77% of people experience physical symptoms due to stress at work.
1. Take more breaks
Dealing with a problem that doesn’t seem to have a resolution in sight? Getting frustrated with your co-workers? Feeling overwhelmed by your workload and can’t seem to focus enough to get anything done? Take. A. Break. Get away from your desk, from the office. Take a step outside for fresh air if you can. Taking just a few moments for yourself throughout your day can significantly improve your productivity and give you the motivation you need. Once I learned to incorporate short breaks into my day-to-day I noticed my productivity improve, I am happier at work, and stressful situations don’t have nearly as much impact.
We make a lot of excuses to tell ourselves why we shouldn’t take a break; we are too busy, have too many to-dos, too many emails, voicemails, responsibilities, you are too important, they can’t do it without you, etc. What many don’t realize is that taking breaks actually helps to solve problems and regain focus, since the mind has some time to rest and restore. Our brains need time to rest in order to solve difficult problems and to evaluate our goals.
Taking breaks gives you some extra “you” time throughout the day. These short five to ten-minute breaks can be used to scroll Instagram, check your private email, text a friend, or you could spend these few moments moving your body. It is important to take the time to move your body the way it wants to move every day. Sitting in an office chair for most of your day is a good way to build up tension and stress in the low back, shoulders, neck, wrists, and basically every part of the body. I am guilty to this day of spending the entire day at my desk, only getting up for water, food or to the copy machine. I don’t think to stretch my spine, hamstrings, or neck. I’m just too busy, obviously! Well, that’s just another excuse. Here are a some of my favorite ways to move at the office:
Arms Overhead: Being by sitting in your office chair with your feet flat on the ground, pressing your feet into the floor, being to grow tall. Draw the shoulder blades together and down the back. Keep your gaze parallel with the floor. Interlace your fingers, extend your arms, flip your palms facing out. Raise your arms above your head so that your upper arms are next to your ears. Press through the hands, straightening the elbows but not overextending. Feel the space between your low rib and hips grow, as you inhale this space spreads, as you exhale the ribs slowly drop back down towards the hips. Breathe here for 5 breaths and repeat if desired.
Simple Hip Opener: This posture is my go-to pose when my low back is acting up. Being by sitting in your office chair with your feet flat on the ground, pressing your feet into the floor, being to grow tall, imagining that the crown of your head is reaching up towards the ceiling. Draw the shoulder blades together and down the back. Keep your gaze parallel with the floor. Lift your left leg and place your left ankle over your right knee. Press the left knee away from you, making sure to keep both feet flexed, pressing through the balls of the feet. Breathe into your hip, growing taller on each inhale, finding space in each exhale. If you feel comfortable, begin to fold at the hips, keeping the spine long, and reach your hands to the floor. Breathe here for 5 breaths and repeat on the right side.
Twists: Maintaining your tall posture in your office chair (as you did with arms overhead), inhale and expand the spine long. On your next exhale, begin to twist your upper body to the left side, moving from the upper back, slowing moving your shoulders to face the wall to your left. Keep the feet grounded, press through the soles of the feet. Lightly grab the armrest and back of the chair for support. Peel your left shoulder blade back and bring your gaze over your left shoulder. Breathe here for 3 – 5 breaths and switch to the right side.
So often I catch myself holding my breath at work, especially during stressful situations. My body begins to tense up and my breathing becomes short and shallow. Learning to witness my breath throughout my day has helped me to recognize when I need to slow down, take a break, or just to breathe deeply for a few moments. It’s incredible how much this has helped me, and through practice, I have been able to apply it to any challenging situation I am faced with in my day-to-day at work or home. Our breath is our prana, our life-force, and must be prioritized for the sake of our body and mind.
There are lots of ways to focus on your breath at work while maintaining your productivity and without interrupting anyone that may be near you. Your breath is likely shallow, short, and sharp when you first bring your attention to it. As you begin to tune in to your breath, slow it down. Take a long, deep inhale filling the belly, the entire rib cage and lastly the collar bones. On your exhale feel the belly begin to fall, then the ribs, then the collar bones. Breathe at your own pace. Set a timer every hour to sit and breathe for 2 minutes. As you get comfortable, increase the time. Begin to take deep, long inhalations whenever you notice you are holding your breath. If you can, find a quiet place in your office to spend more time with your breath. How do you feel getting back to work?
4. Eat to nourish
Busy days lead to quick lunch breaks. It’s really easy to grab something quick from the first eatery we can find. Not to mention going out to lunch meetings, all the bagels days, birthdays, holidays, and any other reason for food that might be available to us on a daily basis. The best way I have found to beat my cravings and avoid choosing a meal simply because it is easy: food prep. Stock yourself up with fruits, nuts, seeds, veggies, any kind of fresh foods that you love. Prep food at home to bring to work every day, and make things that you love! Get creative with your recipes or stay simple – whatever works for you. Either way, eating well at work will help you to power through your day with energy and without leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Bringing awareness to your food choices at work can help you to identify when you are stress eating and how the food you eat makes you feel throughout your day.
If you find the time to incorporate any of these postures or concepts into your work days, I’d love to hear your experience.