SUMMARY POINTS

  • Use the cover of a complex work document to meditate
  • Use offline and online breathing meditation techniques
  • Utilize your computer screen and keyboard to assist in the meditations
There are lots of great stress relief methods out there. But, here’s the reality - we can’t do many of them at our desk without looking goofy, weird or look like we’re sleeping.

The reason is that, for many of us, our workplaces have an open office floor plan. Meaning, we’re either all side-by-side and face-to-face with no walls or in cubicles with really low partitions where everyone can see everyone else while sitting down.

It’s impossible to do or say anything without someone else noticing. There’s zero privacy, both in terms of what other people can see and hear.

In other words, there is absolutely no chance in hell that we’re repeating weird mantras out loud or sitting in some contorted yoga meditation position in our seats with our eyes closed.

Sorry, definitely not happening.

And, in case you're wondering, yes, we have meeting rooms but they are constantly in use because they are one of the few enclosed spaces in the office. Besides, we wouldn’t want to be spotted using one for stress relief.
But, we’re still stressed out and need to get relief somehow, discreetly at our desks, without attracting WTF looks from our coworkers.

So, we wanted to share these 'incognito' stress relief ideas that you can do right at your desk without your peeping neighbors knowing about it. Basically, it looks like you’re working deeply in thought, but in actuality, you’re dialing down your stress.

The key to pulling this off is to…

Look like your reading or analyzing something.

The enabler to all of these techniques is to select a complex looking document that you didn’t create and where you don’t have any real stake in but it’s indirectly associated with you.

The reason this is important is that when a piece of information isn’t directly relevant to you, your mind can easily drift to other things like the physical actions, listening, imagining, etc.

It’s like junk mail.

It’s indirectly associated to us only in the sense that it’s got our name and address on it. Beyond that, it’s meaningless to us and we just throw it out.

Unless, it’s from Publishers Clearing House saying that we’re a "finalist" for $100 million, we always open those. 😉

However, if it’s from your family, employer, insurance company, bank, etc., it’s directly concerning you. It has your attention. You’re going to read and review it.

The same principle applies here too.

If you select a document that you are currently working on, have worked on in the past or are directly involved in now, you have a vested interested in it. Then, that damn productivity mindset may want to take over.

However, if it’s something that doesn’t require your involvement, it’s easy for you to brush it off.

Think of the thousands of pointless emails that you were cc’ed on. Chances are really good that there was some ridiculous super-wordy attachment on one of those emails.

Go find one now because you'll need it to do the meditations below.
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Got one? Great.

If not, we've got you covered.

Download this academic-ish pdf file about mutli-tasking and save it to your desktop.

It's an ideal one because if anybody asks what you're reading, you can simply reply, "about multitasking efficiency at work" and then get back to meditating. 😉

A little added trick to help out - open your doc in a full two-page view so that it’s hard to read. Then, it becomes easier for our eyes to “de-focus” while they are still open and our minds to drift.
So, when someone walks by and glances at what you’re "working" on, it’ll be related to work and they won’t think twice about why you’re staring at the document.

Okay, so now that we got this taken care of, let’s take a look at some of the options.

1) Breathing Finger Taps

This is a simple focused breathing meditation that you can do at your desk with your eyes open. The combination of finger tapping, counting and breathing will help clear your mind.

Step #1:
Open your irrelevant complex document

Step #2:
Sit comfortably, place hands on lap and gaze into screen

Step #3:
Take 3 slow deep breaths to settle down

Step #4:
Press both pinkies into your lap as you inhale and count up to 5

Step #5:
Hold your breath for a moment

Step #6:
Exhale as you count down from 5 then release your pinkies

Step #7:
Repeat across each pair of matching fingers all the way to thumbs

Step #8:
Work your way backward from thumbs back to the pinkies

What you may notice is that your gaze may at times turn into a zombie-like stare and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, zoning out during this little exercise is perfectly acceptable. There's no right or wrong way to do this.

The purpose of the finger taps and counting is to focus your mind on something other than your current stressors. It’s just the right minimum amount of thinking to pull your mind’s attention to the here and now. And, that’s the point.

Finally, the measured breathing helps to slow down your heart rate and bring your entire mind-body state to a calmer level.

2) Short Audio-Only Guided Meditation

You’ll need your headphones for this one. Even though it’s a video, we’ll only be listening to the audio portion and not watching the video itself. Again, we’re being incognito here. 😉

There are thousands of guided meditations available on YouTube. We’ve hand-picked a few of the popular ones and listed them here. The one common thread to all of these videos is that they all have voice-overs that focus on stress relief and have durations that are all about 5 to 10 minutes long.

If there’s any commentary to close your eyes, say something out loud, contort your body or do anything that would throw off your undercover game, just ignore it and continue staring blankly on your faux document.

Step #1:
Plug in and put on your headphones

Step #2:
Press play on any of the following YouTube clips below

Step #3:
Open your irrelevant complex document

Step #4:
Listen to the audio meditation while gazing the document

VIDEO: Guided Meditation for Stress Relief
YOUTUBE: Yoga by Candace

LENGTH: 6:23
VOICE: Female
MUSIC: No
VIDEO: Calming Meditation For Stress Relief
YOUTUBE: The Honest Guys

LENGTH: 5:24
VOICE: Male
MUSIC: Yes
This one is one of our favorites as it has subtle nature sounds in the background. You can easily dial your stress levels down by listening to the narration and birds chirping.

VIDEO: Mindfulness Meditation - Be Present
YOUTUBE: Calm

LENGTH: 10:30
VOICE: Female
MUSIC: No (background nature sounds)

Deadpool's Mindful Meditation (If He Actually Made One)

And if none of the above meditations connect with you, give this Deadpool version a try. If for no other reason than just to get some laughs...that’s stress relief too ya’ know!

VIDEO: F*ck That - An Honest Meditation
YOUTUBE: Jason Headley

LENGTH: 2:29
VOICE: Male
MUSIC: No
The funny thing about the Deadpool version above is that it was hilarious the first few times. But, then we started to take it seriously and the message still hits home in a real way.

"Let the horseshit of the external world fade from your awareness."

Man, we couldn't have said it any better.

If any of these meditations worked well for you, go deeper with it. Go to your mobile app store and check out some the fantastic free meditation apps. There’s a bunch out there.

Download and try a few and then, stick to the one that works best for you. Delete the others.

Once you’ve got it down, you’ll have guided meditations right in the palm of your hand, anywhere, anytime. So the next time stress is beating you down, open up another ‘work’ document then play your favorite meditation app.

3) Listen To The Sounds Of Nature

There are a few of us that would rather not hear someone talking when we’re stressed out. In fact, sometimes we don’t want to see, hear, talk with or be near anyone. We’d rather be anywhere else besides work.

However, we can’t always leave our desks. And for these moments, we can mentally escape from reality for a few minutes by listening to the natural world.

Mother Nature is the world’s best conductor leading the best ensemble of musicians on the planet. Each type of landscape offers a unique soundstage of natural stress relieving melodies.

Again, it’s the same story here. We’re only listening to the audio portion and not viewing the video.

Step #1:
Plug in and put on your headphones

Step #2:
Press play on any of the following YouTube clips

Step #3:
Open your irrelevant complex document

Step #4:
Listen to the natural soundscape while gazing the document

Step #5:
Incorporate a pattern breathing meditation for 5-10 minutes

Here are a few of the most popular ones on YouTube. They are all super long at multiple hours in length. Listen passively, but breathe actively and rhythmically and imagine being in that landscape.

VIDEO: Ocean Waves Sounds
YOUTUBE: Relaxing Music & Yoga

LENGTH: 11:03:39
VIDEO: Relaxing Nature Sounds
YOUTUBE: JonnieLawson

LENGTH: 8:20:03
VIDEO: Birds Sing in the Woods
YOUTUBE: TheSilentWatcher

LENGTH: 2:00:09
What you might discover is that nature sounds may work really well for you. For some, it not only reduces stress, but also increases focus.

For other folks, it’s the exact opposite. The sounds are too distracting and interfere with thought. That’s alright, at least you gave it a shot.

4) Four Corner Breathing Meditation

This is type of meditation uses your computer screen, eye focus/movement, breathing and counting to bring you back down a level or two.

It’s fundamentally the same thing as the finger tapping meditation, but in a different format.

Step #1:
Open your irrelevant complex document

Step #2:
Look at the bottom left corner of the screen; focus on the point where the edges meet

Step #3:
Inhale to a 5 second count and then hold for a moment

Step #4:
Exhale slowly and count down from 5 while your focus moves up to the top left corner

Step #5:
Inhale to a 5 second count and hold

Step #6:
Exhale slowly and count down from 5 while your focus moves to the top right corner

Step #7:
Inhale to a 5 second count and hold

Step #8:
Exhale slowly and count down from 5 while your focus moves to the bottom right corner

Step #9:
Inhale to a 5 second count and hold

Step #10:
Exhale slowly and count down from 5 while your focus moves to the bottom left corner

Here’s a visual of the process:
The idea is to focus on one point during the inhale and hold. Then, as you are exhaling, slowly move your focus to the next corner and time it so that your exhale finishes just at the right moment for the next inhale.

EXTRA TIPS:
  • Reverse direction or criss-cross from one corner to the other
  • Increase the count from 5 to a higher number that works for you
  • Listen to nature sounds in the background at the same time

5) Progressive Keyboard Breathing Meditation

This is similar to the screen meditation but it deepens your breath depth in a stepped format.

The way this is done is very much like ‘suicide sprints’ we all did in gym class at school. It’s where you sprint out a short distance to a marker/cone and back then, each subsequent sprint is further out than the previous one. The 4th and final sprint is out to the furthest marker/cone and back.

We’ll be using this formula for this breathing meditation exercise. It will progressively deepen our breathing as you work your way through.

The ‘field markers’ will be the number keys across the top of your keyboard. They will act as your visual checkpoints and will help in maintaining your focus.

Step #1:
Inhale to a 3 second count while visually tracking each number key from 1 to 3

Step #2:
Lock your focus on the 3 key as you hold your breath for a moment

Step #3:
Exhale to a 3 second countdown, visually tracking each number key from 3 to 1

Step #4:
Repeat the process for each number key to 0 (10 second count)

Step #5:
Work backward from 0 key to 1

You don’t necessarily have to go through each number. As shown in the diagram below, we used intervals of 3 seconds maxing out at 9 and then, reversing it back down to 3.
If you’re pressed for time, use odd/even number intervals to shorten things up. If you’ve got the time and need the extra relief, go through each one all the way up to zero and back.

For a little extra calming effect, put on your headphones and play nature sounds in the background while counting. It's awesome.

If None Of These Work, Take A Break...Seriously

All of the above stress relief methods can work as quick incognito open-eye in-chair meditation sessions. They are all great little impromptu ways to sneak in a mental break in between tasks.

However, if you still find yourself struggling, you’re overdue for a time-out.

Get up off your chair, walk away from your desk and take a break. We’d suggest either taking a breather in a quiet spot at the office or going for a walk outside to clear your mind and decompress for a bit.

In fact, we’re going to take a break now.

So, if the Publishers Clearing House “Prize Patrol” shows up, hold them hostage and tell them we’ll be right back at our desk in just a few minutes.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]

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