Guest post – we’re all in it together – until we aren’t

You may remember Caz from the interview that she did for me earlier in the year.

Caz asked me to write a guest post for her blog, and I’d like to share that with you today.

It’s about the current situation, and how the feeling of all being in it together is slipping away, particularly for those who are still shielding and not taking part in any of the social activities that others are starting to do.

Thanks Caz for the opportunity to write a post for you, and I hope everyone else will check out her blog too if you haven’t already. It’s well worth a read 🙂

10 Tips for dealing with the heat when working from home

I’m not good in hot weather. If I’m supposed to be on holiday, I can just about deal with it, but my first thought about choosing a holiday destination is not about whether it’s going to be hot.

I’m one of those people who’s happy like a little kid when the first snowy snowflakes fall, and who complains when the temperature goes above about 27 degrees. Usually the people who can’t understand the latter take holiday to enjoy the hottest part of the summer, or they work in air conditioned offices, but now, with so many people working from home, the heat is affecting more of us.

This week was particularly hot, so I thought I’d get together some tips for working from home in the heat in case it happens again.

1. Do you have to work at your desk all of the time?

My office is one of our hottest rooms, but generally I do like to work there, even when it’s hot. It’s my working space. I have everything I need there. It’s definitely easier when I’m doing video conferences.

However, if I’m just reading or doing admin, I might choose to work somewhere else for a couple of hours if I think it will be cooler there.

Is there somewhere else in your house that might be a bit cooler for you?

2. Can you channel your inner tortoise during the hottest part of the day?

I know some people gave up completely last week, but you might not have that option. I didn’t. But when I was really hot and bothered, I tried to do things that would take less brain power.

We all have those things that need to be done – they might even be a bit boring, but you can do them without too much effort. For me it was designing templates for web pages and writing some website code. I had to pay attention, but it was fairly repetitive and it didn’t need much creative or social energy. I was maybe slower than on a day when I felt my best, but I was still productive.

Of course this depends on what you need to get done, and how much control you have over your own schedule. When I had meetings booked in, I did them as normal. But this is a way to make sure that you still get things done when you’re maybe not feeling your most energised!

3. The problem with fans

I do have a desk fan, but it wasn’t doing a lot of good to be honest. The best ones are those that also cool the air as it’s circulating, but most just push the hot air around. I have heard tips about putting a frozen water bottle or a bowl of ice in front of the fan, so the ice cools down the air before the fan pushes it out. I haven’t tried this, so I don’t know how well it works. But Always be careful with water and electricity!

4. Don’t forget to keep hydrated

It’s easy to get focussed on a task and carried away with what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s also easy to be lazy and think that going to get a drink of water will be more effort than it’s worth. But it’s really important to stay hydrated, especially during periods of hot weather.

I find that if I put a big glass of water on my desk, I do actually drink it. So I need to make sure I get into the habit of doing that.

I know other people use water bottles that show how much they have drunk, or apps that remind them to take a drink so they get enough water throughout the day.

I never forget to drink coffee, but it’s important to have the water as well!

5. Can you change your working times?

The idea of starting any earlier than I need to is painful – unless there is a meeting that I need to attend. Chances are, if you work for yourself, you’ve already got into a rhythm that works for you. But if you can start and finish early, or do two blocks of work either side of the hottest part of the day, this may make it easier for you to concentrate.

6. Other ways of cooling

I heard about someone who froze a hot water bottle and used this to cool off. I’d never thought of this, but I guess you could use cooling packs in the same way.

Less conventional ideas that we have discussed include a paddling pool, and one of those cooling mats that are intended for dogs!

7. open windows, closed curtains

There is conflicting advice about whether windows should be open or shut, but I’ve found that closed curtains to keep the sun out, and open windows to keep the air circulating are the best. Nobody wants to be stuck in a stuffy hot room with no air circulation.

8. Damage limitation

I know I get grumpy in the heat! Irritating people or situations become that little bit more irritating!

If someone or something is getting to you, step away from it for a while. Take a walk, make a cool drink, or do something else until you feel calm enough to respond rather than react.

I even asked S to read an email before I sent it off to see if I was being unreasonable. “It’s polite, but you can tell you’re annoyed” was what he came back with, so off went the email! Annoyed is fine, but unprofessional is not. If in doubt, give it a few minutes or get a second opinion if that’s an option.

9. The cooler evening

I’m not suggesting that people leave windows open overnight, or even in the daytime if it’s not safe to do so in an unoccupied room, but when it’s cooler, it can be good to let the breeze in and get the air circulating.

10. Clothing

I work from home full-time, and I never got on board with the “we’re working at home now so we can wear anything”. It depends on what you’re doing, whether you have any customer contact, and what your company’s dress policy is.

I don’t want my customers to see me in my fitness clothes or my bikini. But if you can wear something more loose-fitting, it will help you to keep cool.

Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments!

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Walk a mile in their shoes – or stay a day in their self-isolation house

I think it was a joke. I’m not sure. Maybe there’s a picture that would make it clear if it was a joke, but I can only read the text.

Anyway – I’ve seen it a couple of times now – a post to people without kids asking them how life is in lockdown without kids. How wonderful it is. All the things you have time to do.

I get it – I have no idea what it’s like to entertain or home-school children who are scared or full of energy or sad because they can’t see their mates/go to their favourite places. The constant noise and interruptions or fighting with siblings.

I know I sometimes overthink things or take them too literally, but it got me thinking.

We don’t fit so easily into groups like that. Those with children and those without. Those who are medically vulnerable and those who aren’t. Those who are self-employed, employed, or unemployed. Those who are quite happy to take a break from people and those who hate the lack of contact with others.

All of these things together, and many more, go to make up our own individual set of circumstances. You may think someone has it easy, but you don’t know what else they’re dealing with.

I might be tempted to feel envious of my employed mates right now, but as a business owner, I got to make the decisions about what’s safe. I went into voluntary isolation at least a week before it was mandatory, and I’m not stuck working in conditions that I don’t think are safe, as some people that I know are.

Going back to the children thing – I chose not to have children, but I didn’t choose some of the other things.

I have a physical disability that means I shop online for food because this means I can do it independently. I do it every week – and I have done for the last 20 years or so. It worked fine for me up until now – now everyone wants to shop online and it’s hard to get a slot. I’m ok, but I know some blind people who are really struggling to get the basics because the one accessible way of getting food that they always use has suddenly become problematic. I’ve had offers of help from a couple of local people if we need anything, but not everyone has a network like that.

I have a medical condition that means it’s better if we self-isolate. My prescription wasn’t affected, but I also need items from the chemist and they weren’t there when we tried to get them during the last weeks. I’m ok now, but it took trips to four or five different chemists till I had what I needed.

I know someone who has died and a couple more who have been quite seriously ill, at least one of whom had the virus. So I’ve experienced all the emotions that go along with that – sadness, worry, fear for people I care about . On the other hand, I know plenty of people who still don’t know anyone who caught the virus.

My business is online, but I’ve had a number of cancellations for training since the lockdowns started across the world, which is inevitable, but still tough.

So no, I don’t have children, but life’s not one big party right now! There are good days and hard days – just like for everyone else. I’ve laughed about funny things, cried about sad things, and got frustrated by the people who still aren’t taking it seriously.

I see other people too in my group of friends and customers.

Some are scared because they have vulnerable relatives who live far away in other countries, whom they can’t help to get the basic essentials.

Some have family members working on the front line in the NHS, and they’re concerned about supplies to keep their loved ones safe.

Some have had to shut down their businesses temporarily and find new ways to generate income – or not.

Some are far more at risk or they are living with people who may not survive a severe case of the virus.

Some of those people who are more at risk need help from others to carry out personal care tasks. Those tasks are necessary, but each new person they let into their home could be bringing the virus with them. I haven’t experienced this, but I heard someone talking about it recently.

S and I living and working together 24/7 isn’t hard, but I know there are some people stuck in the house with those who are hurting them – physically, psychologically or emotionally. I have no idea how hard that is.

Others are completely alone, with no contact to anyone. I used to live alone and loved it, but it’s a different story if you get ill and have to do everything yourself.

I have to remind myself that generally I adapt well to this kind of more isolated life, (though in some ways I’ve had more contact to people than ever through all the wonderful opportunities we now have with technology). But I know I would be moaning if I were stuck in a room of 100 people for the foreseeable future and couldn’t get away to have some peace and quiet.

I need to have more patience with people who are complaining about being bored. I don’t relate to boredom – there are never enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do – but I suppose it’s a real struggle for those who do.

We all have our own struggles. As parents, as self-employed people, as at-risk people, as people who love to be outdoors. As extroverts who crave lots of face-to-face social contact – I don’t relate, but apparently it’s a thing! As basic human beings who are doing their best in what is a really difficult time. We need to be kind.

I think there’s a danger to look at other groups of people – those without kids – those with a guaranteed income – those who appear to be fit and healthy. But we don’t really know what’s going on for them, what’s making them sad, or keeping them up at night. We probably have different problems, but I think we’re all going through something right now.

Some will be open about it. Others will hide away and look fine on the outside – I’m really good at that when I’m not ok. I’m not asking for help in this post, but it’s often not the people who shout the loudest who need our help the most.

I think we need to be a bit careful because you never know what someone else is dealing with. You may think their life looks easy, but you don’t really know what struggles they have.

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It brings out the best and worst in us

What a strange week last week was. Struggles to get a delivery of my online shopping – to the point where the site couldn’t be accessed and the app has been taken offline. I finally got a slot, but a number of things were completely sold out and I have to wait 5 days instead of the usual one or two.

People buying their own weight in toilet rolls. Why toilet rolls? Chocolate would make more sense!

Rice, pasta, tinned vegetables – all in short supply. Some flu remedies completely cleaned out, as well as medication that some of us have to take as an ongoing prescription – thanks panic buyers.

No hand sanitiser anywhere.

It was frustrating, but we mostly got what we wanted and have enough non-perishables to be ok for a couple of weeks if we end up in quarantine. This made me feel better, especially as it’s harder for me to get out to the shops on my own. But everything in moderation.

People complain about social media being the root of all evil, but I’ve seen some really good things on social media lately. Small business owners pulling together to lift each other up and help plan for the future. People looking out for those who might find it harder to get out or go to the shops for basic supplies. People reaching out to each other in Facebook groups, even though they don’t really know each other, to help those who are on their own or don’t have transport to hunt around for things that have sold out. People making each other smile. That video of the people singing together on the balconies in Italy. There is a lot of good around, and it’s good to see people helping one another and standing together in these difficult times.

I’ve had offers from two different countries if I get really stuck and need something. Offers of help from people closer by as well.

It also brings out the worst though. The selfish panic buying – or hamster buying as it’s called in Germany – that leaves some people with more than they could ever need and others without anything. People who are buying things that are in short supply just so that they can sell them on at a profit.

I’ve seen multiple instances of selfishness, and they make me angry.

“I’m not going to get ill, so why do we need to cancel the thing I’m organising?” Ok, so screw everyone else who may have underlying conditions, who may be caring for someone at risk, or who might end up ill because of your event that you’re still hell-bent on going ahead with. Main thing is you don’t have to change your plans. Lovely! I’m not saying that everything should be cancelled, but at least have the good grace to not make people feel bad if they can’t make it.

I understand that change is hard. I understand that people are worried about their livelihoods and making ends meet. I understand people want to carry on as usual as far as is possible.

Maybe the saddest thing I saw is that parts of the disability community are on a race to the bottom of basic humanity as well. “I’m not as badly off as someone else, and the main thing is that I’m ok. I only have a physical disability – sucks to be one of those people in the at-risk health categories”. Ok, that’s not word for word what was said, but the essence of what this person was saying “was that we as members of society who just have a physical disability can’t be asked to put ourselves out and do anything different so that we can help more vulnerable members of society. Drastic preventative measures will be bad for the economy, and some of those people were going to die anyway.” As far as I’m concerned, it’s not an ok attitude in civilised society, and it’s not ok to not see what’s not ok about writing something like that in a public forum. But it represents that “everyone for themselves” mentality that you see as soon as things start to go wrong, or infrastructure starts to wobble.

Like the story on Linkedin of the woman who took all the toilet roll on the plane because apparently she was entitled to consume anything on the plane. Too bad if you were one of the other passengers who didn’t think of the idea first. She did replace it, but only when the passengers were threatened with a bag search. There would have been enough to go round if people weren’t so selfish.

And that’s the problem, as soon as we begin to feel vulnerable, we go into fight mode, to defend what we have with tooth and claw. I think we all do it to some extent, but there are those who take it a bit further and feel justified in doing things that they would usually condemn in others – because they’ve convinced themselves that it’s ok in their particular case.

But this isn’t a victimless act. There are people who need things like aspirin and paracetamol who now can’t get them. There are people who will be throwing stuff out because they bought too much, and others who won’t have enough. These are scary times, but our own behaviour is making them worse than they need to be.

So I’ve been heartened by the random acts of kindness that I’ve seen, but also dismayed at the ugly side too. And that ugly side is even more ugly when people hide behind their sense of entitlement when others try to call it out. Some people do have greater needs. Some are at a disadvantage. But some are just arseholes looking to make a quick profit or trample over those who are not quite as strong, fast, or well-connected.

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When keeping a medical information log can be helpful

The more people who get involved with your medical treatment, the higher the chance that something can be forgotten/noted incorrectly/misunderstood. That’s why making a medical log yourself can be a good idea.

I used to have a problem colleague. Someone who was powerful and used to getting their own way, and who didn’t care whom they had to trample over to get it. Before not very long, we clashed. I won. But I’d poked the bear and made myself an enemy who began looking for chances to make my life difficult. Eventually I found a way to make sure they left me alone, but even after this, when I should have been safe, I kept a folder with emails, dates of conversations and exactly what had been agreed each time we had to deal with each other. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember what happened several weeks ago, and should I ever need it, I would have cold, hard evidence to fall back on.

I started thinking about this colleague the other day, and how keeping records can be a good thing with ongoing situations.

I’m talking about medical treatment here, but it can be anything. Problems at a child’s school, the difficult colleague, allergies that you’re trying to pin down to something specific, or how much money you’re spending on your house. The kind of things that go on for a while, and for which you can’t completely rely on your brain to remember all the little details.

Overall I’ve been really happy with the care I’ve received since my medical incident back in August, but the appointments and the tests are ongoing. I’ve noticed a couple of things. An important bit of information missing here, a miscommunication there. Someone apparently not quite following the normal procedure, which makes it harder for the next person in the chain. I don’t think anyone does these things deliberately – in fact I’ve seen it happening when I worked in a large organisation with lots of incredibly busy people involved in handling cases. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. The only person who is there consistently through everything is you!

So today I sat down and wrote a chronological list of what happened, with whom, what advice I was given, and what each person said they were going to do. Because sometimes these things are important, and if I’m going to query something or say it isn’t right, I need to be clear about my version of events too.

It doesn’t need to be a novel – just a list of dates and key things that happened on those dates. I’ve had to go back around a month to do it, but from now on I’ll update it when things happen, so they’re fresh in my mind and I don’t have to look back at my diary to check dates and people’s names.

I’m not saying you should do this for every illness, but it can help with things that are more complicated with various specialists or hospital departments involved. However hard they try, sometimes systems and people don’t communicate as well as they should.

If you’re asked questions in an appointment, it’s easy to get flustered because you can’t quite remember what happened or what you were told. But if you take time to write it all down when there’s no pressure, it’s easier for you to get things straight in your head. It’s also a good chance to think about any questions you want to ask when you’re next talking to someone, and to write them down so you don’t forget anything.

Do you think keeping a medical log helps? Let me know in the comments!

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Why first aid knowledge is important – you never know when you’ll need it

I’ve been trying to write other posts, but then I keep coming back to this one. I think it’s the most important thing I have to say at the moment, but it won’t be the easiest post to write.

My experience with first aid training hasn’t been good. We got the chance to do an introduction to first aid when I was at school as some kind of extra curricular activity.

It was led by an external provider who had clearly never come across a visually impaired person before. That’s fair enough. To be honest we got on fine until it came time for the test. I passed mine, both the theory and the practical parts, but he said I couldn’t get the certificate for course completion because I wouldn’t be able to safely assess an emergency situation independently.

There are definitely things it would be harder for me to do, and things that I do differently. Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to become a first aider at work because of issues around risk assessment and insurance, but certainly anyone I’ve patched up or helped in the past wasn’t bothered that I couldn’t see them. Most people are able to explain what happened and most things aren’t that serious.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been bothered, apart from the fact that a boy in the group was given his theory test back to “have another look at it” because some of his answers were wrong and he wouldn’t pass. I hated the trainer at that point – how could he make such a fuss about my not being able to do things if he was willing to so openly let another course member cheat like that?

I didn’t pursue it. Partly because you have to choose your battles and at that time I was having bigger problems elsewhere. Also I didn’t think the certificate was worth the paper it was written on if it were so easy to get it dishonestly. Now I would be more likely to keep searching until I found an accessible alternative as I know that some visually impaired people have had really good experiences.

What I did do was get myself a book on first aid. A big thick manual that went into fa more detail than the introductory course. I read it, and in the end could be sure that I knew far more about the subject than anyone who had passed that stupid course!

First aid training has to be refreshed though, and I didn’t do that. Still, a fair bit had stayed with me and it came in useful nearly two weeks ago when I became unwell and we spent the night in A&E.

I don’t really want to talk about the details here. I’m still processing it myself and it was a big thing for me even to tell my friends about it. I don’t find it easy to be open at the best of times when something is wrong.

I feel much better now and am undergoing treatment and having some tests. Maybe I’ll write about it some time, but that time isn’t now.

The point is that I remembered what I’d read about first aid, what the problem might be, and what we should do about it. S hadn’t had any first aid training, but he’d also picked up some information from a film or tv programme and we pretty much came to the same conclusion about what the symptoms meant. We’re both pretty calm in a crisis and quickly decided to go to the hospital.

So the point of writing this is to say it’s better to have some basic knowledge in advance than to be frantically googling if something happens. You can save yourself time and stress. Even if what happens isn’t exactly like what it says in the book, you’ll have a better idea of what to do, what to look out for, and if you go to the hospital or call an ambulance, what information is going to be relevant.

The NHS has lots of useful information or you could look into the availability of courses in your area.

It’s also helpful if you can do some basic things to be ready if there’s an emergency. I wrote last year about hunting around for painkillers after my accident, and how it would have been better to have known where they were immediately. The same goes for the first aid kit – a basic one doesn’t cost very much and it’s good to have it around if you need it. Also, if you keep raiding it, replace what you’ve taken.

If there’s an emergency, you should call the emergency services, but if you spend any amount of time on your own long-term or temporarily, is there someone close by that you can call in an emergency? I have someone who has offered that I can call them any time if there’s a problem when S is away, and this has given me peace of mind.

Hopefully I won’t have to do it, but it’s reassuring to know the offer is there. I’ve dealt with floods, collapsing ceilings, and sprained knees in the middle of the night on my own before – partly because I’m stubborn, but partly because I didn’t want to bother anyone at that time. If you have the conversation in advance, you don’t have to think about who might be willing to help. Similarly, is there someone whom you could be there for in this way?

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On your bike – 10 advantages of having exercise equipment at home

This week I got a new exercise bike because my old one broke and couldn’t be repaired.

I have a desk job and spend a lot of my time sitting at my laptop – even more when you take into consideration time for the blog and my studies.

I enjoy going for walks, but I need something a bit more challenging to get the heart rate going, and also for it to be something that I can do on my own.

We already had the cross-trainer, so now the new bike has been put alongside it to replace the broken one.

I wasn’t looking for a lot of added functions on the bike because many of them are things that I can’t use. Anything electrical is not useful because I can’t operate the touch-screen to use the programmes. So I needed a basic one, but also not the absolute cheapest, because past experience has shown you often get what you pay for – and a cheaper one is not economical if it breaks and you have to replace it!

If you like going to the gym, I’m not here to stop you! Everyone should do what works for them. But here are 10 reasons why I like having exercise equipment at home.

  1. Saving time – I put my exercise sessions into my diary like meetings that I have to attend. Then I just need to add in a few minutes to change, and time for a shower afterwards, but I don’t need to build in time getting to and from the gym.
  2. Any time of the day – it doesn’t matter if it’s dark outside or not the safest time to travel. I can work out in the middle of the night if I feel like it! I usually don’t, but the option’s there, whereas most gyms are shut at this time.
  3. Always good weather – unlike if you’re going out for a bike ride or a run, it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing. Whether it’s windy, rainy, or the roads are dangerous with ice – it doesn’t matter. Conditions are always good inside!
  4. Hygiene – if it’s not clean, then there’s only one person to blame! But I do enjoy working out in a place where there haven’t been lots of other hot and sweaty bodies!
  5. Cost – there is an initial outlay because you have to buy the equipment, but once you’ve made this investment, there are no additional charges. You don’t have to think about whether you’re getting the best out of your gym membership or whether you’re getting your money’s worth.
  6. No annoying background music – you can listen to whatever you want to at home. For me, it’s usually music, a podcast or an audio book. But I don’t have to think about anyone else’s taste in music or background noise being too loud.
  7. Accessibility – I can’t access the displays on my equipment. If I want to use a timer or measure my steps, I use my phone. But in terms of actually using the equipment, we’ve chosen things that aren’t operated by a touch screen. The bike has a manual adjustment knob if you want to make it more difficult. So I don’t have to worry about equipment that can only be used when sighted assistance is around. In terms of cycling, I’m not reliant on a tandem front rider – although I do enjoy tandem cycling when I get the chance.
  8. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing – nobody is watching me. Nobody sees if I take a break! I don’t have to watch anyone else showing off!
  9. You don’t have to set up the equipment every time – the bike is set up for a short person, which means I don’t have to readjust it each time or do a flying leap just to get into the saddle! Ok, S might use the equipment too, but he generally puts things back to how I had them or doesn’t change them at all. This isn’t the case with equipment in a public place.
  10. No excuses – it’s much harder to find excuses not to do exercise when all you have to do is go to a room in your house! I try to get in there each week day. Occasionally I still don’t make it – especially if I have a tight deadline or a day with back-to-back meetings, but there’s much less that stands in the way of exercising at home, which increases the chance of it actually getting done!

Of course there are some disadvantages – the main ones for me are not actually moving anywhere and not getting out into the fresh air. Some people may struggle for space too, because these things do take up room.

But it’s a way I can be sure that I get regular exercise. For me, that makes it worth the investment!

How about you? Do you have any exercise equipment at home, do you prefer going to the gym, or do you get your exercise in some other way? Let me know in the comments.

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Working from home -is your chair right for you?

This is the story of how I went out for a pint of milk and came back with a new office chair!

We needed a couple of things from the supermarket, and S decided he wanted some stationery and office supplies too. I went along for the ride and when we got to the shop, we started talking about chairs and the fact that I should probably buy a new one. What better place to do it than a place where you can go and sit on them all to try them out?

I’d had my other chair for ages. The bit below the seat had something wrong with it, which made it tilt to the side. I used to work in Health and Safety (don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a health and safety lecture!) and knew better than to keep using it – it’s not good if you’re either leaning sideways or compensating for a leaning chair.

So I had taken S’ old chair, which I’d become quite fond of after it was the only way I could get around safely in the kitchen when I had my accident and couldn’t put weight on my leg. A girl needs a safe way to move coffee and hot food around, so round and round the kitchen I wheeled! But this chair was too low, even for a short person like me, and the mechanism for lifting it was broken. Not a massive deal, but it did mean my hands were too high for typing, and I spend a lot of time at my desk.

It’s like Goldilocks and the 3 bears – this chair is too wonky, this chair is too low, and this chair is just perfect so I’ll buy it and take it home. Or something like that!

I did want to mention it though because more and more people are working from home, if not full-time, then for a couple of days a week. Then there’s studying or blogging, and people like me who work from home full-time. Is it really important what you sit on?

The answer is yes, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Length of time

I’ve touched on this already, but whereas you might spend half an hour at the dinner table, your office chair is somewhere you might be sitting for hours at a time. It’s not good to be sitting uncomfortably or in a position that encourages bad habits such as slouching. Bad posture can lead to other problems later such as back, neck or shoulder problems if you’re sitting uncomfortably, flopping forward, or if you don’t have enough support.

2. Height

It’s important to have a height-adjustable chair because if you’re too low, you’ll have to lift your arms and shoulders up at an uncomfortable angle when you want to type. As a general rule, your arms should be straight.  If the chair is too high, and this was often my problem in the office if someone had been sitting on my chair, your feet aren’t flat on the floor and you don’t have any support. Also, a chair that’s too high ends up with too much pressure on the back of your thighs because your feet aren’t taking any of the weight, and having no support for your feet can also lead to foot pain later in the day. You might also want to consider a foot stool if you don’t want to, or can’t lower your chair.

3. Back and shoulder support

It’s easy to slump forward when we’re working. I don’t tend to do it in meetings – then I’m thinking about sitting up straight because I want to look professional. But if I’m typing away on something on my own, there is a tendency to lean forward, and this isn’t good for your back or your shoulders. Office chairs have padding around the back and many also have neck and shoulder supports. Using these encourages you to sit up straight and not hunch your shoulders forward, as doing these things can lead to back, neck, or shoulder pain. So try not to perch on the front of your chair. Make full use of the supports, from the lower back to the shoulders.

4. Padded seating

Think about the chairs you used to sit on at school. After an hour of sitting in the same position with no support, it gets uncomfortable. You might be fine having a picnic on a garden bench for a while, but if you’re going to spend 8 hours sitting somewhere, you need a bit more padding. Apart from the obvious discomfort, fidgeting around trying to make yourself comfortable isn’t good for your concentration or productivity either.

5. At work it’s someone else’s responsibility

At work we sometimes take it for granted that our employer carries out DSE (display screen equipment) assessments to check that our workstation is set up correctly and we have what we need. Ok, obviously some companies are better at meeting these requirements than others, and I was pretty lucky, but the point is, it’s a company’s legal responsibility. When you’re self-employed, you don’t have someone reminding you about it or checking that it’s been done, but it’s no less important when you’re the boss! There can be 101 things that feel more urgent or directly linked to making money, but if you’re self-employed and don’t look after yourself, who else will?

6. You’re an individual

Everyone needs and likes different things, due to factors like our height, the shape of our back, any existing pains or conditions, and just what we find comfortable. This is why I haven’t put a link to my chair on the blog.

I didn’t get the most expensive one I could find. The cost did play a role for me, but also, I didn’t find the most expensive ones were the most comfortable. The absolute cheapest ones weren’t either – I went for a mid-range one, and if you go for one from a specialist shop, you can pay a lot more than I did. But it was important to me that I could sit in them, adjust them, and see which I thought would be comfortable.

7. It’s not all about the chair

It’s important not to spend long periods of time sitting without taking any breaks. This is partly connected to the amount of time you spend looking at a screen, but it’s still important for people like me who can’t see the screen, because it’s not only about screen time. It’s about giving your body the chance to move around and not be stuck in the same position for hours on end.

Try and build in reasons to get up throughout the day, even if you work from home. Make drinks, tidy up, stretch your legs, take the dog for a walk – whatever you’re doing, make sure that you also build in breaks that involve some kind of movement so you’re not just stuck in a seated position all day. This is particularly important for those of us who don’t naturally get the exercise of walking anywhere on the way to or from work.

How about you?

Do you use an office chair when you’re working at home? Is it comfortable? Does it give you all the support you need?

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Blogmas 2018 -keeping fit this Winter with free, described work-outs

I don’t know about you, but around Christmas time there are more tasty treats on offer, maybe extra glasses of mulled wine or mince pies. So many of us plan to start a fitness regime in January, but really we don’t need to wait until then!
When I stopped my3-hour commute, which involved about 40 minutes walking each way, I knew I’d have to do something about staying fit. I wrote in my post about what I do to try and stay fit – including putting fitness training into my calendar like a meeting that I have to attend, and regularly spending time on the exercise bike and cross-trainer.
My sprained knee from the accident in August has meant that I had to limit some of my exercise activities for a while, particularly the workouts that involved putting my full weight on a leg that probably wouldn’t have taken it, but I’m getting back into it now because the joint needs exercise.
So taking some positive action around exercise doesn’t have to wait till January. You can join a gym, but there are plenty of other things that you can do at home too.
As someone who is visually impaired, one of the problems that I’ve come across is a lack of accessible home workouts. There are loads of videos on YouTube, but they often don’t describe what the person is doing very well, so if you can’t watch them, you can’t really follow along. This is frustrating.
You may remember a while ago I did an
interview with Mel from Blind Alive, who developed a series of accessible work-outs which you can do without being able to watch what the trainer is doing. All of the workouts come with text descriptions of the exercises, as well as individual sound tracks to describe each exercise or position in a bit more detail.
I’ve done the cardio ones and the weights ones so far, but I’m now going to be trying some more because Mel from Eyes Free Fitness is offering a really generous gift. From 21st November to 31st December 2018, all of the work-outs on Blind Alive/Eyes Free fitness are free. The company is closing its doors at the end of 2018, and before then, Mel would like as many people as possible to benefit from the workouts.
I’ve just downloaded the stretch workout, as well as some for yoga and Pilates, which are things that I’ve always been meaning to try and never got round to.
I’ve paid for some of these workouts in the past and I can confirm that they are really accessible, and the positions and exercises are described with words, in a way that I can follow. I would have got round to buying more of them even if they hadn’t been available for free, and I’d encourage anyone who is interested in accessible, described workouts to take a look at the Eyes Free Fitness site.
I downloaded the workouts straight onto my laptop from where I usually transfer them to Dropbox so I can have them with me on my phone wherever I am. There is also an app, which I’m told is accessible, although I can’t review it because I haven’t downloaded it yet.
Although the workouts are available for free, you can make a donation via Paypal, and I know a lot of work went into making these training programmes, so if you are able to give something, I would encourage you to do so. It’s not mandatory though in order to download the workouts.
This post was aimed a bit more at my visually impaired readers, but even if the workouts aren’t relevant to you, there are plenty of small things that you can do for self-care during the Christmas season. These include things like going for walks, which is a great way to clear your head as well as being a chance to get fresh air. Whatever else you may be drinking, try to make sure that you get plenty of water too. You may be having some late nights, but try and get a couple of early ones too so that you can catch up on your sleep.
What else will you be doing for self care in the next few weeks? Let me know in the comments!

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – I didn’t even know the Body Shop did 100ml hand creams, but there is a limited edition one in the British rose scent. The formula of these hand creams is really gentle and nourishing, and whilst rose isn’t usually my go-to fragrance, I’ll be happy to have this on my desk this Winter because my hands do get really dry.
Glossybox – today we got a highlighter brush from Luxie Beauty. I’m not actually familiar with this brand, but it says the brushes are hand-crafted using vegan and cruelty-free materials. As there is a highlighter palette in the giveaway, I’m putting this in as well.
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Cycling without sight – my tandem experience

I didn’t go for long bike rides as a child. We went walking with the dog, and my Granddad drove us for miles around the UK in the Summer Holidays, but I only discovered cycling as an adult.

I would say the easiest and safest way for people like me, who have no sight, to cycle, is to do tandem cycling.

My first introduction to it was on an activity weekend. Half of the time was to be spent canoeing and the other half cycling. As it turned out, I preferred being out of the water, but having tried both, I definitely prefer canoeing to kayaking because I don’t like being closed in, and if the thing tips, it’s easier to get out of a canoe than a kayak!

Anyway – back to the cycling. As a child, I didn’t have balance issues, but I didn’t have enough confidence in where I was going to pick up enough speed to stay balanced. Having someone else in charge of the direction took this problem away, but there is still an element of trust involved.

I don’t just mean you’re trusting the front rider not to stop peddling and let the blind person do all the work! I mean you need to communicate about what the other person is going to do – if they are going to turn, slow down or need to stop suddenly. You need to react quickly to what the other person is telling you. The faster you go, the more you need to trust them!

It was also my first time covering longer distances, so I was fighting with the fear that I’d do something stupid and everyone would think I was an idiot, but fortunately that didn’t happen either! After a couple of hours I was fine!

After the introduction weekend, I went on a week-long cycling holiday in Dorset with a mixture of blind and sighted cyclists. I was paired with a sighted cyclist at the beginning of the week, and it was great that we got on, because we spent the rest of the week together on the same bike. The evenings were for socialising, but the point of the trip was mainly to get in as much cycling as possible. The weather was mostly kind to us, but I got to experience cycling in heavy rain showers as well!

The blind person always goes at the back, because they are not in charge of steering. My front rider gave me information about what was coming up, where the hills were,, whether there were any sharp bends, intersections, or loose dogs! But we had time to chat as well and enjoy the countryside. You have to find a rhythm and work together – if you fight for control, you will just annoy each other and topple over! That didn’t happen to us! Generally I let the other person set the speed, especially where other traffic was around, but made sure I pulled my weight as well, especially on the uphill stretches.

I knew nothing about bike repairs or looking after the bike. The guy with me was more experienced, and explained things, but I felt an equal share of the responsibility for helping out if there was a problem.

That week I shared a room with a Paralympic cyclist. I was a complete beginner, and I enjoyed listening to her stories as someone who had got really good, and really fast! We didn’t do anything like that during the holiday, but it was great to see how this is a sport that is not only a fun thing to do, but also something at which blind people can become successful.

After the holiday my front rider and I stayed in touch for a while. I stood in for another blind rider who was unable to make the yearly cycling around churches in Kent – I believe to raise money for them. The idea of visiting a bunch of churches wouldn’t usually have interested me, but the bike ride did!

I’ve cycled with a few different people, and the most relaxing experiences were with people who were relatively confident and who didn’t lose their nerve and swerve around all over the place, though I have experienced that too! It makes life interesting!

You don’t experience the same sounds and smells if you’re in a train or a car. It’s different when you’re outside and responsible for getting where you want to be with your own energy! I enjoy walking too, but obviously you can cover more ground on a bike. Or a horse!

I’m not sure how the experience is different for the person on the front of the tandem. Again there is that element of trust, so you need to believe that the person behind you won’t do anything erratic. Your bike is twice as long and twice as heavy as normal, because of the extra seat and extra weight behind you. You need to be able to look ahead and communicate.

I have heard of one student who cycled to school on a tandem with an exchange student for a while, which I think was cool. The tandem was used in just the same way as other students would use a bike. For me, tandem cycling has been more of a fun thing to do, rather than a means of getting from A to B. You always need to have someone who needs or wants to go to the same place at the same time, and in most situations such as going to work, that isn’t the case. Still, I know that some blind people get their own tandems – which is fine as long as they have someone, or some people, with whom they can cycle regularly.

Now all the cycling I do is just the exercise bike in my fitness room, but if I had the opportunity again to get on a tandem, I’d definitely take it.

A blind person may not be able to see everything around them on a bike ride, but it’s a good way to keep fit, and it’s good to be outside and enjoy nature.

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