It’s easy to let stress accumulate at your job, but it’s not always easy to get rid of it — especially when you’ve got work to do. Fortunately, there are ways to destress your mind and body even when you’re stuck behind a desk.
As an entrepreneur, I am no stranger to stress or anxiety. I’ve been very fortunate to have founded multiple successful companies, including The Doe, which has grown into the largest anonymous publication platform on the market. Thankfully, I can say that all of our amazing staff is compensated fairly; when The Doe succeeds, everyone under its umbrella succeeds as well.
Sadly, not all entrepreneurs and business owners have adopted this mindset. In fact, the prevailing theory is that paying workers the lowest amount possible helps the bottom line. This could not be further from the truth.
If you look at the numbers, our current era reflects one of the worst times to be an employee in the last century. According to research by the Economic Policy Institute, the productivity-pay gap has been steadily widening since the late 1970s. This means that Americans are working and producing more than ever, but their wages have not kept up. In fact, since 1979, productivity has grown 6x faster than wages earned.
This puts Americans in a precarious position, especially given the ongoing pandemic and economic downturn. Many people cannot afford to leave their jobs in search of something better, while their employers continue to rake in profits by keeping wages stagnant. As a result, we’re left with Americans who are overworked, underpaid, and overstressed. While the first two factors will take large-scale societal shifts to fix, the issue of stress is largely within our control.
If your job or your financial situation has you feeling stressed, what can you do? You need to continue working to pay the bills, so when can you find the time to unwind? Thankfully, you don’t have to carve out a huge chunk of your free time just to feel better. You can actually start to undo some of this stress while you work! So, let’s take a look at 5 ways to destress from your desk:
Declutter your workspace
While cleaning may not be your favorite activity, research shows that messiness only increases stress and anxiety. Some people leave their workspace impeccably clean at all times. However, the vast majority of people don’t fall into this category. This means that you’ve probably got stacks of papers, reminders, office supplies, and various other items clogging up your workspace.
The great thing about decluttering your desk, office, or general workspace is that it’s not time-sensitive. You can spend two minutes decluttering and leave the rest for another day or go ahead and finish the job all at once. Either way, getting rid of some or all of the clutter can help you get more organized with your work, think more clearly, and feel more productive — all at the same time!
Check something off your to-do list
If you already decluttered your workspace, you can use that task to complete this one! All jokes aside, making a to-do list for your day, week, month, or even year can help you stay focused on the tasks that matter the most. This can apply to tasks that you need to accomplish for work or your personal life.
So, be sure to make a complete to-do list (or multiple lists) for everything you want and need to accomplish. You can prioritize them based on urgency or importance, but be sure to sprinkle in a few easy tasks whenever possible. This way, you can quickly check off items from your list, helping you stay productive even when you’re not in the mood to tackle bigger tasks.
Take “movement” breaks
Sitting behind a desk for 8 hours or more per day can take its toll on your body. So, if you have a desk job that doesn’t keep you moving, you need to incorporate movement into your day. This isn’t just a good way to destress from your desk, it’s also a great way to keep your body in shape.
You may not be able to conduct a full yoga class in your office, but doing some stretching and even low-impact exercises for a few minutes can help take your mind off of stressors. In fact, exercise is reported to be one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. So, even if you can only manage some light stretching, that’s ok! The important thing is that you find time throughout the day to keep your body in motion.
Practice breathing exercises
A lot of people don’t realize the importance of proper breathing. If you find yourself taking short, rapid breaths or even slow, shallow breaths, you could be doing more harm than you know. These inefficient forms of breathing can reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to your bloodstream, which can ultimately have negative effects throughout your entire body.
However, breathing exercises are not all about physical health. Actually, the primary benefit of breathing exercises is nearly instantaneous stress relief! You don’t have to be a meditation expert, either. Simply take a few minutes out of your day to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Not only will this help combat the short-term symptoms of stress, but if done regularly, it can also help fight long-term issues related to both anxiety and depression!
Enjoy something inspirational
It may sound cheesy, but watching inspirational videos or listening to inspirational podcasts can really help you destress during the workday. You may feel anxious about tedious work tasks or stressed over a personal relationship. Either way, the stress often arises from a negative perception of something in your life.
Changing that perception into something positive can undo a lot of the stress you’re experiencing. One way to get a new perspective on things is by watching inspirational videos like TED Talks. Alternatively, you could spend a few minutes listening to inspirational podcasts like Happier with Gretchen Rubin. If you can target the issue that’s making you feel stressed, you can even search for inspirational videos that address similar issues. This will help you destress from your desk and gain useful insight simultaneously!
Originally published on Medium.