The bodily curse of the knowledge worker

23 01 2010

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The turn-of-the-millennium business buzzword ‘knowledge-based economy’ sounds downright archaic  these days.  Except for the fact that we now actually live it, through every tweet and with every blog post.  Each of us has become a de facto knowledge worker, skimming cryptic 140 character updates or 1500-word articles for nuggets of wisdom that can propel ourselves, our work or our businesses to greater heights.

Deepak Chopra mentioned in a recent Youtube video that recent social media phenomena such as Twitter and Youtube are simply channels to exchange universal inter-connected energy and information.

It can’t be denied that we are spending increasing amounts of time and energy than ever before engaged in conversations, information or knowledge exchange and a more networked reality.

Which can get us in our heads.

And disengaged from our bodies.

It is vital that we continually bring our whole selves, and not just our knowledge worker brains, to the table each day.  As someone who spent years as an employed knowledge worker, there were times when I neglected or, worse, forgot that my body required as much TLC as my brain craved stimulation.

In Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk Do schools kill creativity?, he said ‘University professors…look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. It’s a way of getting their head to meetings.’  Taken to the extreme, we as knowledge workers could all end up like the humans in the movie Wall-E, cheerless immobile and atrophied bodies that rely on technology to ambulate.  Such is the potential curse of the knowledge worker.

I exaggerate, I know.  But how can we make more conscious decisions to start living from the neck down too?

This is not an easy thing to remember when you’re caught up in the daily pressures of managing a business, or you’re a recently unemployed person who’s busy worrying where the next paycheck is coming from.  Who has time for food, exercise or realizing that you haven’t left your seat for the last hour?  There’s one more email that must go out, one more job ad to reply to.

Beware the perils of an over-used brain.  Burnout is not a pretty sight and won’t do you, your family, your employees or your customers any favors.

When you lose touch with your body, you start suffering from a chronic pain, your gastric juices give up on you, headaches are a constant in your life…the list goes on.  Before you know it, your immune system is compromised and disease could set in.

What’s more, a lack of self-care could ultimately limit the creativity and flexibility you need to grow or tend to your career.  Conscientiously harnessing the mind-body connection can generate personal breakthroughs at work and play.

So…what we can do about all this?  There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will lift everyone out of their brain-led doldrums, but creative wellness practitioners espouse several ways to reconnect to one’s body.  Some are listed here – try them out for size.

1) Breath.  Meditation and yoga are the most popular breath practices today.  Classes and books are easily available, or you can simply reprise your first act when you left your mother’s womb.  Stop what you’re doing, and breathe. (Crying your lungs out, like when you took your first breath, is optional.)  Feel your ribcage rise and fall.  Make each succeeding breath slower and deeper.  It can take as little as ten breaths to positively alter your mood.

2) Movement.  Get up, take a walk around the office floor or the block.  If going to the gym or pounding the pavement is not your thing, perhaps a dance class could be more enjoyable and sustainable.  And you don’t even have to be rhythmically-inclined – in Nia practice, for instance, each person moves at their own level of intensity and awareness through a dynamic blend of dance arts, martial arts and healing arts.

3) Sound.  This interesting journal article explores vocal improvisation as a means to better understand and connect to oneself.  In an especially relevant quote, it states ‘At the individual level, singing is making music with the body as instrument. As such, it is a form of “body work” that has the potential to do what all therapeutic body work does. It can release tension, loosen blockages of cellular energy, and access emotion, and memories that may be locked in various locations in the body.’

Remember, acknowledge and nurture your body.  Your loved ones, co-workers or business will thank you for it.

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