Does your job ever stress you out? You're not alone! Eighty-three percent of Americans say that some aspect of their job causes stress. While a spa day or last-minute beach vacation seems like the ideal way to de-stress, those options aren't always possible. But that doesn't mean you have to live with the stress. Here are seven easy ways to de-stress at your desk that you can use without breaking the bank on a trip to Cancun.
01. Take a Deep Breath
Deep breathing is connected to regulating blood pressure and controlling heart rate. Both are essential to reducing stress and anxiety. Try this easy technique: Inhale through your nose while focusing on expanding your stomach at a slow count to five. Then purse your lips and exhale through your mouth for a slow count to five. Ready to step up your game? Watch this three- minute video for more detailed instructions plus visualizations of the sea!
02. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Have you ever hung up after a stressful phone conversation and noticed your shoulders felt tense? Tensed muscles are a sure sign of stress. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is an easy and quick way to drop that stress tension. PMR consists of consciously tensing isolated muscle groups (starting with your facial muscles and ending with your feet) and then relaxing them.
Try this sample exercise to relax your neck and back. Tense your neck and back muscles by scrunching your shoulders up and sinking your neck into your shoulders. Hold the tension for 5-10 seconds, focusing on the experience of the tension. Slowly release the tension as you repeat a one- or two-syllable word like "relax," "quiet," or a simple hum. Concentrate on the relaxed feeling as you visualize the tension leaving your muscles. Your body should feel warm and sink into your chair. You may need to practice a few times until you notice the effect. You can find more instructions on PMR for your arms, face, stomach, legs, and feet here.
03. Visualize a Peaceful Place
Sometimes, your office atmosphere alone—the noise, fast pace, or the configuration of the office—can induce stress. Taking just five minutes to visualize a peaceful and calm place (known as guided imagery) will reduce stress and provide a welcome break from office distractions. The University of Illinois' McKinley Health Center lists several health benefits of using guided imagery including a reduction in anxiety and stress, decreased blood pressure, improved immune system, and better sleep quality. There are many easy-to-follow videos and audio recordings that take you through the basic steps of guided imagery. Start with this five-minute tutorial where you'll visualize the simple act of breathing that we so often take for granted.
04. Stay Hydrated
Researchers have found that dehydration directly affects your stress levels. Staying hydrated helps your body function properly and prevents it from being taxed (which contributes to stress). Dehydration can also contribute to feeling tired or sluggish. Drinking water at regular intervals throughout the day will help you feel more awake and stress-free. If you forget to drink water, buy a cute 32-ounce bottle with eight-ounce line markers and drink eight ounces every two hours. Refill in the middle of the day to ensure you get your recommended 64 ounces of water.
05. Get Moving
Taking a short walk at work reduces stress and helps you feel more awake. Take a brisk walk around the office or soak up some sunshine while you walk outside. Even if you can't spare 20 or 30 minutes, a five-minute walk can make a huge difference. If you want to take it up a notch, try progressive muscle relaxation techniques as you walk.
06. Talk to a Friend
Friendship's positive effect is well-documented, so why not call up a friend for a quick chat or pay a visit to your favorite coworker's office? You will reduce stress and boost your mood while you catch up.
07. Sit Up Straight
Proper posture can give you an energy boost and help you reduce stress by increasing feelings of confidence and self-esteem. Erik Peper, Ph.D, found that slouched body posture could lead to feelings of depression and decreased energy. But his research showed how maintaining an upright posture could reverse these feelings. Go ahead: Hold your head high, sit up straight, and stop stress in its tracks.
These simple techniques can be used anywhere, whether you work in a traditional office or from home. Best of all, you can start using these techniques today!