Updated: Mar 7, 2022
If you're feeling under pressure, it's tempting to plough on relentlessly. However, taking a moment to relax, recollect yourself and allow thinking time can help you refocus and make you more productive, meaning you get the job done faster and more efficiently.
Stress less with these 5 relaxation methods to do at work:
1) Deep breathing - a simple exercise that has so many benefits. Deep breathing can be practised as part of your daily routine for on going stress management and mindfulness, or, in moments of anxiety or panic, it can be used as a calming technique.
This can be done sitting, lying down or standing in a comfortable position with a straight back.
Rest your hands beside you, on the arms of your chair or on your lap, and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
As you breathe in, try to breathe in to your stomach rather than your chest, so your stomach pushes out but your chest and shoulders stay still. Breathe in for a count of 7, and out to a count of 11 – the 7-11 technique - as long as is comfortable for you without straining. Try to hold your breath in at the top for a count of 3 before exhaling
Focus on keeping your breathing as steady and controlled as you can.
Keep doing this for 3 – 5 minutes for optimal benefit.
It is sometimes difficult in the moment to remember what to do to help yourself if you feel your stress levels rising. Try leaving yourself a visual reminder on your desk to help you remember what to do. It doesn’t have to be a big yellow post it that says ‘BREATHE’ unless you want it to be. It could just be a bit of blu-tack stuck to your monitor stand, or a small sticker on the top edge of your keyboard. Each time you notice it, remind yourself to take a brief moment to breathe. 7-11.
2) Check your posture - if you're sitting or standing for a long time with poor posture, your muscles can become tense, leading to back, shoulder and neck pain. Maybe you're sitting hunched or slouched at your desk, driving all day, or standing behind a counter for long periods.
There are simple fixes you can do in any environment to improve your posture and relieve the tension:
sit / stand up straight, breathe in, squeezing and lifting your shoulders to your ears, and lower and release as you breathe out. Make sure they are in line with your hips and not hunched forwards.
imagine an elastic band stretched from one hip to the other. Now imagine you are drawing the band backwards and upwards with your body. This will help keep your core muscles strong and engaged.
now imagine a piece of string going from your belly button up through the top of your head. As you breathe in, imagine the string is pulling you up and bringing your body into alignment.
For desk workers, it is also important to make sure your desk and chair are set up correctly to help you maintain good posture. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your legs bent at right angles at the knees. Your elbows should also be bent at right angles when resting your fingers on the keyboard, and your eye-line should fall within the top third of the screen when looking straight forward.
Often, simple adjustments can be made to the height of your chair or screen to achieve this positioning, but occasionally you may need to invest in specific equipment such as a foot rest or a chair more suitable to your stature. A DSE assessment with a trained individual will help you to identify any tweak or additional equipment required.
3) Micro meditation - Another very accessible technique that can be done almost anywhere - sitting, standing or lying down (although wait until you have parked if doing this one in the car).
Micro meditation allows you to bring awareness to your body and release tension when you only have a short period of time. It should take around 1 -3 minutes and will leave you feeling calmer and more in control.
If you can, go somewhere where you won't be disturbed for a few minutes. Sit, stand or lie down comfortably with a straight back and close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so.
Starting at your toes, then your feet, then your ankles and calves, bring your awareness to each part of your body in turn and notice how they feel - can you feel your shoes against your feet, your calves tingling, tension in your shoulders or your jaw? As you become aware of each part of your body, breathe in, and as your breathe out, try and relax that body part and let any tension disappear with your breath.
You can do this at whatever speed is comfortable for you can it can be lengthened or shortened depending on how much time you have available. Even very short sessions of one minute will be helpful, and can easily be squeezed into a busy day.
4) Mindful eating - Hopefully, even if you are very busy at work, you still take time to eat. We all know we should take a break and not eat at our desks, but wherever you eat, try to spend at least a couple of minutes eating mindfully to help give yourself a worthwhile break.
Mindful eating has also been linked to promoting weight loss and reducing binge eating so it's a win all round.
The key concepts of mindful eating include:
being wholly aware of your food - the taste, texture, smell, what does it look like, what does it sound like when you eat it?
appreciating your food - being appreciative if it tastes good, if it's sating your hunger, that it's giving you energy
Being aware of your body's response to food - stopping when you are full, slowing down if eating too fast is causing discomfort, becoming aware of your hunger cues and when they are genuine or otherwise.
Thinking about the type of food you are eating, and how it is benefiting your body, or what achievable changes you could make to your diet to improve your health and well being.
Ideally you should eat slowly, and somewhere you won't be distracted.
If you are pushed for time, this doesn't have to be done for a whole meal. You could apply mindfulness to a mid morning snack, or even a cup of tea or glass of water. It is better to do a little than none at all.
5) Take a walk - Physical activity releases endorphins which are a natural stress reliever, and being outside in nature has also been linked to a reduction in stress levels so it's a win all round. Even if you work in a city, there are often green spaces dotted around that you can access, although if you can't go far at lunch time, you can always look up and enjoy the sky. Even walking to the other side of the building or to the kitchen for a change of scenery could help if your stress is making you feel like you’re in a rut.
Wherever your route takes you, the act of walking itself can relieve stress and make you feel energised. By taking you away from your source of stress and out into the world, it helps you to put things in perspective and see the big picture.
More information about dealing with stress can be found on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/
Do you have any other tips and techniques for managing your stress levels at work?