If you work in an office, you might be shocked to learn that you spend the equivalent of 67 days a year sitting at your desk. While necessary to get your work done, it also comes with several health and wellness problems.
Prolonged sitting can cause a sore back or neck, and has been linked to higher blood pressure, increased weight gain, and other consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
That’s why it is recommended to take regular breaks throughout the workday, walk around the office whenever you can, use a standing desk if possible, and engage in physical activity in your free time. But it’s not just about physical wellbeing. Working in an office comes with mental and emotional stress too.
Why is it important to find ways to relax at work?
Job stress is a natural part of life. It’s normal to feel some stress before a deadline, for example, or when giving an important presentation. In small doses, stress is a net positive, driving you to excel and perform better.
However, if that stress becomes overblown, it can cause headaches, chronic pain, or anxiety. In extreme cases, it impedes your ability to face challenges or even to function properly. When this happens, workers often end up taking lots of sick days, or even quitting.
At the very least, it stops you from enjoying your job or gaining a sense of satisfaction or joy from your career. Fortunately, stress on the job doesn’t usually come as a sudden unexpected blow. Rather, it is incremental, building up slowly over time, creating mild symptoms at first. By paying attention, and being proactive about it, you can relax from work, and control stress before it builds up and gets out of hand.
How to relax at work
There are two types of stress – physical and emotional (or mental). If you have to sit for many hours in front of a screen, you may suffer from a headache. If you just lost a high-paying customer, you may also get a headache. In one case, the cause is physical stress; in the other, it’s emotional stress.
Sometimes, the work environment is so busy, you just can’t get away from your desk. Perhaps you’ve got a big deadline looming, or you’re in a long Zoom meeting, or you came in to work late and you’ve got a long to-do list.
If you’re feeling tense, physically or mentally, but can’t get up and take a much-needed break, it’s important to have techniques at hand to relieve that tension. Not only will these stop the stress from overblowing, they will also help you continue to perform, fulfill your work responsibilities, and get the job done – without standing up.
Here are 5 fast, discreet, and relaxing techniques at work, even when you are too busy to leave your office desk.
1. Sitting Stretch
One of the biggest problems of sitting all day at your desk is the muscle tension that builds up, particularly around the back, shoulders, and neck. There are several sitting stretches you can do to relieve muscle tension while seated.
If you are in the middle of a busy project and can’t leave your desk, take a minute or so every half an hour to do a sitting stretch exercise and restore much-needed blood flow and flexibility to tense muscles. Check out several sitting stretch exercises here.
2. Ear massage
You know all about reflexology, but have you ever heard of “auriculotherapy”? According to ancient Chinese practice, the ear is a key to body-mind wellness, and a quick acupressure massage of the ear is the perfect relaxation exercise when you can’t leave your desk. It’s really simple: place your thumb and forefinger on both sides of your ear lobe, and gently massage, working your way up along the side of the ear and around the helix.
Repeat for the other ear. This is incredibly soothing, because the ear is highly sensitive. It has lots of nerve endings and significant blood supply. Massaging the ear is a quick way to induce the body to release feel-good hormones, and create an overall relaxed sensation.
3. Drink a cup of herbal tea
Here is another easy (and delicious) way to relax at your desk. Brew your favorite herbal tea, and drink while you work. Chamomile is one of the best-known relaxing herbs, but others such as mint or lavender are also very soothing.
The main reason herbal teas are so calming is that they contain no caffeine. It’s best not to add sugar, as this will only stimulate or agitate you, especially if you are already stressed. Choose a herbal tea whose flavor you enjoy, make it piping hot, and take small, mindful sips while sitting at your desk. You’ll be surprised at how stress-reducing it can be when you pay attention!
4. Breathing exercises
This is a great relaxation technique anywhere, anytime, including your office desk. Relax your shoulders, and breathe in slowly through the nose, counting up to 5. Hold the breath for a second or two, then release slowly through the mouth, to the count of 5. Repeat 5 times.
This simple exercise helps calm the heart rate and restore oxygen levels to the blood, creating an almost instant calming effect. If you have a Reflect biofeedback device nearby, place your hands on the orb as you do the exercise, and see how it calms your breathing and heartbeat. This visual biofeedback is important to reinforce the practice and learn how to relax as quickly as possible.
Mindfulness is a powerful technique that teaches you to observe what you are feeling in the moment, so you can let go, release tension and get on with your job. A quick and effective mindfulness technique is the body scan. Here’s how to do it at your office desk:
- Stop what you are doing, and adjust your position in the chair so you feel comfortable.
- If you want to, and can do so withoutfeeling self-conscious around your colleagues, close your eyes. If you don’t feel comfortable closing your eyes, you can do this technique of meditation with your eyes open.
- Starting at the top of the head, slowly move your mind down the length of your body, all the way to the tips of your toes. Focus your mind on how each part of the body feels as you scan down.
- Don’t think – just pay attention to the sensations of the body, noticing how it feels with curiosity and without judgment.
- Repeat the body scan three times.
Mindfulness is a great way to re-center the mind, calm racing thoughts, and release tension during a busy workday. It requires no special equipment, and you can do it anywhere, including at your desk.
There’s no excuse not to relax!
You don’t need a week’s vacation from work and a trip to a spa resort to unwind. If you can do that, then great… But for the most part, you have a job to do, so you need relaxation techniques or use a meditation device such as Reflet in the workplace that is suitable for every day.
The tips above can help you release tension at work and control your stress response, even when you can’t leave your office desk. No excuses!