RLS in the Workplace

November 15, 2021 By Steve McCann, former RLS Foundation Board Member I’m in my 50’s and have been in corporate sales for over 30 y...

November 15, 2021

By Steve McCann, former RLS Foundation Board Member

I’m in my 50’s and have been in corporate sales for over 30 years. My diagnosis of RLS should have come when I was five years old; however, back then, members of the medical community did not know nearly as much as they do today.

My path has been both different and similar to most people with chronic RLS – not an earth-shattering revelation. I can remember tapping my left leg during childhood to distract the unpleasant sensations that I would have throughout the day – not every day, but many days. It wasn’t until my early 30’s that RLS became an everyday, chronic experience. Before then, RLS would appear when I had been sitting for long periods, when I was experiencing stress or when I was over-caffeinating myself.

After college, I had to come to grips with RLS, as my career required me to be somewhere specific on a daily basis. I had to be “on” as best I could, since I considered myself an achiever and didn’t want to allow this RLS thing to hamper my career.

Although it didn’t happen as quickly as I would have liked, “it” did happen. The “it” being my acceptance of RLS. For some time, I resisted and sought ways to heal the RLS by myself. And by so doing, I dealt with the symptoms in a way that didn’t help me in the workplace. Being short on sleep and being angry about it was not a great strategy.

Through acceptance, I discovered some ideas that helped me to be at my best in the workplace:

  • Optimized Workspace: My RLS sensations occur in my hamstrings. If I sit for too long, they will begin to appear. I am able to bend down on one knee and work on my computer. In the past, I have worked from a standing desk, which is a great idea for people with RLS. I’ve also arranged to walk outside of my office daily while making phone calls. When I have days where I don’t have to make phone calls, I will still take midafternoon walks. This not only provides a positive break for my RLS but also is excellent timing for digesting lunch from two hours before.
  • An Earlier Bedtime: What is early? This is subjective, but 10:30 pm works for me. However, the more sleep I am able to get before midnight, the better my sleep and the more rested I feel. This technique is not original. Becoming a student of RLS, I learned from some of the top sleep specialists in the industry that there is something powerful that occurs when we get to sleep earlier rather than later. I will also add that making this a habit was not easy. Getting up early was the key. After a long period of adjustment, getting up early (even when I didn’t want to) created the sleepiness to help me form the habit of getting to bed early.
  • Exercise: Wow, this is so key! It is one of the most important habits for a healthy lifestyle, but even more important for people with chronic conditions. Exercise creates endorphins in our bodies that help us feel good. This in turn helps us to be productive, improves our mood and helps us sleep.
  • Deep Breathing/Meditation: This is a fantastic habit for anyone wanting to be successful and reach their potential in life. I wonder if I would even have developed this habit had I not had RLS. The good news for me is that I did discover this wonderful habit. It’s the gift that truly keeps on giving. I invest 15 to 30 minutes per day in quiet meditation. I take deep breaths during that time and focus on my breathing. That’s it; that’s what I do once or twice per day. I rarely miss a day. And when I am able to do it twice a day, my day is that much better. By better, I mean clearer of mind, relaxed in my body and my mind. The “restless” part of our RLS condition is not lost on me. I believe that we have things going on in our body for reasons. When they are problematic, like RLS, they often have a message within them. In my case, I was restless in all areas of my life. As I learned to invest time daily in quiet, while breathing deeply and focusing my mind on my breath, over time my thinking and feeling and actions in life took on more peaceful and productive patterns that have served me well.

I am forever grateful for the RLS Foundation. I have benefited more from learning about other people’s RLS experience through the Foundation than from any other available forum. Through the years, I have read NightWalkers and met people who work for, volunteer for or are simply members of the Foundation who have touched and bettered my life in ways I would never have imagined. More than anything else, I learned that I am not alone! Now that is a life lesson worth learning.

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