10 Ways to Reduce Stress and Increase Relaxation in the Workplace
Take a Few Minutes a Day to Keep Stress Away
You’ve heard of the fight-or-flight response. Stress engages the fight or flight response on the body. This is the body’s way of preparing to protect itself or run away from the stressor – a physiological response passed down through evolution. In preparing for these two possibilities, the body increases heart rate, breathing, production of adrenaline, and production of glucose to increase energy. In addition, blood is diverted from non-essential functions (like the digestion system) to other systems in the body like the respiratory and circulatory system.
While both short-term and chronic stress can occur, chronic stress has a more negative effect on the body. Chronic stress may last for days, weeks or months, and it keeps the body from achieving a healthy equilibrium. Some studies have shown that 90 percent of all disease and illness are stress-related. The workplace is one of the key places stress originates in our society, and learning how to manage that stress can improve your mindset and your health.
Here are some quick and easy ways to reduce stress in the workplace. Pick one or two and try them out for a week. See how they reduce your stress level.
Deep Breathing – One of the easiest ways to counter stress is to increase deep breathing. Remember that in response to stress, the body breathes shallowly, increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to the muscles. Counteract that by breathing deeply. Inhale on a count of five, hold your breath for three to four seconds, then slowly release the breath to the count of five. Try to take ten deep breaths every one or two hours – it only takes a few minutes and can reset your mental state.
Take a Mini-Mental Vacation – Determine your most stressed time of day. Do you usually have a rush of stress right as you start the day? Or, a crisis every day about 20 minutes before you leave? At that time, take three minutes, close your eyes, and imagine you are doing something you love to do. Maybe you enjoy walking on a beach with sand squishing up between your toes. Perhaps you enjoy sitting in your favorite chair relaxing at home with a pet on your lap, or taking a slow walk with a loved one. Maybe a massage is one of your most relaxing moments. Put yourself there, engage all your senses, feel the temperature of the sun as you walk down the beach, imagine the salt water taste on your lips and the sound of the waves crashing. Let your mind take you there and keep you for a few minutes.
Exercise – Exercise seems to be a cure-all for many things. It’s very effective in combating stress because it releases hormones that counteract the stress hormone running through your body. Take a short walk outside, go up and down the stairs for a few minutes in the building, get the body moving or include exercise as a part of your daily routine.
Say No – Set Limits and Boundaries. Instead of agreeing to take on anything asked of you, take a realistic look at your plate and see how busy you are with respect to the new tasks asked of you. Simple statements such as “I am very busy today but will get to it as soon as possible” acknowledge the importance of the request to the asker, but also set realistic expectations. People respect the ability to say “No” or “Not right now” – it indicates that you have gauged the task being requested, and considered it realistically. Set your boundaries and limit your responsibilities to what you can really handle. Talk to your boss about realistic expectations, and have him/her help you delegate some of those tasks to others when you are overloaded.
Rest – Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to reducing stress. Lack of sleep degrades mental acuity and emotional strength. Make sure you are getting enough sleep on a regular basis, and that your sleep is uninterrupted.
Do one thing at a time (Prioritize) – Make a task list and prioritize based on short term and long term goals. Don’t try to tackle three things at once. In some ways, the multitasking fever of today’s technological workplace makes us more inefficient than ever. Shut off your email for a while when you’re working on something that requires serious concentration. Put off answering your phone or impromptu meetings when you’ve got a deadline bearing down. Use every minute effectively and concentrate on one matter at a time. You’ll be far more effective in completing your tasks if you do.
Stretch – Take a moment to stretch out your neck, arms and back. I have many sets of stretches listed in past newsletters (http://massagebyheather.com/past_newsletter.htm) – find one that seems to work with you. At the very least, take some deep breaths, stretch your neck from side to side, and front to back, and pull your arms out to the side and overhead to get the muscles loosened up a bit. Taking a stretch break every hour or two will loosen muscles, allowing more circulation to them, lessening muscle fatigue.
Schedule a massage or get a friend/spouse to work on you – Massage is well-known as a means to relax the body and mind. Whether you get a professional massage, or trade out informal massages with a friend or spouse, scheduling a massage gives you something to look forward to, and it will increase peace of mind. Go ahead and call your massage therapist, or schedule regular sessions to remind the body and mind what “relaxed” feels like.
Talk about it – See a professional counselor or talk to your human resources department. Stress and its physical effects cause millions of lost work hours every year across the U.S. Talking to a therapist to help develop healthy methods to manage and dissipate stress gives you tools to deal with the stress and an impartial ear to help discern what stress is manageable and what is over the top.
Laugh – This one sounds easy, but take some time to laugh. Look at a funny website you enjoy, or take time to talk with a friend who makes you laugh. Laughter has been shown to reduce stress and increase relaxation.
Incorporate just one or two of these methods into your daily routine and you will feel a reduction in your stress level. It doesn’t take severe burnout to get you started on the road to relaxation – just the dedication of a few minutes of each day to make time and space for yourself.
Minute Massage for the Workplace
Take a few minutes as part of your daily routine to massage sore muscles at work. The following routine takes only a few minutes and increases blood flow to areas commonly affected by stress in the body.
Massage the Neck: Take your right hand and grab the back of your neck. Knead and massage the back of your neck from the base of the neck up to the head. Do this about two times, then switch hands, and use your left hand to massage the back of your neck.
Massage the Shoulders: Take both hands and grab your shoulders close to the junction of the neck and the shoulders. Knead and squeeze your shoulders, moving from close to the neck out toward the ends of the shoulders. Cover the area about two times.
Squeeze the Hand: Take one hand and squeeze it firmly with the other. Squeeze from both the left and right sides, and be sure to squeeze each finger.
Stretch the Fingers Backward: Take one finger, and pull it back, toward the back surface of the hand. Pull backwards until you feel a good stretch and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat the stretch 5 times on each finger, including the thumb.
Rub and Press the Jaw Muscle (masseter): Use your fingers or thumbs to rub small circles over the entire surface of the jaw muscle. You can clench your teeth for a second to find out where the masseter starts and ends
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