Brain overload; we all know how that feels. When we are hit by lack of sleep, overloaded schedules, and social media, people constantly demanding chunks of our time, the stress takes over, and productivity drops. Better not to work in such conditions. The only remedy for this is to find ways to relax and center ourselves. A nice workout session, 30 minutes of yoga or meditating, even a power nap are a few great ways to make this happen. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to squeeze any of those activities into a busy work day. This is why we have compiled a list of quick but effective strategies that you can use on your most hectic days to relax, and restore your productivity. In order to make our list, each technique must be something that you can do without any special equipment, and you must be able to complete the task in fifteen minutes or less.
1. Square Breathing
Why it Works: When you are stressed out, your breathing increases and it becomes more shallow. Essentially, you are thrown into a mild state of hyperventilation. Not only is it hard to think creatively and work productively in this state, this form of breathing can make you feel physically ill. Square breathing is a technique that allows you to slow your breathing, and focus your energies, for a few minutes, on yourself.
How to do It: You need to focus on two things. The first is the anatomy of your breathing. If you have ever watched a baby breathe, you may have noticed that their stomach moves up and down with each breath. If you concentrate on your own breathing, you probably see that it is your chest that moves up and down. You could learn a lot from the baby. As you breathe, focus on keeping your abdomen moving, not your chest. The second thing to concentrate on is the pattern and speed of your breathing. This is why the technique is called square breathing. You breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and then pause for a count of four. Some people find it helpful to picture drawing a square as they are breathing. In just a few minutes, you can relax and regulate your brother.
2. Get Moving
Why it Works: A short burst of low intensity activity can be a perfect way to shake off stress and get a productive burst of energy. It can also take your mind and body away from a task or activity with which you are struggling. When you return to your desk, you’ll be better able to focus, and you will have burned off some of the nervous energy that tension can cause.
How to do It: With this technique, almost anything goes. Even better, in many cases you can be productive while executing the technique. For example, if you have recycling to take to the shred bin, grab your box of papers and take a walk. You can also stand up and spend a few minutes tidying up your work area, or offer to run to the break room to get a cup of coffee for your neighbor. Just take the long way if possible (and the stairs!). The important thing is to move somewhat quickly, not enough to become breathless, but enough to exert some energy. You’ll also enjoy the renewed focus you’ll have once you get back to your desk.
3. Find Something to Laugh At
Why it Works: Laughing gives you a boost of endorphins. This the chemical that makes you feel good. It also reduces cortisol levels, which is a hormone that increases when you feel stress. The production of cortisol puts your body into a fight or flight state. This is great when you are in actual physical danger. It isn’t so great if you are simply trying to get some work done.
How to do It: Obviously, humor is subjective. You know what makes you laugh. Take a break to watch a funny video or two on Youtube. Keep a book of funny anecdotes and jokes in your desk and take a few moments to read one or two. Take a break and make a five minute phone call to a friend who has a knack for making you giggle. Your mood will improve instantly, and you may even realize that you feel better physically.
4. Take a Healthy Snack Break
Why it Works: First, taking a snack break helps to reduce tension and help you to relax, simply because it gives you a few minutes of distraction. This is often more than enough to help you relax and then start working again with renewed focus and energy. Additionally, when you are over stressed, you often forget to eat. Even worse, you eat foods that are full of fat, salt, and sugar. These foods just make you feel sluggish. Eating a healthy snack restores energy and rids you of distracting hunger pangs.
How to do It: If you are lucky, you know from school years how to maintain your productivity and your office has made it a priority to stock healthy items such as fruit and string cheese in its vending machines. If not, it is up to you to keep a cache of snacks on hand that are easy to eat, tasty, and nutritionally dense. You could stash some home made trail mix in your desk with nuts, dried fruit, sesame sticks, and cereal. Boiled and peeled eggs are a great high protein snack. Your local grocery store probably carries prepackaged snack packs with pretzels and hummus, cheese and crackers, or apples and yogurt dip.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Why it Works: This is a technique to apply when you are especially stressed out. Progressive muscle relaxation helps to reduce the mental stress and physical soreness that can occur when you are dealing with exceptionally tense conditions. This a physical technique that allow you to focus on one muscle group at a time. The result is that you feel the physical tension slip away as your body enters a relaxed state.
How to do It: As you are sitting at your desk, start with your lower legs. Tense your calf muscles and hold them like that for a count of twenty. You can stop before that if you feel any pain. Then, relax those muscles. Then, move up to your thigh muscles and buttocks. After that, focus on your core muscles, your arms, and your chest. Once you are finished, you will notice how physically relaxed you feel
6. Guided Imagery
Why it Works: Nearly everybody likes to day dream. It’s enjoyable and relaxing to let our minds drift. We might fantasize about taking a vacation. We might think about our favorite meal, or fondly recall a recent night out with friends. The problem with day dreaming is that it is so open ended. It doesn’t have a definitive purpose. Guided Imagery is a bit like day dreaming, but with a purpose. You have specific focus and a specific outcome that you desire. For example, if you have to deal with a person this afternoon who frustrates you, you can guide yourself through visualizing your encounter with them, and having that encounter go well for you.
How to do It: Think of guided imagery as a movie that you direct. It needs to have a plot. It needs to have an ending. Just mentally walk through the scenario that you envision, and then end when you find a happy place in your visions.
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