THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO QUICK STRESS RELIEF AT WORK
“I...just...can’t...do this anymore”
Collapsing in tears, right in your cubicle, is a real possibility.
There’s so much shit going on at work and most of it isn’t good.
Every single task feels like a mental and emotional anchor that is weighing you down. You’re starting to drown in a sea of stress. The simple act of breathing is becoming a struggle.
You need help - like ASAP.
Here are 10 fast ways to wipe out work stress
You can apply these right now while you’re at at the office.
Think of these methods as temporary fire extinguishers to cool and calm things down.
Everyone responds differently to each of these techniques. Try them all. Find what works best for you.
#1 DO A SLOW AND DEEP BREATHING MEDITATION
You’ve probably seen it and/or personally done this during personal crises. It’s a natural human mechanism to deal with major stressful events.
Multitudes of studies support the fact that simply changing how you breathe can greatly improve your state of being and get you back to a better place.
Get in a comfortable seated position with a straight back.
Close your eyes
Inhale slowly to a five second count
Concentrate on and feel the sensation of the air flow
Pause and hold your breath for a moment
Exhale slowly to a five second countdown
Concentrate on and feel the sensation of the air flow
Repeat the process 3 times
After the third time, breath normally without counting
Continue breathing for several minutes
Maintaining your mind’s focus on the breathing sensation is important.
However, what you’ll discover is that your mind keeps jumping all over the damn place rather than focusing on the breathing. Distractions from other thoughts, feelings and sensations *will* yank your mind away from concentrating on the air flow and counting.
This is normal. Everybody experiences the same exact thing. It’s part of the process.
Allow the distractions to occupy your mind then let it fade away and return your focus back to counting and breathing. Let this back and forth process happen. Eventually, you’ll be able to concentrate more on the counting and breathing and less on the distractions.
Keep at this process for at least 3 to 5 minutes and you will quickly dial down your stress levels and gain a bit more relief.
#2 GET OUTSIDE AND TAKE A WALK
When you can’t escape the workload and the cubicle walls feel like they’re closing in on you, it’s time to step away from the torture chamber, clear your head and relieve some pressure.
It’s time to get outside for some fresh air and walk it off.
In fact, this study from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine shows that people who do easy to moderate exercise benefit from lower stress levels and develop better stress buffers than those that don’t. Tons of other studies have shown that walking and other forms of easy-to-moderate physical activity are really good for your health.
Duh...no shit, right?
But do you really know why?
In medical babble talk, physical activities stimulate the release of brain chemicals called endorphins which trigger relaxation and improve our overall moods. It’s the “ooohhh...aahhhh...this feels really good” sensations and feelings.
We’ll take more of that, thank you very much.
A 15 minute walk is an ideal duration because it provides meaningful stress relief but doesn’t take you away from your desk for too long to have co-workers wondering where the hell you are.
Sneak out of the cubicle twice a day, once in the mid-morning and once in the mid-afternoon, that would be ideal. However, if you’re really pressed for time, at least try to get outside during lunch.
Don’t be stupid - choose a safe place to walk, preferably where there is minimal vehicle traffic and during daylight hours. This could be around the office campus, city block or if you’re really lucky, a nearby park. If possible, bring along a work BFF who could use the stress release as well.
Here’s the quick breakdown:
> 5 Minute Warm Up Walk
> 5 Minute Fast Walk
> 5 Minute Cool Down Walk
Start with a slow 5 minute warm up walk.
Then, pick up the pace to a brisk walk where your breathing effort is increased but not strained. Walk like you’re late to an important meeting that you are leading. Hold this pace for 5 minutes.
Then, slow the pace down for 5 minutes to normalize your breathing, cool down and head back to your desk.
If you are walking solo, focus on your breathing and the environment around you. Connect to the feeling of your breathing and tune-in your mind to observe the sights, sounds, smells, objects etc. around you.
Get your mind off of work by paying attention to simple things around you. This helps a lot.
If you’re walking with a co-worker, this is an ideal time for the both of you to vent some frustrations and issues or catch up on fun stuff - laughing and smiling are also endorphin triggers. Either way, the interaction will help immensely. There’s more on this later.
By doing so, you give your mind the opportunity to de-stress and recoup. And, in some instances, the time away from your desk clears up your head and sparks some creative ideas and solutions.
Who knows, your mind might just stumble upon solving life’s greatest mysteries or maybe what you’ll have for dinner tonight.
Now...get up from you chair. Get outta the cubicle. Go for a walk! Go, go, go.
#3 WATCH A CALMING LANDSCAPE VIDEO
For nearly all of us cubicle dwellers, our office isn’t located next to a nature park or a beach. For the tiny percentage of folks that have easy walking accessibility to one, we hate you - a lot. For most of us, experiencing nature during working hours is not possible and sometimes the weather just plain sucks.
However, thanks to YouTube, we can easily transport ourselves to far off breathtaking destinations without ever leaving our seat. Watching a video clip of relaxing or awe-inspiring nature scene can provide instant mental relief. It’s the next best thing to actually being there.
This 2017 study by the University of California Berkeley proved that watching nature videos provide not only “significant increases in feelings of awe, contentedness, joy, amusement and curiosity, but that it also acted to reduce feelings of tiredness, anger and stress.”
The study just tells us what we all already know. It just simply feels good.
So, when the stress is weighing you down, search for your favorite landscape videos on YouTube, plug in your earphones and gaze into an alternate reality.
Lose yourself in this moment.
Focus on the environment. Engage all of your senses by mentally realizing the sensations.
What is the air like? Smell it. Taste it. Is it warm, humid and salty like a tropical beach? Or cool, crisp and dry like a nippy fall afternoon?
Can you feel the warmth of the sun shining on your face?
Or the cool breeze gently flowing over and around your body?
Or the sand between your toes?
Mentally engaging your other senses beyond your eyes and ears will bring added benefits.
Bonus: Do a breathing meditation while your watching the video then you’ll double up on the goodness.
#4 DO A SEATED PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION
When you’re stressed, your body will often tense up. When it gets really bad, it can almost feel like your entire body is getting squeezed like a wet towel being wrung dry.
This progressive muscle exercise reverses that tension and helps to loosen you up. It’s a simple process of tensing and relaxing major muscle groups in your body one section at a time.
The basic process works like this (using your calves as an example):
Step #1: Focus your mind on your calves
Step #2: Tighten your calf muscles and hold for 5 seconds
Step #3: Release and relax your calf muscles
Step #4: Repeat one additional time
Step #5: Move to next target area
What you’ll find out is that with each sequence, you’ll slowly ease into a more relaxed state of mind.
Here’s the recommended order, starting with the lower body and working upward:
> Toes and feet
> Face (make sure nobody’s around for this one)
Finalize everything with slow head rolls to the right/left and end it with a few slow deep breaths.
#5 DO ARM & FIST FLEXES
If you’re too pressed for time or don’t have the patience to go through the entire progressive muscle exercise, then this arm and fist flex exercise can work for you.
You should have a pair of stress therapy balls at work. One for each hand so that you can evenly squeeze and release the tension across both hands and arms simultaneously. If you don’t have a pair, buy a set from Amazon. They’re cheap and worth every penny.
If you don’t have a set of therapy balls, you can use your chair armrests, rolled up jacket or your annoying cubicle neighbor’s neck (that solves two problems at once).
Step #1: Sit with a straight back with a therapy ball in each hand
Step #2: Take a slow deep 5 second inhale while progressively squeezing the therapy balls
Step #3: Hold your breathe and maintain a tight squeeze for 3 seconds
Step #4: Slowly exhale and release your fists
Step #5: Repeat the process 3 to 5 times
This simple and quick exercise can really make a difference. It lowers your tension and heart rate. Throw in some slow head rolls at the end too.
#6 RELIVE MOMENTS FROM THE PAST
This is a great way to bring the warm and fuzzy feelings of love, joy and laughter into your head. However, rather than relying on your memory, pick out several photos from your online archive. Try one for each of the following:
- Deep love (spouse or significant other)
- Pure joy (kids smiling ear-to-ear playing)
- Cute affection (pet acting goofy)
- Laughter (party with friends)
Looking these photos on your phone or on your computer isn’t good enough. Desktop screensavers don’t count! You want to be able to see the image while your working on the computer. So, print them out.
Don’t display all of the photos - you probably don’t have the cubicle wall space for it anyway.
What you want to do is rotate through the pictures every week, so that your brain doesn’t get used to the same image for extended periods. Rotating to a new one at the start of every week will keep things fresh for the month. Print out more if you want greater variety.
If you’ve got a digital photo frame, this is the perfect solution as it can rotate through tons of photos and it’s always visible on your desk.
As you work through the day, take 1-3 minute micro-breaks and shift your focus to the photo of the week and intensely lose yourself in that day.
Bring back all the details in your head.
What was the weather like that day? Was it hot, cool, cloudy, rainy, sunny?
Who was with you and what did you guys do and talk about?
What did you eat or drink? Re-savor the flavors in your mind.
Relive the moment to the fullest extent that you can.
#7 GET IT OFF YOUR CHEST AND VENT
We’ve all done this before and it works wonders.
We’re not necessarily looking for solutions or answers. We just need a friend to hear us out so that we can air out our thoughts and feelings without judgement.
Not only does social interaction allows us to release our stress, but it also helps to build up our immunity to stress and improve our coping strategies. Many medical studies including this one have documented the importance of socializing.
Positive interactions with others keeps us all mentally and physically healthy.
So, grab a close friend at work and talk it out.
Jump into an empty conference room or even better, go for a walk together outside and gain the benefits of a walking exercise at the same time. Or, go out to lunch together.
As a courtesy, be sure to give them a heads up that this is or may turn into a venting session. They’ll appreciate the notice. And of course, offer your support when they need to vent as well.
If you don’t have a close friend at work, text one of your BFFs and ask for a short venting session as a favor. The effect may not be as impactful as a face-to-face conversation, but it can still help. It’s better than nothing.
When there’s nobody to turn to and you need help now, try 7 Cups. It’s a free online support chat for emotional health and well-being.
Online chatting is a great way to discreetly and anonymously vent right at your desk.
You don’t have to talk to anyone on the phone and risk getting your conversation overheard by your cubicle neighbors. All they hear is you tapping away at your keyboard...like you’re working. 😉
7Cups is an online portal that offers free and anonymous peer-to-peer emotional support via trained volunteers as well as subscription-based professional licensed therapy.
The trained volunteers are called “listeners” on 7Cups. They are normal everyday people like us and come from a variety of backgrounds. They go through a very basic training program to qualify as 7Cups volunteer “listeners” and therefore shouldn’t be used for deeper or more serious issues. However, for the occasional times that you just need someone to “talk to” (in this case, online chat), they can be a great resource.
We’ll be straight up with you here.
Your results will vary simply because of how the program is set up. You might get a great listener or a crappy one. But honestly, you have no right to complain. It’s a free service being provided to you by volunteers.
Be nice to ‘em, okay?
To improve your chances of a good session, follow these basic steps:
1. Filter your search for listeners based upon age, availability and topic
2. Read through “available” (green dot means online) listener profiles
3. Select a listener with good ratings and positive reviews
Whether it’s with your work BFF or via online chat, it’s always a good idea to get those troublesome issues out in the open with someone. It’s not about getting to a solution, but more along the lines of just getting it off your chest and mind.
#8 WRITE DOWN SOME GOOD STUFF
You may think you’re having the worst day ever. But, there’s always somebody else in this world that’s going through a lot more shit than you. A whole lot more.
Let’s put this into perspective, shall we?
1. You have a job (shitty as it may be at times)
2. You are getting paid
3. You are alive
Stop and think about that.
Right now, as you are reading this, there are people in this world that are in serious “this is no joke” real life-threatening situations (i.e. - war torn countries). They don’t know if they’ll live through the night to see tomorrow.
Your stress ain’t nothin’ compared to the hell they’re going through.
They would give anything to be in your world right now - in a comfy office where the only battles are with office politics.
Think about the positives that are surrounding you now. Having “an attitude of gratitude” can really help put things in perspective and offset work stresses.
Okay, let’s do a short little exercise.
Open up your notebook.
Write down 5 specific things that you are thankful for.
I am thankful for…
Read your items out loud 2x to let them sink into your mind. If you have to go into an empty conference room or outside to read it out loud, then do it.
You need to hear yourself say it to feel it. Only thinking about it to yourself doesn’t cut it.
Go ahead...we’ll wait for you here.
You feel a lttle better now, right?
Told you so.
In the spirit of sharing, here are 5 things we’re thankful for (we’re smiling already!):
1. We’re thankful for life - we’re still above ground breathing.
2. Thank goodness for the Internet - where would we all be without it?!
3. We’re thankful for family (mostly) & friends - the original social network.
4. We thank coffee every morning to kick-start our day
5. We’re thankful for hilarious auto-correct text messages sent our way
If this process works for you, one way to keep the mojo going is to write down one thing to be grateful for every day when you get to work.
Make it part of your morning start-up ritual in your cubicle.
When you get in the office next time, try this…
Before you boot up the computer, open up your notebook. At the top of a new page, write down one thing that you’re happy about or grateful for. Read it, think about it, say it and then smile and start your day.
Avoid repeats and make a new one at the start of each work day at the top of the page.
As your work day progresses, you can glance up to the top of the page to feed yourself a free micro dosage of goodness. It’ll help to offset the stresses that build up during the day.
As the weeks and months pass, you’ll build up a nice little mini library of positive and uplifting notes to refer back to when things get stressful.
#9 BE A KID AGAIN AND COLOR
Yup, you read that right.
Coloring or any repetitive rhythmic motion can activate our brain’s relaxation response. There’s something about the combination of repetitive movements and creative focus that soothes the mind and allows us to “zone out” in the flow.
Think about it - have you ever seen a child totally absorbed with coloring?
They are completely oblivious to the what’s happening around them. They are silently existing in their own little world, detached from reality and fully absorbed in another.
Dr. Herbert Benson, president of Harvard's Mind/Body Medical Institute noted that “the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity can trigger the relaxation response which decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.”
Your mind gets into a flow….
A rhythmic pattern…
Coloring in the empty spaces...
One shape after another…
Evolving into a beautiful design...
And without even realizing it, an hour blinks by in a flash as your mind is completely occupied and consumed with the activity. It doesn’t want to think about current stressors. All it wants to do is select that next shape, color, pattern, etc.
You are now in a “present” state...not thinking about the past or the future. It feels similar to being in a meditative state.
And, it feels sooooo good.
The best part? Once you’re done, you have a rewarding sense of accomplishment. And, your very own masterpiece worthy of a spot on your cubicle wall.
You can find adult coloring pages for free online, but you have to hunt and peck around the web. It requires patience. Some of them are easy to download and print, while others are not. Or, the ones on Google images don’t print out correctly.
Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass. We’re stressed dammit! Just make it easy already.
Thankfully, we’ve got your back. Here’s a great one to get you started. This one is no fuss and easy to download and print. Just click here.
This is a pdf file of “mandalas” which are circular geometric shapes. Pick out a pattern, print it out, buy some coloring markers and “zone out” with some coloring during lunch.
Remember, stay within the lines. 😉 Picasso would be proud.
#10 LAUGH IT OFF
All too real and funny, right?
They were just missing some folks in their pajamas and a person typing loudly on their keyboard.
“Laughter is the best medicine” is a very overused statement but it will always remain true.
There are countless research articles that point to the positive health benefits of laughing. Here’s one that outlines how laughing helps to reduce and manage stress.
It’s a lot of psycho-babble and medical data simply stating that laughing is good for you.
Many stress relief techniques use methods to shift your mind’s attention. The methods take effort on your part. However, when something or someone is making you laugh...really piss-your-pants cry laugh, your mind can’t think about anything else at all.
It’s impossible. Laughing is one of the most powerful mind distractions around.
It’s such an awesome euphoric and natural high. The great thing is that the positive feelings continue to linger within you long after the laughing stops.
Laughing does all sorts of good things for your body:
🙂 A “feel good” endorphin rush? Check.
🙂 Boosts the immune system? Yup.
🙂 Lowers stress hormones? Definitely.
🙂 Increases alertness? Surely.
🙂 Eases tension and anxiety? Affirmative.
🙂 Great ab workout? Of course.
The list can go on and on.
The sad reality is that we don’t laugh enough in our daily lives. There’s an urban myth floating around that states that children laugh 300 times a day versus 15-20 times for adults. There’s no official study or research confirming this - at least, none that we’ve found.
But, it certainly seems to ring true, right?
The simple fact is that we all need to laugh and smile more - every day. So, make it a habit to get your daily dose of chuckles in, just like your fruits-n-vegetables.
Find what gets you giggling out of control. It could be silly pet videos, comic strips, stupid jokes, photos from that crazy party, hilarious experiences from your past - whatever.
Just explore and discover and when you’ve found something that triggers your laughter, find a way to save it either on your desk, phone or wherever.
Then, every once in awhile, when you catch a glimpse of it, it will bring a laugh and smile out of you.
Remember that "You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing." - Michael Pritchard
Now, go get some giggles on!
OKAY, LET’S WRAP IT UP
Hopefully, one or more of these methods relieved some of your stress today. And if so, we’re super happy that it did. Our effort in writing this guide paid off.
If you know anyone else that is stressed out, point them here.
Share the love.
And like we said at the very beginning, these are more along the lines of temporary relief - band aid solutions.
Using these methods day-in and day-out are not an ideal long-term solution.
It’s not addressing the core issues.
For that, we recommend that you go through our comprehensive stress management e-course here.
This free self-paced online course will provide you with…
> Foundational knowledge about stress
> Stress management strategies
> Methods to build up stress immunities
> Tips to improve your lifestyle
The ultimate goal of the online course is to get you from a stressed out state to a happier and healthier state of well-being.
It’s not going to turn you into a 100% blissful, stress-free and happy-go-lucky person. They’re annoying anyway.
Here’s what it will do.
It’s simply going to provide you with a framework so that you can bring yourself to a better place.
There’s no registration, no credit cards, no hoops to jump though. It’s easy peasy access.
Go check it out! Click here.