Relaxation techniques to use when you're stressed at work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 January 2022

When we lead busy lives, juggling work and home life, it's difficult to carve out time to relax. If you don't look after your mind and body, this can lead to burnout, less productivity and less job satisfaction. That's why it's important to relieve the stress of the job so you can bring the best version of yourself to work. In this article, we explain the concept of relaxation techniques that can help you unwind, including a list of suggested exercises you can try to help your mind and body relax when you're feeling overwhelmed.

What are relaxation techniques?

Relaxation techniques are the exercises or practices you use to help soothe your mind and body when you're feeling out of sync. The most common cause for wanting to relax is negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety or sadness. The ideal relaxation routine trains your brain back to its safe, happy space so you can feel grounded again.

Why is a relaxation technique important?

It's important to step back from work frequently and focus on health, nutrition and lifestyle. If you don't make time to relax, you put yourself at risk of burnout. Relaxation routines help you recognise when your body or mind needs a little help, so you can stop and rest. Giving your body time to recuperate helps to clear your mind, so when you go back to work, you're feeling more focused and can be more productive.

Feeling more relaxed at work also helps you to do your job better, improving job satisfaction and increasing the time you're likely to stay in your job. A more positive mindset means better teamwork and a calmer state for tackling work, which is key for progressing your career.

Related: Common interview question: 'how do you handle stress?'

3 tips to help you feel calmer

Here are some tips to help you feel calmer during times of stress:

1. Make time to relax

When you have a busy career, it's tough to find time for yourself. It's important that you schedule in time to do the things that soothe you. Block out an hour a day for relaxation, whether it's reading a book, meditating or going to the gym. Even 10 to 20 minutes a day can improve your mindset.

2. Use tools

It's tough to remember to take a break when you're caught up in work. Use smartphone apps or desktop tools to set reminders for taking a break. This can help you achieve a better routine, establishing a set time for relaxing each day.

3. Be patient

It can take time for you to integrate into a new routine. You may not notice the benefits at first. Continue your routine until you experience the rewards of these relaxation tips. While sticking to a routine is important, don't get frustrated if you skip a day or two whenever you need to.

Related: 6 Simple tips for how to work hard and stay motivated

Relaxation techniques for stress and anxiety

If you suffer from stress or anxiety, relaxation techniques can be a therapeutic way to deal with these negative emotions. Here are some relaxing exercises you can use to escape burnout at work:

1. Deep breathing

Deep breathing supplies oxygen to the brain, so you feel more focused. When you're consumed by stress, stop and take deep breaths to clear your mind. Find a quiet place to sit and just breathe. Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest and focus on inhaling deeply through your nose, then exhaling deeply through your mouth, pushing out the air in your lungs until your abdominal muscles contract. If you need help, an app can talk you through the process.

2. Go outside for some fresh air

If you're feeling stressed or anxious, go outside for a walk in the fresh air. Spending a few minutes outside and listening to the sounds of nature can help calm you. Take deep breaths and watch the activity going on around you. This is a great way to practise everyday mindfulness.

3. Practise meditation

Setting aside just 10 minutes a day for meditation can have positive effects on your mental health. You can meditate before or after work whenever suits you. Start by focusing on your breathing and try to clear your mind of all thoughts. It can take a while to master the art of meditation, but small practises can make a difference. For example, when you're boiling the kettle to make tea at work, use this time to meditate, free your thoughts and breathe deeply.

4. Enjoy aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a natural therapy that relies on scents to help restore your mind and body. Popular scents to help you relax include peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus. Formats include diffusers, topical skincare and spritzers. Try lighting a candle or keeping a small diffuser or room spray on your desk at work.

5. Listen to something calming

Listening to calming music, a positive podcast or an audiobook at work is a way to combat anxious thoughts. Create a playlist with instrumental music that won't distract you from your work. It may surprise you how easily you feel grounded after listening to soothing music.

6. Consider your diet

Nutrition plays a role in how you feel, both physically and mentally. When you feel the cortisol hormone rising, choose a snack such as peanut butter on toast to boost your serotonin (the feel-good hormone) levels. Eating the right foods can help you stay energised.

7. Get enough sleep

Sleep is one of the most important factors for your mental and physical wellbeing. Getting eight hours of sleep every night helps your body to restore itself and function at its best. Sleep also helps us keep emotions in check, so you're able to cope with feelings of stress better.

8. Spend time with others

When you have a lot of work to do, it can be tempting to sit and work through it. This may not be the most productive. Taking a brief break can clear your mind and boost productivity, allowing for a different perspective when tackling a challenging task. Socialise with your colleagues or go for lunch with a friend.

9. Get enough exercise

Taking the time to stretch your body during the workday is beneficial. Aim to get up from your desk once an hour for a short walk, such as to the toilet or to make a cup of tea. Stretch your muscles to remove the aches and pains from sitting at a desk all day.

10. Stay hydrated

Drinking your usual cup of tea or coffee can be a soothing practice. Drink plenty of fresh water throughout the day to ensure you're staying hydrated. Limit your intake of caffeine, as it can increase feelings of anxiety.

11. Create a safe space at work

Your desk is your safe space at work. Create a sanctuary where you feel most relaxed. Remove clutter from your desk and organise your space so it doesn't add to your stress. Adding personal features from home, such as a photograph of loved ones or a plant, can make it feel more homely.

Related: A guide to managing a heavy workload (with advice and tips)

5 ways to use exercise for relaxation

Calming exercises such as yoga and swimming, are ways to aid relaxation. If you struggle with anxiety, relaxation is a great way to soothe your mind. Here are some relaxation tips for stress:

1. Massage

A massage is one of the ways to relieve stress and muscle tension. Whether you pay for a professional one or try a self-massage, both have positive benefits for wellbeing. When you're sitting at your desk, sitting on the couch after work or early in the morning when you get out of bed are opportunities for self-massage. Indulge the moment by burning incense, using aromatic oils or combining your massage with deep-breathing exercises.

2. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an exercise focused on being fully present. This release of all worries is a great way to reduce stress and negative feelings. There are many ways you can practice mindfulness, from yoga and walking to breathing exercises and mantras. For example, if you're walking, you can tap into all of your senses and focus on all surrounding sensations. Listen to the birds, hone in on the surrounding smells and the feel of your feet walking on the ground. When you find your mind wandering, try to focus on bringing your attention back to the present.

3. Exercise

While exercise may not be the first thing you think of when you want to unwind, it's actually a great way to relieve tension in the body. The key is to choose more mindless forms of exercise that allow you to switch off your brain. These include running, walking, swimming and dancing.

4. Yoga

The goal of yoga is to help you unwind your body and mind. Opt for yoga classes that focus on slow, steady movements, deep breathing and gentle stretches. These could include hatha yoga, satyananda yoga or power yoga classes. You can take these online or join a class near the office.

5. Tai chi

Tai chi is the ultimate exercise for unwinding. It comprises a series of slow, flowing movements that help to focus your mind. It also encourages deep breathing and clears the mind so you feel more at ease. As it's a low-impact class, it's a great relaxation therapy for anxiety for all ages and fitness levels.

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