Relaxing At Work
Whether it’s a 16 hour shift on your feet, or day after day of monotonous work at your desk, stress is a common battle across the board at the workplace. Many people prefer to put their emotions to the side and just work through the stress then “deal” with it once they get home. While there are plenty of successful ways to combat stress away from work, some of the most effective stress reducing techniques can be done while you are still working. Simple activities like small exercises at the desk (with no weights or bands required) to strengthen your posture and reduce that nagging “desk ache,” or stretching on breaks to reduce the fatigue in your lower back, legs, and feet will gradually help to lessen the stress as you become more comfortable and efficient at work.
One other crucial and instantaneous change you can make at work is to change your breathing habits by focusing on diaphragmatic breathing. The best way to learn to properly breath using the diaphragm is by lying in bed and relaxing as much possible. Just as you are on the verge of sleep, or are in a completely relaxed state, pay attention to your breathing. You should notice that when you inhale and exhale, your stomach expands and retracts. This is proper diaphragmatic breathing and can and should be preformed at all times, especially in moments of high stress. If your stomach is still motionless and your chest is still rising towards your chin, you are either not at a genuinely relaxed state, or you must completely retrain your body to inhale via the diaphragm by focusing your breath into your stomach." For a quick lesson, you can follow the simple breathing routine found at the end of this page in order to help guide you to a deeper state of relaxation, wherever you are.
Amongst numerous other health benefits, diaphragmatic breathing helps to maintain proper oxygen intake and cardio/pulmonary rhythm along with reducing tension in your upper back and neck by reducing the load on your secondary breathing muscles (scalenes and the serratus group). Many, if not most Americans tend to alternate the role of the diaphragm by using it as a secondary instead of a primary breathing muscle and because of this, many have to be retrained to properly use the diaphragm while breathing. A good breathing exercise to help coordinate proper breathing can be done anytime, and anywhere, and is an extremely efficient method to quick and long lasting stress reduction.
Another simple way to reduce your tension level is by performing self-massage. Instead of using your hands, use other objects and your own body weight. For example, while at a desk, or in a less crowded area, you can use a tennis ball positioned between an area of pain and a wall or chair. Lean into the ball using your body weight (if more pressure is needed you can push into the ball) and allow the ball to roll out those pesky knots. If the pain is in your palm, rest your hand on your leg and lean into it with your elbow, slowly flexing and extending your arm to allow the elbow to make a rolling motion (the same method can be used for your quads and forearms).
And at last, when you are finished with work you can seek out a massage. Studies have proven that massage is one of the most effective ways to reduce overall stress along with countless other added health benefits. But until you can get to a massage, here is a helpful breathing routine you can do while on the job:
Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise
- Start by pausing what you are doing for just a moment, and gather your senses (if possible, close your eyes)
- Place your hands over your stomach and take a slow, deep breath in through your nostrils, allowing the air to fill your stomach and gently expand your rib cage instead of lifting your chest and shoulders (your stomach should push your hands as it expands with inhalation)
- Envision the air as it slowly fills your lungs, bringing vital nutrients to your entire body
- Hold the breath for a brief moment, as if to savor it, then slowly exhale (try to make your exhale the longest portion of your breathing), allowing the shoulders, chest and abdomen to sink down and in as far as comfortable
- Continue this exercise for 3 to 6 breaths or more, focusing each time on relaxing all of your muscles and allowing your heart rate to steadily decrease
Still need more help? Just type in "diaphragmatic breathing" on YouTube or your preferred search engine and start trying tips and training techniques available elsewhere on the web. And remember, when that stress begins to build up, a quick breathing break can be the quickest way out...
Click on the slide below to open a presentation I created on the science of breath work:
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