Loo roll & low backs are interesting things…

As you move through life, it’s interesting to reflect on the areas of life and little things that peak interest. One night, in my friend’s kitchen we were making dinner and talking about the idea of public toilets and how they impact and influence people’s life experience. In the moment of the conversation, my passion for body mechanics and how to look after the physical body came roaring forth. I had never before spoken out loud about my habit of doing a “low back impact assessment” when sitting on the loo. 

With a background in occupational rehabilitation and exercise physiology, I have found myself pondering the set up in many bathrooms and their associated impact on the human form.  With approximately 80% of Australian’s experiencing debilitating back pain in their lifetime and the toilet being a fairly central part to most people’s daily experience, there is an ongoing risk assessment happening in my head.  

How are these two linked? Why on earth do I care? 

Essentially, when you’re seated your low back bears all the pressure of your torso weight plus the load of gravity. Your leg muscles are not there to absorb the forces and distribute the impact into soft tissue. This is why people with back pain sometimes can’t sit for long periods of time and find standing to be an effective form of pain relief. So, there you are, sitting on the throne with some low back pain which may or may not be exacerbated by the simple act of sitting. The next layer to this situation is that when you add rotation into the mix, the load and pressure on the disc that lives between the vertebrae is further increased. Take a minute to ponder this… Where is the toilet paper typically located? 

In public stalls, the TP is within comfortable reach to the left or right. There is a convenient wall right there for the holder to be drilled into. Most of my bathroom angst comes about when I’m in private homes. Which, let’s be honest, if you’ve got debilitating back pain is where you’re going to spend most of your time.  Toilet roll holders in open plan bathrooms usually require the individual sitting to twist most of the way around to get the required squares for their needs. It is either that, or hope you have excellent shoulder range of motion so you can keep your torso facing forward whilst reaching behind you in a blind search. 

I spoke with a site foreman friend about this who has worked on many new apartment builds along with commercial construction. He outlined that for disabled toilets there is a whole page in the Australian Standards that identifies exactly where the loo roll and even type has to be located and used. Great for public spaces, but there is no building code for private dwellings and it’s usually left to the person installing the holder as to where it ends up. This conversation pretty much reinforced my notion that for something frequently used, not much consideration is applied. 

Thought overkill potentially.

It comes down to quality of life for me. If there are things a person can do over the course of their daily life to decrease or mitigate pain, I’m all about it. Particularly when pain is the dominating factor in their current experience. Decreasing the amount of loaded spinal twists someone performs over the course of the day will only facilitate a decrease in sensitivity in the affected area. One less movement aggravating an already annoyed and upset soft tissue. 

In a strange and functional way, understanding where your toilet roll is located falls into ongoing self care – especially if you’re currently experiencing an aggravated low back. In a world filled with ways to look after yourself, why not add a little bathroom reflection / low back impact assessment into your work day? Sit on your throne with a quiet confidence that you’re looking after your body for the long term. 

Toilets are an interesting thing…

A porcelain case of emotion.

Bathrooms/restrooms/toilets/washrooms, whatever name they go by in your workplace they are often the hub of emotion in an adults working life. For me, escaping to the safety of a toilet cubicle started at high school with the circulation of mean things written about me and passed around the classroom (pre-mobile phones when someone had to literally steal the paper away from the tormentors and hand it to you to read).  Chris passed me the note at lunch time and I promptly ran to the female bathroom to lock myself in a cubicle and began to read and cry with shame and embarrassment.

Is it due to the personal and completely individual nature of the activities that occur in a toilet stall that makes them feel like a safe haven for emotional expression? Or is it the lack of other private spaces available where you can’t be seen? A place to process, to create the space needed to work through feelings?

Meeting many needs

Through the progression from high school into adult life, the desire to run to the bathroom when these types of feelings arise hasn’t shifted. I can also quite confidently say I’m not alone in this processing experience. I’ve had lengthy conversations with friends who have run to the bathroom for a variety of reasons. Whilst on the verge of tears over confidence and body issues since returning from maternity leave; when feeling so completely at the end of their mental tether with workplace bullying that the only safe place is within the flimsy walls of a bathroom stall; when feeling so overwhelmed with all aspects of life that crying whilst sitting on the closed toilet was the only available release. There are also the personal phone calls we duck in to the bathroom to take as to no disturb those around us (yay open plan offices), whilst feigning a sense of privacy. Or the stolen moments of being ‘on the clock’ and playing games on your phone/reading the newspaper/scrolling through IG and Facebook, sending texts, etc whilst hidden from view. Whether this be for personal respite or reclaiming some time back for yourself, the toilet cubicle is an unofficial safe space in many regards.

The defining of boundaries and personal space

This ‘safe space’ can also be place where you feel threatened. Whilst processing my tumultuous teen moment of note passing torment, Kayci crawled under the stall door to reclaim the offending evidence. Safe space invaded, emotions escalated. These are the actions of teenage girls, and yet echos of this type of behaviour occur in bathrooms stalls in workplaces, schools, and public places world wide. With time away from desks monitored, the number of trips to the toilet tracked. We humans experience a vast range of emotions and it seems that those emotions, and the amenities that are provided for a very human experience, are entangled in such a subtle manner that we don’t recognise the importance of the link.

We gravitate to the loo for privacy, shelter, relief and sometimes even comfort. It can be a place of refuge, or injury; a place to reclaim your control over your own time and emotions. Taking a moment to reflect on how you approach your restroom use might seem a little naff, and yet it may also provide insights into your emotional processing in a way you’ve never considered before.

Attachment is an interesting thing…

In the pursuit of furthering my purpose in the space of physical and mental wellbeing, I am 2.5 subjects away from completing my Grad Dip in Counselling. The .5 subject is Grief and Loss which is currently focussed on Attachment Theory. If you’ve never come across it, it pertains to how we humans interact with a ‘secure base’.  This may be a care giver as a child, a significant other as an adult, or even a workplace. There are four styles: Secure, Anxious Ambivalent, Anxious Avoidant, and Disorganised.

Why is this relevant?
Knowing your attachment style is an interesting piece of information. Understanding and taking the time to see how it plays out in your work and home life can be quite insightful. What is there to gain from understanding or being aware of this?

You can identify your Attachment Style characteristics.  

Relationships of all forms can be impacted by attachment style even the interaction to the workplace entity, outside of individual relationships with colleagues. We don’t often think about it, yet when people experience the loss of a role, job or separation from an employer, there can be a strong emotional response. Having previously worked with long tail insurance claims, the emotional component played out as perceived ‘rejection’ and left a residual bitterness many years after their last day of work. This often created an additional barrier to moving forward in their life.  It was quite evident it impacted their own feelings of self-efficacy and self confidence across their whole life. Understanding how your attachment style patterns play out can assist in providing your own self-support in periods of unrest.

The emotional rollercoaster wont last as long if you know your patterns.  How they shift between different approaches pending the circumstances is also important.  Meaning, you can do something about it. If you’re aware your background is an ‘anxious style’  that leads to distancing yourself or becoming overly attached in times of stress, having tools in your arsenal to bring you back to a ‘secure’ perspective can be helpful beyond measure. You may still initially respond in your previous manner, though rather than following it down the usual rabbit hole you have choices. Sometimes that’s enough to stem the flow of momentum for a moment of clarity. Pairing knowledge with breathing is a really good approach.

Something like this:
1. Receive information / be in situation
2. Feel emotions shift
3. Pause for breath (you have to do that to live anyway, right?)
4. Consider why you are feeling this way
5. Knowing what you know about yourself, what’s the best choice of action in this moment?

For example, I know that generally speaking I am a securely attached person. However, in situations and circumstances where I am feeling particularly exposed or vulnerable I can become either anxious avoidant or anxious ambivalent. This can also happen if I’m run down or haven’t been looking after myself with sleep, exercise and fun.  If I catch it, I know that I have to use my tools or I’ll end up saying/doing/reacting in a manner that’s out of sync with who I am.  Then I’ll have to deal with that mess too. Ultimately, it’s a learning process built on self reflection and self awareness. Plus, having an understanding that those ‘in the moment’ emotions are fine, they don’t have to define the whole situation and subsequent outcome though.

If you think about a situation at work and at home, can you identify similar emotional loops? Do you ever wonder why this cyclic process is happening in your world and how the hell you can change it?

What I love to do
This brings me to what I love to do – assist others with having a life that is easier. Recognise and respond, rather than react.
Tools, understanding, insights, practical approaches – that’s my style. My flavour is bringing this into all aspects of life – mental, physical and emotional. You bring your life, your interests; I’ll bring the the space for discovery, with a touch of fun and a whole lotta joy.  What could be more joyful that opening yourself up to a new way of approaching life’s tricky situations?
Get in touch and lets chat.

Ergonomics are an interesting thing…

A strange thought occurred to me as I was reflecting on the past week and the conversations I’d had.  Off the back of an ergonomic blitz across Brisbane I saw some interesting parallels in conversations around relationships.

Ergonomics at your workstation are a pretty good metaphor for relationships.  Hear me out…

A good ergo station supports you to be in a good posture.  It should literally have your back.  Good lumbar support, a good foundation for your feet and seat help minimise poor postural loading whilst you go about your work tasks.  A good monitor height and distance allows for an upright mid back and neck, reducing the risk of shoulder, neck and eye strain. No arm rests mean you can access your work station in an unencumbered manner and there is a reduced risk of slouching off to one side or having your traps around your earlobes.  Your workstation should support you to do your tasks, feel comfortable whilst completing them, yet prompt you to get up and load change on a regular basis. This last one is kinda up to you though.  Remember, the best posture is always the next one.  These bodies like some dynamic blood flow on a regular basis.

Now, in my experience, lots of people rock up to their new desk and get to work without taking a moment to adjust it to their specific needs.  They end up with aches and physical complaints, which can also make a person down right cranky.  Their body will literally slide and manoeuvre into the position that the station is set up for, the path of least resistance.  Not great for the long haul and not great for daily productivity.  It usually ends with a headache, back pain and perhaps some lingering shoulder pain to boot.

Now, lets apply this to relationships.

There is a certain level of accomodation that takes place in a relationship, depending on the dynamic.  Let’s strip it back to the ergonomic basics.  Is there a good foundation?  Do you feel supported or are your feet hanging from the seat pan with the edge of the chair digging into your hamstrings causing on going discomfort?  Is there inadequate support from the other person because they are the wrong fit or is a simple seat pan adjustment and foot rest required (read ‘conversation’) and all will be well? Are there pesky ‘arm rests’ (read ‘poor habits’) that lead to behaviours preventing from engaging fully in a meaningful manner that promotes sustainability?  Do these poor habits encourage a tendency to favour one side, leading to kinks up and down the relationship kinetic chain and that ultimately result in a headache or shoulder pain (Like for real pain, a physical presentation of emotional stress/discomfort/annoyance)? Are the arm rests built in, meaning they are not easily removed and as such create an ever present barrier? Is it a matter or lowering them and moving on, or will they forever be hitting the desk and making themselves known?

How’s the perspective?  The monitor height and distance suitable for your needs? Is there associated glare that makes it hard to distinguish between what’s happening and what you think is happening? Are you working with a 50:50 split, or are you more a 70:30 kind of focus? Are you having to lower your sights to match what’s happening or are you straining upwards to see things clearly?  Imagine if you could set it up so the vision was clear and work in a productive and conducive manner.  Oh the joy!

Lastly, who’s responsibility is it to address things that are causing discomfort and pain?  Even if you are in the most perfect of set ups, eventually you will have to move now and again to get some fresh blood and oxygen to those muscles.  Too much sitting in the one spot isn’t great for our physical selves.  That part is on you.  Get up, move around, do something that brings you joy.  It’ll make you happier when you return to your workstation and far more productive.  Same thing in relationships.  Take note when it’s time to be accountable for how you feel and adjust your behaviours appropriately.  At the end of the day, you only experience your perspective – you’re in charge of the refresh rate of your attitude and approach.
I like to make it the best one possible.

If you’re in a workstation that doesn’t fit you, it takes communication and understanding to make a change.  Some tweaks, workstation adjustments and education on how to best interact with your set up will create an alignment that you will be happy to return to and cease avoiding.  It’s up to you to ‘load change as required’ for perspective and this can provide empowerment when feeling dissatisfied and cranky.  It’s interesting to me how many people adjust their bodies and their emotions to fit what is around them, only to realise that it’s causing them anguish in the long term.  I’m all about pro-activity and seeking out a great fit.  Ergonomics is about feeling good and supported at your workstation, isn’t that a great approach to relationships of all kinds also?

Rest easy, work well.

Hayley