Keeping active during a global pandemic is difficult enough already. Doing so while working and schooling from home is a totally new challenge for all people over the last year.

Mary Beth Ackerman, CEO of PhysioCare Physical Therapy, shared a few tips for working under these unique conditions during a virtual Duvall Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday, Feb. 4. 

“Make sure you take time to focus on your posture,” Ackerman said. “Take breaks to make sure you're stretching out your neck and shoulders, rather than sitting at your desk the whole time.” 

She said most people working from home are using laptops, which are not ergonomic. It’s essential to adjust workstations so that the computer monitor sits at eye level, she noted. 

When working from home, she added, people tend to stay in one place a lot more. Ackerman emphasized the importance of getting up to move and stretch throughout the day, even if just walking up and down the stairs. She said people should be moving for at least 30 to 40 minutes per day to improve cardiovascular and immune system health.

“Make sure your exercise is fun and meaningful to help reduce your stress,” she said. “Find something you enjoy and stick with it, whether it's biking or hiking.” 

Ackerman encourages people not to underestimate the power of sleep for stress relief and overall well-being. She said eating a balanced diet and hydrating often will also contribute to effective self-care. 

Make self-care a daily practice, she noted. For some, that means taking a bubble bath. For others, it’s getting outside and going on a hike. 

“It's crazy with kids and businesses and spouses,” she said. “But you are just as important as everyone else around you, and so make sure you take care of yourself to help reduce stress.” 

Randee Young, a certified laughter yoga teacher at LaughterGlow in Duvall, also shared some tricks for breathing and meditation during the Thursday meeting. She is trained to lead laughter sessions for social clubs, corporate organizations, seniors and schoolchildren. 

According to Young, the basis of laughter yoga combines deep breathing and laughter to increase oxygen in the brain and body. She said laughter releases “happy endorphins” to make people feel energized. 

“The brain does not know the difference between exercised or fake laughter and genuine laughter,” she said. “So, even if you have to fake your laughter, it's okay. The brain is still going to recognize that you're doing it, and it's going to release all these happy endorphins.”

Young said poor breathing can impact the body is many negative ways, such as health disease, inflammation, immune dysfunction, depression, anxiety, headaches and much more. On the flip side, she added, the benefits of good breathing include reduction in blood pressure and stress, strengthening of the abdominal and intestinal muscles, and overall relief of general body aches and pains. Deep breathing can also promote healthy sleep, better blood flow and release toxins from the body.

“The secret to good breathing is breathing out twice as long as you breathe in, and to do it often,” Young said. “A great way to do this is with synchronized breathing. This is a counting and breathing exercise that will help you regulate your breath, and at the same time will calm your mind, and help you feel more relaxed.”

To practice synchronized breathing, take a breath in through the nose for a count of three. Hold that breathe for another count of three. Then, blow out through the mouth for a count of six. Continue the routine again and again to maintain a rhythm. Young said this can be done while driving to the grocery store or trying to fall asleep at night.

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