10 Quick Stress Relief Strategies for a Crazy Schedule

by on January 15th, 2013

Stressed about going back to work today? This post is perfect for you! Today’s post is written by Ashley Josephine, Founder of Ashleyjosephine.com

Stressed out of your mind but embarrassed or afraid to do something about it? Recent research from ComPsych Corp. found that 66% of employees are stressed at work and at least half of those surveyed lose up to two vacation days a year because of burnout (this doesn’t include illnesses, such as colds and the flu, which can be caused by stress).

While the economy slowly recovers, many employees will forever be responsible for more tasks than ever before in the history of the corporate world, with little help from colleagues and the intense pressure of looming deadlines loath to let up.

Here are 10 1-minute quick hits of relaxation that you can do at work without anyone knowing you’re taking a much-needed break.

1. Breath Counting

Bring your awareness to your breathing and see if you can count to 10, (inhale 1, exhale 1) without getting distracted. No need to breathe any louder than normal, and you can keep the counting to yourself. After your first few breaths, see if you can lengthen the exhale so that it’s longer than the inhale. Research shows that lengthening the exhale stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for releasing cortisol-busting chemicals. Breath counting = the alternative version to popping a chill pill.

2. Perfect Place Visualization

Think of a place that makes you feel safe, secure and calm. It could be a beach you visited when you were young, or your idea of the perfect meadow. For me, it’s my bed. The more sensory input you can attach to the visualization of your perfect place, the more calm you’ll feel when you mentally return to it each time. What do you smell? How do you feel? Are there any people with you in this place? What colors do you see? What textures do you feel? Any time you’re feeling overwhelmed, afraid or confused, mentally return to your perfect place for a few short breaths to resume sanity, security and focus.

3. Mantra

Choose a phrase that makes you feel strong, calm or in control, such as “I am smart”, “I am okay” or “I am capable”. Whatever phrase you choose, make sure it’s in the present tense and make sure you believe it. It could be helpful to keep a file on your computer full of mantras to turn to when you’re in need of a quick pep talk. If there’s one that you especially like, write it on a post-it note and stick it on your computer or desk to serve as a constant reminder. The “Keep Calm And Carry On” poster is a great example of a popular mantra that has become embedded into our culture. To use your mantra in times of stress, repeat the mantra to yourself over and over again for one minute. If possible, sync the mantra to your breathing pattern, for example, inhale, repeat mantra, exhale. Follow this Affirmations Pinterest board for inspiration.

4. Walk

To shake up the monotony of your computer screen, get up and take a quick walk. You don’t have to go far – you can even turn your typical walk to the bathroom into a stress-relief strategy. The key is to focus on your footsteps. Become aware of each step you take, placing one foot in front of the other. Focusing your concentration in this way will help you get out of your mind and into your body. If you can’t get outside for a breath of fresh air, literally, try rerouting your walk so that you pass a window. Pause momentarily and take note of any signs of nature, even if it is just the clouds in the sky.

5. Wrist Stretch

When typing and clicking starts to cause you pain in the wrists and fingers, try this simple wrist stretch to relieve physical stress.

Place your hands out in front of you and place the four fingers, excluding the thumb, over the opposite hand’s four fingers so that the pinkie finger touches the palm, palm facing away from you. Press your fingers toward you for a stretch on the inside of your wrist. Take a few breaths, increasing pressure on your exhales. To stretch the top of the wrist, point your fingers down, palm facing toward you and lay your four fingers on top of the bottom knuckles of the opposite hand. Press your fingers towards you once again, increasing pressure on the exhale. After a few breaths, switch sides. It helps to have the arm of the hand being stretched straight out in front of you.

6. Do Nothing

Seriously. Turn your chair away from your computer and stare into space. No chatting with co-workers, no checking Facebook, no tidying up your desk or twiddling with your thumbs. Even stop thinking. If your boss asks you what you’re doing, tell him you’re thinking about the solution to a job-related problem. Doing nothing gives you the opportunity to disconnect from all the things that are distracting you and stressing you out, providing space for new insight.

7. Guided Meditation

Download this guided meditation and listen to it on the subway, in your car or on your headphones at work. It’s most effective if you actually disengage from multitasking.

8. The Yoga Routine You Didn’t Know You Were Doing

Check out the below video and practice the stretching routine throughout the day. Only you’ll know the exact benefits of the poses. To everyone else, it will just look like you’re simply stretching. If they ask you more about, it, email them a link to the video. You probably didn’t know you were doing yoga all this time, did you?

YouTube Preview Image

9. Hand Yoga

Mudras, or postures for the hands, have long been considered powerful gestures in the yoga tradition and in energy medicine. The palms of the hands have more nerve endings than any other area of the body, making them more receptive and energetically charged than any other area of the body. There really is a scientific reason for why we say “healing touch.” This hand gesture is meant to invoke guidance for when you’re feeling at a loss at work. Placing the palms face up is a universal signal for receiving. The best part is, it looks like you’re checking your nails.

Sit with a straight spine and bring your palms face up to chest level. Leave just a tiny space between the two little fingers, extend your thumbs straight out and curl your four other fingers in, without allowing the pads of the fingers to touch the palms. Gaze out over the tip of your nose and take long deep breaths for one minute.

10. Self-Massage

When your hands have had enough at the keyboard, give yourself a quick massage to loosen up tense fascia and tendons.

Using the thumb, start by applying moderate pressure on your opposite palm and move the thumb in a clockwise motion. Next, using your thumb and index finger, lightly pinch the skin between your thumb and index finger of the opposite hand, and then between each of the other fingers. Finally, with all fingers excluding the pinky grab hold of the base of each finger in succession, starting with the thumb and pull the opposite fingers away from you as if you were pulling off a ring that won’t come off. Imagine you are pulling out all the old static energy that you no longer need. Then repeat the previous three exercises on the opposite hand.  Now see how many days you can inconspicuously relax before anyone catches on to your cool composure.

How do you try to relax during your workday?

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