therefore, there will be days that are better and those that are worse when working from home. Some days are so packed that we supposedly don’t have time for a short relaxation exercise. On those days, we should take at least one deep, deliberate breath. Just one: inhale…exhale…and you can tell yourself: “I’m inhaling calm and exhaling anxiety.” Or: “I’m inhaling something important and exhaling something unimportant.” Or: “I’m inhaling a smile and exhaling a smile,” etc.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it turns into two, three, four or even five mindful breaths. 😉

You can find more tips for a relaxed way to work in the book “slowtime! Einfach mal anhalten”.

Titel-Photo © Andreas Riedel / Infobox-Photo © M. Lauterbach

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