When you think about stress, does your mind immediately jump to your job? After all, work is where we spend the greatest amount of time. It is the place where our ability to meet the demands of productivity and efficiency impact our ability to support our families, and enjoy some material rewards.
It is all too easy when we are focused on meeting all our work demands, to relegate stress relief to something we do in our off hours…maybe some meditation in the morning, and a quick run at night. Or if we are not so motivated, maybe lots of TV and a beer. But there are some quick tricks to reduce mental and physical stress while toiling at a desk, so you won’t be as worn out or frazzled by 5 o’clock.
1. Prop up your posture. Eight hours of hunching over a desk or typing on a keyboard shortens the muscles in your chest, and keeps pulling your shoulders forward long after you have headed for home. You may feel the stress in your neck while you are working, or maybe not until the next morning, when you awaken still stiff and sore.
Placing a small stool under your desk, to elevate your feet, not only straightens and relaxes your shoulders automatically; it reduces the pressure where your chair may push into the back of your thighs. Raising your feet, so your thighs are level with the floor, increases blood flow all the way from your neck to your feet, and relieves stress on your lower back as well.
2. Stand up for yourself. There has been plenty of press in the past year or so about the danger of sitting for too long. Even if we workout at a gym regularly, the toll sitting takes on our bodies outweighs the benefits of other exercise.
The solution? If your job allows it, stand up and walk around as much as you can. I find pacing back and forth while on the phone feels very natural, and keeps the energy up in the conversation.
If your work involves staying in one place, as in a call center, ask your supervisor to allow standing while talking. You might even put forth some ideas to raise your computer keyboard, and help the health of your coworkers as well.
3. Give up eating lunch at your desk. Yes, I admit, I am guilty as charged. It seems so much more efficient, doesn’t it, to just munch the salad while reading the screen. But it is a bad move…or lack of moves, to be more precise.
Our thought processes need time to change gears. You may not want to stop work when you are right in the middle of an important project, but every project has little inner cycles…places where you can stop, take a break, and maybe come up with a few new ideas.
Plus, our bodies need to move away from the space, and more constant sitting. Stress builds up in our bodies and in our minds when we don’t give them some intermittent relief. Lunchtime is the perfect opportunity to get some fresh air, maybe a short walk, or anything that will recharge us.
If we are worried about a post lunch energy slump, eating protein and some veggies will help us avoid a carbohydrate crash as soon as we get back to our desk.
4. Do minute meditations whenever you can. If we think we can only do meditation when we have quiet and time alone, we are missing excellent chances to de-stress during the day.
Standing meditations are great for this. If you are alone in an elevator, relaxing for less than a minute and gently bouncing on your toes, can boost your energy. (A few moments of deep breathing in a bathroom stall may prevent tears in there later if you’re having a really rough day.)
5. Motivate your efficiency with music. Piped in music seems ubiquitous these days, but if your office doesn’t have some background tunes, bring your own to keep you mentally sharp. Unless you ears are plugged into computer phone lines, you can bring your own ear buds or headphones, and using an MP3 player is not liable to disturb those around you. Choose instrumental music designed to boost mental efficiency or calm stress. The calmer you are, the less liable your thinking is to be disrupted by anxiety or agitation.
6. Stretch out your stress. Neck and shoulder stretches can be done repeatedly throughout the day, but it is also helpful to stretch out your hamstrings whenever you get a chance. Check out some yoga books for easy standing stretches. They will help you keep your body loose and resilient for the next big task.
When you are stressed at work, you know it. And while it may seem like plowing ahead is your only course of action, the occasional quick stress break can avert the damage of too much accumulated stress, and clear your mind to be more productive. In the long run your body, your mind…and maybe even your boss…will thank you.
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