Learn how to reduce stress to better deal with stress.

Tips on How to Relax and Destress

Stress at work — be it rushing a deadline for a report or dealing with demanding clients — is often unavoidable. While some level of pressure is good to keep you motivated at work, excessive stress can be overwhelming and harmful to your physical and emotional well-being. Learn how to relieve stress with these quick fixes at the office.

1. Take a Power Nap to Reduce Stress

​​A power nap helps you to feel more relaxed

It sounds counterintuitive — especially when there’s plenty of work waiting for you — but a short 15 to 20-minute power nap can help you “reset” your frazzled system. You’ll feel more energised and alert to tackle the next task when you wake up from your short nap.

Research also shows that taking naps promote alertness on the job[1], reduces sleepiness and improves cognition performance[2]. This could help you to solve problems faster, or get over that mental block, hence clearing the backlog of work more efficiently. Also, remember to get enough sleep (7-9 hours daily for an adult) to have better concentration and focus throughout the day.

Related: Sleep well, live better

2. Stretch Out Your Work Stress

We’ve all experienced it before — when we’re stressed, our bodies tense up. Hunching over your desk won’t do your back, shoulders, and neck muscles any favours. A quick way to get relief from stress and anxiety is to get up and stretch[3] those tensed muscles.

You could also try chair yoga[4], a gentle form of yoga that can be easily done in the office. Start with the seated chest lift — this move opens your chest and stretches your back. Sit at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the ground, and your hands rested behind you at the back of the seat, fingers pointing away. Inhale, lift your chest and then exhale before releasing your hands. Repeat this move five times.

Related: Simple Exercises for Office Workers

3. Relax your Senses by Seeing Green

Spending time outdoors is a stress reduction method.

Human beings have a natural affinity for elements of nature, which has the innate ability to heal our body and mind, as well as improve our mood and help us feel more relaxed[5]. Japanese’s Shinrin-yoku (which means “forest bathing[6]”), is the idea of being in wild and natural places. Taking strolls in Zen gardens are ways to improve our overall well-being. They evoke a sense of serenity and inner peace that heals the mind, body and soul and allows one to set aside some time for self-reflection.

Don’t worry if there isn’t a Zen garden or park nearby. You can still relax by helping to tend to the office plants, or even better, build your own terrarium. Observing the plants growing day-by-day can be highly therapeutic; open terrariums or office plants can even help to eliminate odours and absorb pollutants in the air.

Relax your mind and find inner peace with a miniature Zen garden set that you could either make or buy. The repetitive act of combing the sand and arranging the stones has a calming effect and provides stress relief. It also trains the mind to focus on the present, freeing it from stray thoughts and worries.

Related: Best Nature Walks in Singapore to Unwind with Nature

4. Relieve Work Stress with Calming Music or Nature Sounds

Listening to music can help you feel more relaxed, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Are there times when you need to focus but are distracted in the office? Find some inner peace by listening to calming music and sounds of nature. The sounds of crashing waves, trickling raindrops and other sounds of nature are amongst the most soothing and pleasurable states. They can help the brain to relax, focus better and boost your efficiency at work.

Research has shown that employees who connect more with nature at work reported fewer stress-related complaints[7]. Listening to nature sounds can help one recover from mental stress[8] more quickly, minimise the negative effects of mental health issues like depression and improve your mood to be more positive. Check out YouTube as there are many sounds of nature videos that you can listen to. Here’s[9] a video to last you for the next four hours.

5. Think Positive to Better Manage Work Stress

Changing your mindset and having a positive attitude can make you happier. Learn to be more optimistic of the situations around you and you will realise that you are able to manage stress better.

6. Revive Your Mind with Creative Breaks

Before you dive your head into rushing the last-minute presentation and stressing yourself out, grab some colour pencils for some creative doodling. The concentration of the mind and the positive emotions evoked through the spontaneous act of drawing keep your mind focused on the present moment which declutters your thoughts, improves overall mental wellness and makes one happy.

Doodling is certainly not a mindless activity as it actively engages your brain and hones the processes that help us to multi-task, focus and plan. You can also try your hands at origami and turn the colourful paper into creative animals and objects. Both are great ways to recharge your mind and de-stress.

Related: Expressing Yourself Through the Arts

7. Practice Mindfulness for Better Mental Wellbeing

Take a few minutes to practise mindful breathing exercise every day. It will help your mind and body to relax. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment. Studies[12] show that mindfulness helps to increase tolerance of negative emotions[13] and works as a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems[14].

Make the effort to take short breaks during work and incorporate some simple mindfulness techniques like taking deep breaths with your eyes closed. A short mindfulness exercise every day works wonders to help you re-focus and clear your mind. Here’s 6 mindful exercises you can try today.

Related: Mindful about Mindfulness

8. Talk It Out with a Co-worker or Friend

Talking to a co-worker helps you deal with stress and anxiety.

If you’re stressed out at work or feeling upset with an annoying colleague, don’t let the problem worsen by bottling it up. Rant to a friend or co-worker about it, and you’ll feel instantly better.

Sharing your troubles with your co-worker or friend can help you relieve stress and anxiety. You’ll also hear different perspectives on how to tackle these issues. By confiding your issues with the people you trust, you can also draw renewed strength from them, learn from their experiences and feel more energised to manage the work stress.

9. Manage Your Time

Proper time management will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Plan your time well so that you can complete tasks on time. Break large tasks into smaller, manageable parts to prevent feeling overwhelmed. This will also help you avoid stress and procrastination as work will seem more manageable and less intimidating.

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References

  1. Takahashi, M., Nakata, A., Haratani, T., Ogawa, Y., & Arito, H. (2004, Aug). Post-lunch nap as a worksite intervention to promote alertness on the job. Ergonomics, 47(9), 1003-1013.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8504092_Post-lunch_nap_as_a_worksite_intervention_to_promote_alertness_on_the_job
  2. Lovato, N., & Lack, L. (2010). The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Progress in Brain Research, 1(185), 155-166.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.academia.edu/14476212/The_effects_of_napping_on_cognitive_functioning
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, Feb 8). Desk stretches help prevent pain and stiffness. See how they’re done. [MayoClinic].
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/office-stretches/art-20046041?pg=2
  4. Roos, C. [MindfulChairYoga] (n.d.). MindfulChairYoga User Page [YouTube].
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/user/MindfulChairYoga
  5. Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010, Mar 15). What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environmental Science Technology, 44(10), 3947-3955.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.julespretty.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/4.-Dose-of-Nature-EST-Barton-Pretty-May-2010.pdf
  6. Shinrin Yoku (n,d,). Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest. [Shinrin Yoku].
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html
  7. Largo-Wight, E., Chen, W. W., Dodd, V., & Weiler, R. (2011). Healthy Workplaces: The Effects of Nature Contact at Work on Employee Stress and Health. Public Health Reports, 126(Suppl 1), 124—130.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3072911/
  8. Alvarsson, J. J., Wiens, S., & Nilsson, M. E. (2010). Stress Recovery during Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(3), 1036—1046.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872309/
  9. [TheHonestGuys]. (2013, Jun 18). 3 HOURS Relaxing Music with Water Sounds Meditation [Video file].
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luRkeDCoxZ4
  10. Fishman, E., Turkheimer, E., & DeGood, D.E. (1995, Feb). Touch relieves stress and pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 18(1), 69-79.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226212531_Touch_relieves_stress_and_pain
  11. Judie, A., & Brintha, N, N. (2015, Sep 25). Touch and Massage On Pain Perception among Primiparturient Mothers. Research & Reviews: Journal of Nursing & Health Sciences, 1(3), 48-51.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.rroij.com/open-access/touch-and-massage-on-pain-perception-among-primiparturientmothers.php?aid=63956
  12. Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2012, Aug). What are the benefits of mindfulness [American Psychological Association].
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx
  13. Farb, N. A. S., Anderson, A. K., & Segal, Z. V. (2012). The Mindful Brain and Emotion Regulation in Mood Disorders. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne De Psychiatrie, 57(2), 70—77.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303604/
  14. Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169—183.
    Retrieved Apr 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848393/