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De-Stress During the Day

Being under the influence of tight deadlines, never-ending meetings and piles of papers and folders allows stress to seep into our workday at sometimes extreme levels.

Article
Lindsay Morris
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
May 28, 2018

Stress creeps into all of our days, and work can be one of the main villains. The Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security says that creating a healthy workplace is not just the right thing to do for employees; it’s also the smart thing to do for an organization’s financial well-being and productivity.

It’s well worth it to do a few things to de-stress at work. And your employer will thank you in the long run. A report from the Journal of Occupational Health and Medicine shows that health care expenditures are nearly 50 percent greater for workers who report high levels of stress. 

Here’s how the stress response works. It causes hormones like cortisol to flood our systems and causes our heart rate to go up, our breathing to be heavier and our blood vessels to constrict. Stress can contribute to chronic conditions like high blood pressure and headaches and even mental health conditions like depression and anxiety disorders. Stress can even worsen conditions like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia.

Fortunately, our bodies also have a relaxation response, and we just need to learn ways to trigger it. When you do, your breathing slows, blood pressure decreases and you use less oxygen.

Here are 10 ways to relax at work.

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Take a 10-minute walk
Especially if you have a desk job, your legs need to stretch, and you need a change of pace occasionally. A walk will help clear your head and boost endorphins, which reduce stress hormones. Consider walking in a park or other green space, if there is one near your workplace. This can put your body in a state of meditation called involuntary attention, when something holds our attention while allowing for reflection.

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Try meditation
Meditation is a relaxation tool being used by millions of individuals, and even some employers are now implementing meditation classes. It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment — even 10 to 15 minutes a day can make a big difference in your level of calm. If you need some guidance, check out apps such as Calm.

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Keep your desk clean
Sometimes, just knowing there are 50 stacks of papers on your desk can stress you out. Every Friday before leaving work, clean and de-clutter as much stuff as possible. File away papers you no longer need. Make digital copies of whatever you don’t need physical copies for. Having a clean, tidy workspace makes your workspace more inviting and less intimidating for yourself and others.

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Give yourself a “sound bath” with music
Classical music has a particularly soothing effect — it slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and even decreases levels of stress hormones. However, any music that you love will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine. Obviously, if you have co-workers sitting in close proximity to you, be respectful by wearing headphones or keeping your music at a low volume.

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Drink plenty of water
Studies have shown that water reduces stress. Dehydration leads to higher cortisol levels — the stress hormone — making it harder to deal with everyday issues. By staying hydrated, you will be better equipped to face everyday problems at work. Water also boosts energy, which you can never have too much of. Plus, the more you drink, the more often you’ll need to get up to use the bathroom and stretch your legs.

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Step away from the screen
Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, lost sleep and depression in women, according to a study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Your body was not made to sit in front of a computer the whole day. Take time to interact with coworkers or take a water break.

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Buy an office plant
Plants aren’t just pretty; they actually help you calm down. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relaxation response. One Washington State University study found that a group of stressed-out people who entered a room full of plants had a four-point drop in their blood pressure.

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Watch a viral video or read some jokes
If your company allows it, take a few minutes during a break to watch a funny video. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases endorphins. Laughter first activates your stress response and then deactivates it, simulating a kind of “rollercoaster” that causes a feeling of relaxation.

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Try progressive muscle relaxation
Start with your toes and slowly work your way up. Tighten your foot muscles as much as possible, then relax them. Move your way up, tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve finished with your face. This practice can help reduce anxiety and stress, as silly as it may seem.

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Turn off your phone
Smartphone usage can be linked to increased stress, according to everydayhealth.com. If your personal phone isn’t required for your job, you may want to consider turning it off while you’re at work. You have enough to focus on and responding to texts from friends or viewing political tirades in your Facebook feed could be adding unneeded stress.