MedlinePlus defines stress as “a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health.”
Between the various elections, COVID-19, and simply living in 2020, I think it’s safe to say we’re all under some form of stress. Luckily, there are ways to reduce your stress level without ever having to leave your office.
A form of meditation, mindfulness is the process of acknowledging your body, surroundings, and earth beneath your feet. Take a minute to assess how you’re feeling emotionally. Are you anxious, stressed, frustrated, tired? Then, assess your physical surroundings. What sounds do you hear? Do you hear the A/C blowing the air gently around the room? Do you hear a television in a room nearby? What can you feel? Maybe you feel the desk under your hands or the chair pressing against your back. Go through each of your senses: sound, taste, touch, smell, and sight, and take note of everything you notice. This process will bring you into the here and now. Doing this at least once per day is a surefire way to calm a mind on overload.
Everyone knows how to breathe, but sometimes we take this action for granted. Breathing exercises can increase focus and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. My favorite technique is called Box Breathing.
- Sitting up straight with your shoulders back, take a slow, deep breath in for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Slowly let the breath out for the next 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Repeat the whole process 4-10 times
This is such a simple way to bring yourself back down to earth, and the only requirement is that you be able to count to 4.
Movement relieves muscle tension, increases blood flow, and can promote relaxation. When you’re at your desk, it can be hard to remember to get up and move. A timer or reminder app can be incredibly helpful in these situations. Set a reminder to move every 1-2 hours. Ideally, you should try to get out of the office and take a 5-10 minute walk, but that’s not always possible. If you can’t take a walk, but you need to move, Healthline lists several easy stretches you can do that don’t even require standing.
“You are what you eat.” We’ve all heard this before, but it feels like something we tell children when they eat too much candy, and it actually rings true more than we might think. While we need a little bit of sugar and fat to maintain our energy levels, eating too much can lead to lethargy, weight gain, and a whole host of other issues. What we really need is a daily balance of several items: protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and various minerals.
When you’re planning your day, plan to eat lots of veggies. Roughly half of your plate should be filled with one these, so the more color on your plate, the better. Also, protein should be a priority. It will help keep you full for much longer than carbohydrates, and boosts your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day. Lastly, avoid ultra-processed foods. Many of these foods lack the nutrients your body needs to continue running effectively.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated!
The smells in your environment can have a huge impact on our mood. Our sense of smell is closely linked with memory and emotional processing. This is walking through a room and smelling something familiar can make us excited or disgusted.
While essential oils may not be for everyone, aromatherapy has been proven to be effective in reducing stress and irritability. So, if you know the day will be especially busy, consider filling the office with lavender or vanilla. If these aren’t scents that you like, that’s completely fine! Any smell that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside will do the trick.
Hopefully, these tips can help you reach a sense of calm during these trying times. If you have any questions, comments, or tips of your own, we’d love to hear them. Comment below or reach out on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!