We all know that practices like exercising, yoga, getting enough sleep, and eating nourishing foods can all combat stress, but what can you do to combat stress in the moment? Leaving your desk for a jog isn’t always an option, neither is eating a balanced meal or popping into a quick restorative yoga pose. Here are five quick and easy ways to destress at your desk.
Taking a moment to focus on your breath can help trigger a relaxation response, and it only takes a few breaths to help you centre yourself. Start by trying to focus on your in-breath, inhaling deeply through your nose. With each inhale, try to breathe deeper and deeper, visualizing your breath moving right into your toes. Exhale slowly through your mouth, making sure to control the pressure of your breath, keeping it constant and smooth. Start with a cycle of five breaths, increasing or decreasing as you need to achieve calm.
Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness doesn’t mean zoning out. Instead, mindfulness is a time when you purposefully pay attention to your surroundings and emotions, focusing only on the present. Research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can calm your mind and body, and help you cope with pain and stress. Practising mindfulness at your desk is easy and takes just minutes. Stop work, and notice how your body feels. Take a few breaths, and pay attention to your surroundings – what can you hear? What can you smell? Try to accept any feelings that come up, try to notice them and not react.
Small projects and tasks can be particularly challenging because they don’t seem to fight for our time and attention like larger projects that loom with big deadlines and responsibilities, but when they start to pile up they form a sort of small project mega monster. Take a look at your workload and complete every task that can be done in five minutes or less. Replying to emails, filing your receipts, and tidying your desk (get a new desk organiser) are good places to start.
Pay attention to your body
When your body is tired, hungry, thirsty, or tense, it can trigger a stress response. Paying attention to your needs, including going to the washroom when you need to, helps hugely when it comes to battling stress. Keeping a bottle of fresh water at your desk, along with a healthy snack, will help to keep you hydrated and stave off hunger. Take a moment to address any tension in your neck, back, and shoulders by tensing these muscles and then releasing them. Or invest in a small neck massager that straps onto your office chair – simply plug it in and lean back for instant relief.
Make time for a laugh
My partner has a super stressful engineering job and frequently bounces between desk, phone, mobile and on-site radio – all while trying to deal with a constant barrage of questions and problems from his staff. All of that constant stimulation weighs on him daily, but he is usually one of the happiest people in the room. When I asked him how he manages his stress, he showed me this and told me that checking in on that Calming Manatee made him smile. Find something that tickles your funny bone, and take a mental health break every hour or two to deescalate high stress situations.
Looming deadlines and loud, brightly lit work environments can be soured of stress themselves, but with these five stress fighters, you’re on your way to major productivity with less stress in no time.