Lately, there has been a lot more mainstream focus on the mind-body connection and more people are realizing the benefits of stress-reduction. Meanwhile, you live a busy life and the idea of adding another task in order to reduce stress is, well, stressful. Avoid being counterproductive while you bust stress at work or in the car. These little bursts of mind-body work will help you get zen without piling on to your already-packed schedule.
Mix it Up (but don’t Multitask)
Changing gears can work wonders for your state of mind. If you’re at a standstill with a project, as precious as time may be, step away for a minute. You don’t have to literally step away from your desk but work on something else, drink some water or do a seated twist in your chair. Just make sure you are fully setting one project aside to work on another, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Multitasking may be a highly sought-after quality on job postings but it actually lowers productivity and, according to a Michigan State University Study, can even increase the risk of depression. If you’re driving, safely change lanes or pick another station on the radio.
Squeeze and Release
There’s something to that old cheesy stress ball that office workers used to keep at their desks. Most of them probably received it as a gag gift but likely ended up finding it extremely useful at times. Replicate the same concept, sans props, with a ‘squeeze and release’ technique. Whether you’re on your commute or in your office, start with scrunching up your forehead as much as you can. Before you say “wait, wrinkles aren’t relaxing!” completely let go of every muscle in the forehead and then clench your jaw as tightly as possible. Let go and even let your jaw dangle for a moment (depending on your setting) and continue this practice throughout the body until you make it all the way down to your toes. If you only have a few moments, focus on your shoulders and hands. This will help improve posture and relieve neck tension.
The simplest way to reduce stress, in the moment, is to simply breathe. If you’re in the middle of an argument or traffic, you can’t very well strike a yoga pose or go prepare some calming tea but you can breathe and you can even complete a breathing exercise without anyone noticing.
If it’s safe and appropriate, close your eyes. As you inhale through the nose (this filters and warms the air more than inhalation through the mouth), count up to three. As you exhale through the nose or mouth, countdown from three. Keeping the same pace, start to gradually increase the count until you’re counting as high as you can go without force. Continue for anywhere from a few breaths to 10 minutes.