Sometimes you just need to relax.
Too much stress and tension can overwhelm us to the point that we can’t accomplish anything. Instead of making progress, we’re at our desks unsure of where to begin. And it can start to take a toll on our health—insomnia, fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, the list goes on. Fortunately, there are quick and easy ways to manage it, all at work.
Five Breathing Exercises to Help You Relax at Your Desk
Basic Beginner Breaths
Start simple. Focus on your inhale and exhale. Close your eyes and take a deep three-second inhale through your nose, hold your breath for two seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. Don’t let your mind wander to all your worries and stressors, just concentrate on your inhale and exhale. Try to build up this exercise to fifteen minutes a day.
Also called abdominal or belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing slows your heartbeat, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces your body’s fight or flight response. The best way to do this is to lie flat on your back, but you can also recline in your chair. Then, place one hand on your upper chest and one below your rib cage to feel your diaphragm moving as you breathe. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Focus on the tightening of your stomach muscles and the rise and fall of your chest. Try this for five to ten minutes, three to four times a day.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Yep, just what it sounds like—alternate inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other. In yoga, this practice is thought to harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain and balance your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Use your fingers to hold one nostril closed while you inhale and exhale through the other. After you’ve rotated through both nostrils, hold both nostrils closed for a moment using your ring finger and thumb. Repeat it five to ten times a day or when you need to relax.
This one is easy, too. Sit up straight and exhale through your mouth. Then, inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat it three more times. It works.
You can lay down or sit for this one—whatever’s comfortable and practical for you. Close your eyes and pay attention to your body’s position. Take a deep breath and visualize the oxygen spreading to the different parts of your body. Then, focus on the sense of relaxation as you exhale. Notice one body part at a time and the sensation its feeling. Gradually work your way through your whole body for just three to five minutes, eventually stretching the exercise to last 20 minutes a few times each week.
When Breathing Exercises Aren’t Enough
If breathing exercises aren’t enough and you’re still finding yourself stressed and overwhelmed, it might be time for a new job.=
Thinking about taking your career in a different direction?