Many of my students ask me for advice on choosing an office chair. Very few ask for advice about their purse.
I used to broach the subject of purses very delicately with my female students. Most women are very connected to their bag of choice and the amount of stuff they carry around in it. Bringing up the subject inevitably caused a bit of conflict. My natural tendency is to avoid conflict. So, I would tread lightly.
But this did not benefit my students.
So, I decided to stop avoiding conflict. Now I do not hesitate to initiate a conversation with my students about their bags—and especially if they are constantly complaining of neck, shoulder or upper back tension or rounded shoulders. Because making some changes to the style of purse you carry and the amount of stuff you tote around can often make quite a difference in terms of your posture and pain.
Start by making some simple observations and asking some simple questions:
Weight—plop your purse down on a scale. If you don’t have a scale at home use one at the gym or in the produce section of the grocery store (probably best when nobody is looking!) How much does it weigh? You might be surprised. Also, try taking all the contents out and weighing the bag empty. Depending on the material it is made out of and the hardware on it you may already have considerable weight invested even before you put anything in it.
Might your neck, shoulder and back pain or tension be exacerbated by the amount of weight you are carrying around on a daily basis?
Contents—when you get home at the end of the day today dump out the contents of your bag on a table. Put in one pile everything you used today. Put in a second pile everything you did not use today. More often than not, the pile of stuff you didn’t use is larger than the pile of stuff you did use.
Is it worth the pain or tension in your neck, shoulders and back to carry around the weight of stuff when you need it only once a week or even less frequently?
Style—do you have a handbag, shoulder bag, hobo, or cross body bag? If you carry a bag in one hand or over one shoulder stand in front of the mirror with your eyes closed and put your bag in the hand or sling it over the shoulder that feels natural. Now, open your eyes. Look and observe the level of your shoulders. Are they even? Most often what happens is that you tense the shoulder carrying the weight, lifting it up and forward slightly and sometimes pulling it in toward your body.
Observe others. What do the majority of them do? (by the way, an airport is a great place to observe people carrying bags because often they are carrying a lot of weight and the habit gets even more exaggerated and therefore easier to spot).
And if you happen to not carry a purse the above can equally apply to tote bags, briefcases and workbags…
Image of purse courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net