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6 Ways to De-Stress at a Desk


Work and stress often go hand-in-hand. Between the time pressure of deadlines, multi-tasking, and the challenges of managing relationships with co-workers and bosses, both the body and the mind can become quite bogged down.

Since we spend a considerable amount of our lives in the workplace, it’s important to learn self-care tips for de-stressing while you’re there. Not only will this benefit your productivity in the office, but it may also help you clock out feeling relaxed enough to enjoy your evening. The good news is that many of these things can be done from the comfort of your desk! Here are six you should try today.

1. Peel an Orange

Due to the citrus aromas they emit, peeling an orange can be very beneficial for de-stressing. In a study conducted by Brazilian scientists, participants who sniffed orange oil were less anxious throughout stress tests than those who were given tea tree oil or water. Entrepreneur magazine recommends trying to remove the peel in one piece, focusing the mind on the task as you’re doing it.

Additionally, the vitamin C in oranges—as well as other citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemons—is known to reduce stress levels, making them a great food to have nearby throughout the work day.

2. Take a Mini Mental Vacation

While it would be nice to take a real vacation every time things got stressful at work, that isn’t a realistic possibility for most. But a mental vacation is something everyone can afford, and also a helpful tactic for combating stress.

Forbes recommends picturing “one of the most relaxing scenes you can imagine,” and engaging “as many senses as you can by thinking about what you’d see, hear, smell, touch, and taste if you were really enjoying that relaxing scene.” Just a few short minutes of this can do wonders for de-stressing both your brain and your body.

3. Breathe Deep

Since it is a natural function of the body, we often forget to focus on our breathing throughout the day, yet it is considered one of the most powerful way to reduce stress. According to Stress.org, deep breathing “increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.” It also helps to promote feelings of connection with the body and “brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”

One of the techniques the source recommends, called the Quieting Response, involves imagining hot air flowing up through holes in the soles of the feet and into the lungs, and releasing in the opposite direction upon exhale.

4. Eat a Banana

It’s possible that you already bring a banana with you to work every day, as they are a very popular snack choice. But now you have even more reason to! According to Entrepreneur magazine, the potassium in bananas helps to “regulate blood pressure to relieve stress and improve energy and recovery.”

Bananas aren’t the only food that can help during tense times, though. Try eating a handful of nuts and seeds, which contain plenty of stress-reducing Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Or add spinach to your salad at lunch; it’s a “great source of magnesium, a mineral that helps promote a sense of calm,” says nutritionist Barbara Mendez in an article on Inc.com.

5. Smell Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used to heal a multitude of ailments—including anxiety, pain, and skin conditions—for thousands of years.  They possess many incredible benefits, not the least of which is their ability to help the body naturally de-stress.

There are several oils that MindBodyGreen recommends using to cope with stress, including Rose, Lavender, Bergamot and Chamomile for their ability to relax and soothe. The source suggests whiffing the oil directly from its bottle, or dabbing a couple of drops onto a scarf or cotton pad and keeping it directly on your body throughout the day.

6. Move Around in Your Chair

Despite how inactive you may feel when sitting at work all day, there are several exercises you can do from your desk to help keep your body moving and free from stress. Glamour recommends slowly swiveling your chair from side to side while taking deep breaths. “Doing this for 15 to 20 breaths,” the source says, “can loosen the muscles in the back and stimulate the kidneys, which, according to Chinese medicine, are a major source of energy in the body.”

Alternatively, try switching out your desk chair for an exercise ball periodically throughout the work day. The minor movements will keep your blood flowing and can promote better posture and core strength, says Livestrong.com.

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