Top 10 Tips for Stress-free geeks

To mark Stress Awareness Day tomorrow (4 November), a technologist at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), has revealed her Top 10 Tips to help technology geeks to deal with stress.

dr mc schraefel (lower case intentional), whose main research area is Human Computer Interaction (HCI), feels strongly that technologists and others who spend all day working at computers need to be aware of the negative effects that stress can have on their bodies and their capacity for productive work.

‘People who use technology intensively have a tendency to end up hunched over their computers,’ said schraefel. ‘Often without realising it they adopt a ‘threat response’, clenching all their muscles, which makes it difficult for them to unwind later.

‘My mission is to release technology geeks from this debilitating state by getting them to move, releasing “happy signals” throughout their body while they work.’

schraefel’s current research, which is being carried out with the support of a Senior Research Fellowship from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, involves designing information systems to support Quality of Life. In addition to drawing on expertise from neurology, human performance and wellbeing, schraefel has also completed nine health and fitness qualifications over the past 24 months in order to advance her research. She has also set up the iamgeekfit programme for ECS students, researchers and academics who want to get fit and healthy, and to stay that way.

Top 10 Tips for technology geeks to combat stress:

1. Keep moving
Moving is the best way to let our nervous system know that all is well.  Go for a walk, swing a kettle bell, move something frequently and regularly to keep a regular flow of ‘happy signals’ to the nervous system

2. Move as many joints as possible
The more joints we move, the more signals we send to the nervous system saying we’re fine.

Whether sitting or standing, keep the happy signals flowing by moving as many joints as frequently as possible.

3. Flex, extend and make circles
Move joints through as full a range of motions as possible. What we don’t move, we lose. Less mobility means fewer happy signals, fewer resources to dissipate stress.

4. Slow down your breathing
Breathe with attention; sighing and yawning are signs that breathing is not right, which increases stress signals.

5. Breathe from the belly
Move the diaphragm, the pump for the lymphatic system which filters toxins in the body

6. Breathe in through the nose
This warms and filters air entering the body and helps slow breathing, reducing stress

7. Breathe out in longer breaths
This builds up a better level of CO2 in the body, which is critical for wellbeing.

8. Sleep well
Good quality sleep at night keeps cortisol levels low, keeping stress down.  Starchy carbs like rice pudding four hours before you plan to sleep can help as your head hits the pillow

9. Avoid checking the time if you get up in the night
Trust your alarm clock to wake you; nothing can add a quick shot of stress in the middle of the night like thinking “I only have an hour left to sleep! I have to get to sleep”

10. Keep the room in which you sleep dark
Any light is a cue to wake up; turn that glowing clock to the wall and try to cover up any light leaks

‘Stress is a response on the part of the body to real or perceived threat,’ said dr schraefel. ‘These responses developed to help us thrive in far more physical cultures, so by doing some simple physical things we can provide the body (and especially the nervous system) with what *it* needs to feel safe.’

So, 10 tips but three simple concepts: let yourself move, breath and sleep well.

National Stress Awareness Day is organised annually by the International Stress Management Association. For further information, please visit:


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