Are you waiting for a long hectic day of work to end before you take the time to relax? Many people plough through their day, let the stress build, then hope to repair the damage later.
The method of postponing stress relief until the end of the day is not the answer. Trust me, I’ve been there! To truly combat stress and the harm it causes, we need to practice relaxation and stress relief throughout the day.
Building relaxation techniques into our daily routine can be challenging. People who work at home often lose track of time and only know the stress has gotten out of control when the stiff and sore muscles, headaches, and other ailments surface.
Rather than put relaxation and stress relief off until later, let’s find some simple methods that we can add to our schedule throughout the day. Here are a few basic techniques to try right in the comfort of your home office.
Do you feel like you have problems with concentration, decision making, judgement and social interaction? Madhumita Murgia shows how chronic stress can affect brain size, its structure, and how it functions right down to the level of your genes.
If stress is causing you to get anxious, nervous, agitated, or even angry, deep breathing may be the perfect relaxation therapy for you. Deep breathing from the abdomen, as opposed to shallow breaths, increase oxygen intake. More oxygen in the lungs and body produces calmer.
To practice deep breathing, find a comfortable place to sit in your office, sit straight and breathe in deeply through your nose and out slowly through your mouth. If you are breathing correctly, your abdomen should expand rather than your chest. It may be easier to lie down to do this technique. Set a small notepad on your stomach, and, if you are breathing deeply, you should see the notepad rise and fall. This takes some practice but the results are almost immediate once you learn it.
You can try this Dr Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise, that is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. It slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, reduces the “flight or fight” response, makes you sleep better at night and a lot more.
Instructions for 4-7-8 Deep Breathing Exercise:
Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time.
Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important.
If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice, you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
People respond to stress differently. Rather than getting nervous and anxious, you may become depressed and withdrawn. Your thoughts may seem sluggish or cloudy, and you may not be able to make a decision. If this describes how you respond to stress, you may need to include some rhythmic movement into your day.
This can be something as simple as getting up from your office chair and walking around. However, many people find a jumping rope or doing exercises on a floorball rejuvenating.
Don’t wait for the stress to overwhelm and paralyse your thoughts. Instead, add some rhythmic exercising movements into your daily routine, even several times, to keep alert and drive stress out of your day.
If you feel stress in your body, suffering from neck pain, back pain, and headaches, muscle relaxation may be helpful. This method involves some practice, but once you have a familiarity with it, you will begin to look forward to the relief it brings.
More than just shaking your shoulders loose or turning your neck in a circle, this is a technique focuses on individual muscle groups. The most common way to move through the body is by starting with your feet, tensing the muscle in one foot, then relaxing, and repeating with your other foot, then moving up each leg, tensing and relaxing as you move up your body until you reach your face.
The critical technique for this method is the focus. You will focus on one muscle group at a time (foot, calf, thigh, hips, stomach, chest, etc), tensing and relaxing. With time and practice, this method of stress relief can help reduce body pain.
All of these techniques for stress relief can be done in the comfort of your office. Remember to schedule time during the day, every day, to do some form of relaxation in order to deal with stress before it creates long-lasting health problems. Schedule your phone to remind you.
Keep Healthy Snacks at Work
Try to keep some healthy snacks in your desk drawer, just in case you don’t have time for proper lunch or you get overwhelmed with cravings for sugar for energy.
Eating sugary treats might be the worst thing to do in case of a stressful day at work. Read an interesting WebMD article about this topic “Your brain on sugar“.
If you have no time to prepare healthy snacks, buy some dark chocolate, but make sure it has 72% or more cacao to maintain the health benefits. When needed, take one piece of chocolate on the top of your tongue and let it melt slowly instead of biting it.
Just one small piece can release the endorphins that bind opiate receptors in the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria, intense excitement, happiness, reduced stress and fewer cravings.
The sensory experience might be the most important part of chocolate’s ability to satisfy cravings. Find some recipes for healthy snacks here.
Freeze-dried berries combined with nuts and seeds can be an easy snack at work. For example, blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses and known for improving cognition. High in vitamin C, blueberries and other berries, as well, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, reducing the effects of stress.
Dr Berg talks about the effect of stress and sugar on your brain. To keep your brain in peak condition you might want to watch out for your cortisol and insulin levels.