Do some self-assessment to help you find out about your health in relation to stress. It is important to realise that showing symptoms of stress does not necessarily mean that you are heading for health problems. There are other factors such as age, diet and exercise, which play a part. Nevertheless these are signs, which our bodies exhibit to act as a warning to us. It is only sensible to heed these warnings.
Count very slowly to yourself from 10 down to zero, one number for each breath.
With the first breath, you say 10 to yourself, with the next breath, you say nine, and so on. If you start feeling light-headed or dizzy, slow down the counting. When you get to zero, see how you are feeling. If you are feeling better, great! If not, try doing it again.
As you inhale, count very slowly up to four. As you exhale, count slowly back down to one. Thus, as you inhale, you say to yourself, one, two, three, and four. As you exhale, you say to yourself, four, three, two, and one. Do this several times.
After each inhalation, pause for a few seconds. After you exhale, pause again for a few seconds. Do this for several breaths.
Relax Your Body at Work
One of the most common questions asked about stress is, what can I do to de-stress during a busy day? Fortunately, there is something you can do for yourself when you need to release tension and stiffness or simply refocus your mind.
The following body-centred exercises work well in an office setting, as all you need to do is sit forward on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. You may increase the number of repetitions as your body grows stronger and more flexible. Take a few minutes at the end of the exercise to sit comfortably, noticing your breath and releasing tension with each exhalation. You’ll be ready to return to work feeling more comfortable and refreshed.
Here are some good relaxation exercises for the office:
Feet and Legs
With legs outstretched:
- Alternate curling and stretching the toes. Repeat three times and relax.
- Alternate flexing (bending) and extending (stretching) the whole foot at the ankle. Repeat three times.
- Rotate the ankles to the right as if drawing circles with your toes.
Repeat three times.
- Rotate the ankles to the left. Repeat three times.
Arms and Hands
With arms extended out in front of you:
Move your hands up and down, bending from the wrist.
Repeat three times.
Alternate stretching your fingers, then making a fist. Repeat three times.
Rotate your wrists three times, first to the right, then to the left.
Relax. Repeat three times.
Either sitting or standing:
Raise your right shoulder up toward your ear. On the exhale, release your shoulder down. Repeat three times.
Move your right shoulder forward. On the exhale, return it to the starting position. Repeat three times.
Move your right shoulder back. On the exhale, return it to the starting position. Repeat three times.
Repeat the sequence on the left side.
Bring both shoulders up towards your ears, tense, then drop your shoulders down as you exhale. Repeat three times.
Head and Neck
Hold each of the movements described below, take three easy breaths and relax tension with each exhalation, then return your head to the upright centre position before doing the next movement.
Drop your chin to your chest. Feel the weight of your head stretching out the back of your neck. Hold.
Look as far as you can over your right shoulder. Hold.
Look as far as you can over your left shoulder. Hold.
Drop your right ear to your right shoulder. Hold.
Drop your left ear to your left shoulder. Hold.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Here’s how to get started:
- After finding a quiet place and several free minutes to practice progressive muscle relaxation, sit or lie down and make yourself comfortable. Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes and get comfortable. Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.
- Begin by tensing all of the muscles in your face. Make a tight grimace, close your eyes as tightly as possible, clench your teeth, even move your ears up if you can. Hold this for a count of eight as you inhale. Now exhale as you relax completely. Let your face go completely lax, as though you were sleeping. Feel the tension seep from your facial muscles and enjoy the feeling.
- Next, completely tense your neck and shoulders, again inhaling and counting to eight. Then exhale and relax. Continue down your body, repeating the procedure with the following muscle groups: chest, abdomen, entire right arm, right forearm and hand (making a fist), entire left arm, left forearm and hand (again making a fist), buttocks, entire right leg, lower right leg, right foot, entire left leg, lower left leg, and left foot.
- For a shortened version, focus on the following four main muscle groups: face; neck, shoulders, and arms; abdomen and chest; and the buttocks, legs and feet. You can use progressive muscle relaxation to quickly de-stress anytime.
Here are some deep-breathing exercises:
- Sit comfortably with your back straight. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Breathe in through your nose. Try to make the hand on your abdomen rise, while keeping the hand on your chest still. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you inhale, but your other hand should move very little. Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale. If you have a hard time breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying on the floor.
- Sit back in your seat. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Breathe again.
Now make your hands comfortable while keeping your eyes closed.
Choose to place:one hand on your belly, one on your chest: the palms of your hands on your knees, or
your hands folded in your lap
- Now sit back, feet on the floor, hands comfortable. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Feel your stomach expand as your lungs fill with air. Now exhale through your mouth to the count of five. Pause.
Repeat while inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth; slowly count to five. Again, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, counting to five. Sit and enjoy the calmness for a few minutes.