We’re all aware of the habits that lead to good health: exercise, good nutrition, proper sleep, and so on. But what can we do to destress ourselves directly in the moment when we feel stressed in the middle of the workday? Most of us can’t run away from our schedules and attend a yoga session when we’re in the midst of a work-related problem. But there are several small (yet effective) measures you can take that will help you destress in the moment.
Taking Deep Breaths
You’ve probably read about the benefits of deep, focused breath at least once before. For the chronically stressed, hearing the phrase “take a deep breath” can even cause feelings of irritation—after all, a deep breath never checked anything off anyone’s to-do-list, so can it really reduce stress? The short science-backed answer is yes. Deep breathing slows your heart rate, increases oxygen to your brain, and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, all of which work to promote a sense of calm in our brains. Though our to-do lists don’t get any shorter, a few minutes dedicated to breathing can make our minds less busy and help us regain the ability to focus on things other than our immediate worries. We break away from PANIC mode and shift into calmer, more introspective thinking and ultimately gain the ability to work on our daily tasks with more intention and concentration.
Most of us know that more exercise can decrease stress, but taking a sudden work break to go through a rigorous workout routine is not usually a feasible option. Luckily, when our goal is to find immediate relief and destress in the moment, a full workout routine isn’t necessary. Any kind of physical movement will do. This includes a walk around your living area or even a few minutes of simple stretching. Similar to deep breathing, physical movement helps increase our blood flow to the muscles and even increases our natural endorphins. Taking five minutes out of every hour to make sure your body is in movement can help destress you in the moment and keep your stress levels in control throughout the day.
Exposing ourselves to nature can lower our blood pressure, reduce the production of our stress hormones, and even help relieve pain in our bodies. In short, nature is incredibly healing, and taking just a few minutes out of our workday to go outside and breathe fresh air can help us destress in the moment and focus on our present wellbeing. For those of you who live or work in places where access to nature is difficult to obtain, simply opening the window and breathing in fresh air—and looking someplace other than your device’s screen—can help bring calm at any moment.
Acknowledge Your Stress
The act of acknowledging feelings is an important part of regulating emotions and attaining excellent emotional intelligence. Research shows that when we name our emotions, they have less effect on us. For example, when we take a step back to say, “I’m stressed and frustrated right now,” we become distanced from those negative feelings. This distance allows us to concentrate on actions we can take to make our workday less frustrating (such as enlisting a coworker for help). When we regulate our emotions properly, we become better leaders and employees.
These tips are certainly not the end-all be-all of stress management, but keeping them in mind will be handy for those days where we feel a buildup of frustration. They’ll help take you out of your mind and let you focus on the present, which might very well help calm the rest of your day as well.