Workplace stress is inevitable, even if you love your job. Tight deadlines, progress evaluations, sales presentations, and unexpected or harried work travel can raise your anxiety level. Add in a boss with anger management issues, a disorganized co-worker, or other office interpersonal drama, and it’s a wonder you don’t ditch it all and move the family into a tree-hut in the woods to live by hunting, fishing, and foraging wild berries.
If that thought has ever passed through your mind, clearly it’s time for a stress-break. Here are three exercises you can do at work to help bring inner peace.
Most office workers spend a lot of time sitting down and staring at a screen. The only time your heart rate goes up is when the boss is breathing down your neck. This jolt will definitely pump adrenaline through your body, but not necessarily the happy endorphins that flood your bloodstream when you do a little cardio exercising.
Cardio exercising doesn’t mean getting yourself so worked up that you’re dripping sweat. Even ten- or fifteen-minute bouts of exercise that elevate your heart rate will work, such as:
– Taking the stairs rather than the elevator to your office
– Taking the long, circuitous route from your cubicle to the bathroom and back
– Taking a walk outside the office during lunchtime
– Ten minutes of in-place exercises like jumping jacks, running in place, or push-ups
Stress makes your muscles bunch up, no doubt about it. Long stretches of sitting in one place can make your legs fall asleep, your ankles and calves swell, and your bottom go numb. Your neck muscles will tighten up, as will your shoulders, the two areas that massage therapists recognize as the major muscle areas affected most easily by stress.
Stretching can include:
– Yoga positions, if you practice regularly
– Rolling your neck and shoulders gently, so you don’t pull any muscles
– Runner’s stretches to lengthen the calf muscles and quads
– Back stretches by gently lifting your arms above your head, stretching side-to-side, and touching your toes
“Take a deep breath” may seem like a cliché, but studies have shown that slow, deep breathing exercises, such as occur during meditation, can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones in your blood. Done correctly, breathing deeply can focus the “monkey mind,” a state of stress when your thoughts swirl with deadlines, details, and the detritus of daily office life. A clearer head means a calmer worker, so the ten or fifteen minutes spent focusing on your breathing might mean a far more productive, and slightly less stressful, afternoon.
Extended bouts of unrelenting stress can cause serious physical effects, such as headaches, insomnia and back pain as well as hypertension, heart disease, and depression. It’s worth taking the time to learn positive techniques to cope with daily stress so it doesn’t turn chronic.