When you are staring at the computer, running against a ticking clock (aka a deadline)—whether it’s for an article, screenplay draft, etc.—and all you want to do is get up and walk away, that is exactly what you should do.
Standing up and walking away from your work actually relaxes the body and calms you down.
Structurally, the body’s response to something unpleasant (a threat) is to curl up to protect itself. Think about how you would reaction if you think someone or something is going to hit you. You put your hands up to protect your face and head, slump your back a bit, and probably bend slightly at the knees and hips. Your body goes into flexion, when “survival mode” kicks in.
Along with the structural response, there is the systemic response: your heart rate goes up, your respiration (breathing) rate increases, and your blood pressure goes up. Among other things, it decreases blood flow to rational part of your brain—which is the exact opposite of what we want to have happen. While an overdue deadline isn’t the same as a physical threat, this response is left over from the caveman days—and the body isn’t smart enough to know the difference.
Now, think about the position your body is in while you are at the computer. Most likely you are sitting, so hip flexion, knee flexion, elbow and shoulder flexion, and, if you are slouching in your chair, spinal flexion. Sounds an awful like the structural survival response, doesn’t it?
So, now you are stressed by the deadline AND your body is in a position similar to the one we go in to during “survival mode”. By sitting at the computer and worrying about the deadline, your brain continues to think you are under some sort of threat, so it continues to release more of the hormones that decrease blood flow to the brain, and the problem gets worse.
By standing up and walking away, the body goes into extension, eliminating one of the “under siege” signals. It’s taking that reflex of sitting back in the chair and putting your arms overhead just one step further to actually change the body’s physical response to the deadline.
Just remember, you will still need to come back and finish your work. But when you sit back down, you will be much more focused and finish it considerably faster than if you had sat there the whole time.
Jen Waak is a Seattle-based movement coach who uses a system that combines eastern philosophy with western medicine to reprogram the nervous system and get people out of pain, moving better, and feeling younger. firstname.lastname@example.org
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