Chronic stress is the worst. It kills our productivity, limits our ability to think creatively, and wreaks havoc throughout our bodies. To help keep minor stressors – like an “URGENT” email from a supervisor – from turning into chronic stress, I employ a few stretching and breathing techniques throughout my workday. These stretches can all be done at your desk, in your work attire, anytime you need to hit the reset button on your stress response.
You may look a little silly doing some of these at your desk, but not to worry! I’ve had coworkers notice and the most common response I get when I explain it is, “That’s cool, I’m should try that.”
So, go ahead and be the office trendsetter. You may just set off a chain reaction that leads to less-stressed colleagues who contribute to a happier, healthier work environment.
Ready to give them a try?
How to do it: Sitting tall in your chair, place your feet firmly on the ground and your hands on your desk. Close your eyes and feel the physical connection of your feet on the ground and hands on the desktop. Take a deep, slow, belly breath in for the count of five, and breathe out for a count of five. Continue for one to two minutes.
Benefits: Shallow breaths are both a symptom of and a trigger for stress and anxiety. They limit the amount of air getting into our lungs and subsequently to the rest of your vital organs. Grounded breathing counters that effect, and can even lower heart rate and stabilize blood pressure.
Desk-Assisted Shoulder Stretch
How to do it: Place both hands on top of the desk and push your chair back so that your head can drop below your shoulders. Feel the release of pressure on your neck, back, and shoulders.
Benefits: This stretch counters the effects of hunching or slouching at your desk all day. It releases the tension in your neck and shoulders. Poor posture contributes to all kinds of health problems. This stretch resets your shoulders and upper back for improved posture.
How to do it: Sitting in your chair, turn to one side and gaze directly behind you. Put your back hand on the back of your chair and your front hand outside the knee in the direction you are turning. Use both hands to gently twist your torso. Take a few deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This stretch helps to open your chest, combatting poor desk posture. In yoga, twist positions are understood to both relieve anxiety by the opening of the chest and back, and improve digestion and detox by squeezing and releasing the internal organs. It’s also great to maintain spinal mobility.
Seated Forward Fold
How to do it: With your feet flat on the ground, fold over your legs so that your head is reaching towards your knees. Let your arms reach towards the floor, so the weight of your upper body is gently hanging. Take a few breaths in and out in this position, then roll up slowly, one vertebra at a time and lift your head last.
Benefits: This stretch uses gravity to release pressure on your head, neck, shoulders and back. In addition, by rolling up, you reset your posture, which we’ve already mentioned is good for your overall health.
The benefits of all of these stretches are really felt with consistency, so don’t be afraid to make this a practice. Sitting at a desk all day is hard on our bodies, and finding ways to move them regularly can have a huge impact. Give these a try this week and let me know how it impacts your workday!