When you think about cubicles, the words calmness and clarity aren’t necessarily the first that come to mind. But it is possible to de-stress at your desk, says Kate Hanley, yoga teacher and author of the new guide book Stress Less: Stop Stressing, Start Living, which features more than 100 quick ways to chill out when life has you feeling overwhelmed.
“Honestly, it only takes one breath to shift you out of reaction mode and into response mode,” she says. “It helps you not come from a hair-trigger place.” (A crucial skill to have if you want to avoid career burnout.)
Below are her favourite ways to alleviate anxiety at work—all of which are inconspicuous enough to do at your desk when you need to take a quick mindfulness break.
1. Just breathe
Counting exhalations can help quell anxious thoughts. “Any time you give your mind something to focus on that the body is doing, it helps [it] quiet down,” Hanley says.
Just sit up tall in your desk chair and focus on your breath, counting every exhale from 1–10. When you get to 10, start over. Repeat 6 times.
2. Give yourself a reboot
Sometimes the key to reducing stress is performing a personal restart. “It’s like turning your computer off and on again,” Hanley says. Staring at a screen all day is tough on your eyes (and the visual processing centers of your brain). Covering them with your hands can alleviate the physical strain.
Sit with your spine tall in your chair and your shoulders melting down your back. Then close your lids and bring the heels of your palms to your eye sockets, applying gentle pressure.
“We spend most of our day reacting to things that are outside of us, especially at work. Taking a moment to put your hands over your eyes can help you get quiet enough to hear some insight,” she says.
3. Reach for the sky
The simple act of raising your arms above your head is great for reducing tension. Just stand with your feet at hip distance and raise your arms straight out in front of you. Next, interlace your fingers and turn your palms out. Then raise your arms until your palms face the ceiling. Lift your shoulders to your ears, and let them drop down so your neck is long. Finally, lift your ribs and spine off your pelvis so that you reach your tallest height and stay in that pose for three breaths.
“If you’re holding your breath or breathing shallowly, you’re perpetuating the stress response. [By taking] bigger inhales, you get more oxygen, which is energizing,” Hanley says. And yes, this works if you’re sitting at your desk—so no need to track down an empty conference room (consider it one less thing to worry about).
By Adele Chaplin, as published in Well + Good on 8th May 2017