How to De-Stress at your Desk

Updated: Mar 25

Are you stressed? You're not alone.

Seriously. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is becoming a public health crisis. Most Americans are struggling with moderate to severe levels of stress.

Stress isn't just hard for our minds to deal with—it's hard on our bodies, too. On top of negative psychological effects, such as irritability and depression, stress causes uncomfortable physical symptoms. These symptoms include indigestion, teeth grinding, chest tightness, and dizziness.

What's even worse than the short-term symptoms is the long-term effects of chronic stress. These effects include obesity and heart disease. If chronic stress isn't addressed, you are more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.

But don't let this stress you out.

After all, we're here to help you manage your stress.

But first, I want you to think about how you deal with stress currently. Is it watching TV? Smoking cigarettes? Skipping meals? Drinking? These are common stress management responses in America.

But does that make these healthy coping mechanisms? Absolutely not!

Not all coping mechanisms were created equal.

When we attempt to manage our stress, we want to make sure we're doing so in a healthy manner. This what the following tips aim to do!

Without further ado, let's de-stress! Here are some techniques you can use whenever you feel like stress is overcoming you. These tips are all easily completed at your desk.

1. Ground yourself.

I'm sure you've heard of the grounding technique. There's a reason it's so popular! Grounding techniques are commonly taught and recommended by therapists. But let's deep dive into what grounding actually is.

Grounding is a tool that is used to bring a person back into the present moment. When we are feeling overly anxious and stressed, we are up in our heads. Grounding is meant to get us back into our bodies by focusing on our physical sensations.

As you focus on the minuscule details of the world around you, the big picture becomes less daunting.

Follow the following steps to ground yourself. Focus on:

  • One item you can see.

  • One sound you can hear.

  • One item you can touch.

  • One sensation you can smell.

  • The texture and taste of gum, food, or a drink.

As you focus on your physical body, you will naturally de-stress and lose touch with the anxious thoughts swirling in your brain.

2. Simply move.

We just discussed how transitioning your focus from your brain to your physical body helps you de-stress. Grounding helps you focus on your physical sensations, and so does movement!

Before you get scared off, I'm not telling you to incorporate an intense HIIT workout in the middle of your workday. You could do that, but we're taking a more manageable approach here. I mean movement you can perform at your desk.

We often hold our stress in our back, neck, and shoulders. Let's hit two birds with one stone here. Incorporating back and neck stretches throughout your workday help you focus on your physical body, helping you reduce stress. These stretches also reduce your stress-induced back and neck pain. What a win-win!

Another exercise you can do at your desk? Squeeze your muscles, tensing them as tight as you can, and then release. Do this with each muscle from head to toe. This will relax your muscles and get you out of your head and into your body. You can even do this during a stressful conversation or Zoom call. No one will be able to tell that you're practicing this technique.

If you're up to it, get up and move around. Take a walk. The endorphins released while you exercise will help you reduce your stress. Try to incorporate walking meetings, or walk around whenever you're on a phone meeting.

3. Take a quick journaling break.

It doesn't matter if you're a good writer or not—the whole point of journaling is that no one will read it. You never even have to read it again if you don't want to.

My point? Spell things wrong. Don't use proper grammar. Don't even use complete sentences if you don't want to. Write a list or a poem. Your journal is a judgement-free zone.

Writing it all down—no matter format you choose—will have a therapeutic effect. Your words don't have to be nice, spelled correctly, or in proper grammar.

Writing about your stress can help you manage it in a healthy way. Journaling helps your brain regulate emotions, so even stress won't feel overwhelmingly challenging. You'll be able to handle it, along with all your other unpleasant emotions.

During your workday, if your stress becomes unbearable, take a break to vent out your feelings on paper. Whether you use a physical notebook, or a Word document that you never save, it doesn't matter. Just use your journal to release your negative emotions. Watch your emotions float away from your head and onto the paper.

4. Don't go on social media. Use other ways to connect!

Trust me, I get it. I'm not immune to the addictive qualities of social media.

In fact, a few weeks ago, I didn't know if I'd be able to cut back! But I've made it a priority in my life to cut back on social media usage (quite drastically) after I learned about all the negative effects it has on our mental health. And I've got to say, I feel so much better.

While it might be tempting to surf social media to distract ourselves from our busy workday, resist that temptation. Social media isn't an escape. In fact, it's making you even more stressed.

Although social media is meant to connect us to others, a study from the University of Pennsylvania found that social media usage increases depression and loneliness. The psychologist published her findings in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

I'm not telling you to delete all your social media apps. That's unrealistic, and it will only make you want to use social media more. I'm just suggesting that you limit your time on it, especially at work (where you shouldn't be using it anyways). In an already-stressful work environment, you don't need to add the stress of social media on top of that.

If you need social connection in your day, text a friend or family member. If you work from home, ask one of your colleagues to jump on a Zoom lunch break with you. There are other ways to connect with people that are much more effective than social media.

Stress doesn't have to have power over you.

The more you incorporate these techniques, the more you will find that you can tackle your stress. Stress management isn't always aesthetically pleasing, like massages and facials. Sometimes it's the more mundane tasks that you can do at your desk that are the most effective.

Implementing healthy de-stressing techniques will benefit your mental and physical health. Take a deep breath, and get started managing your stress!

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