Published by Bupa’s Health Information Team, November 2011.
Learning how to relax, particularly at work, is a key way to combat the negative effects of stress. Although your work should be challenging sometimes, it’s helpful to have ways of coping when the pressure gets too much. Relaxation helps you slow down and conserve your energy so that you can keep a healthy perspective at work.
Learning to relax is a valuable tool to help you:
Everyone’s job can be stressful at times, so it’s a good idea to learn a few simple relaxation exercises to help you through those difficult moments. These only take a few minutes and you can do them at your desk or work station, or standing up if you’re taking a break.
Practice makes perfect; the more you practise relaxation techniques, the easier they will become – even in a busy and noisy environment like the office. Try not to feel frustrated if you find them difficult to begin with. Keep at it and soon you will be armed with the tools you need to stay calm in any situation.
This involves using your imagination to think of a scene that has a calming effect on your mood, such as the memory of a holiday. It may not be practical to close your eyes in the office, but do so if you can for a few seconds and focus on the image. You can choose anything, maybe a deserted beach, lush green forest or even just a building or room you feel comfortable in.
Job stress can cause tense muscles without us realising until it’s too late. You can incorporate some muscle relaxing exercises into the mini breaks you should take at work. You should find that if you feel physically relaxed, your mind also relaxes.
As you’re doing these exercises, it can help to squeeze and then release each of your major muscles – starting from your feet up to your head – and imagine the tension flowing out of your body.
Concentrate on your breathing – slow, even breaths help you relax.
Doing some simple stretches at your desk can relax your body. Try the following.
If you don’t have time to do stretches or relaxation exercises, making some simple changes to the way you work could help you create a more relaxing environment.
Make use of your lunch break to relax in the park on sunny days, or find a quiet spot to read a book. Meet a friend or go out with your work colleagues for lunch to switch off from work to refresh you for the afternoon.
If you have an on-site gym, look into whether they do any exercise classes such as box circuits or have a running club. Not only could these help you to work off any stress, and change your focus and concentration, they will also increase your fitness.
Learning to relax can help you stay calm in a number of ways. It can help with the symptoms of stress, anxiety and also during difficult times it can give you a technique where you can just help yourself relax a little bit more.
Raise your arms up above your head and stretch out your body. Then let your shoulders and arms relax into a comfortable position. Shrugging, wriggling and shaking all help your muscles to stop tensing and relax. Let go of the tension in your feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, chest, arms and neck. Allow yourself to feel as if the chair is supporting your whole weight. Feel yourself letting go.
Loosen your jaw and face. A bland expression will help your face muscles to relax. Focus on your breathing, feel its rhythm, its depth and its speed. Put one hand on the upper part of your chest and the other just below your ribs on your abdomen. Slowly exhale. Gently breathe in so that you can feel your abdomen rising under your hand. Exhale for a little longer this time feeling your abdomen fall under your hand. Pause for a few moments, and then inhale again. Repeat, keeping your breathing deep and regular. Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful scene, perhaps a hot sandy desert island or a cool lush green forest, or somewhere where you have been and found it quite relaxing.
Try to practise relaxation techniques as often as you can, they only take 10 minutes.
You'll know that you’re following the technique correctly if the hand on your abdomen moves up and down but the hand on your chest remains still.
If you find it difficult to focus on the deep breathing exercise or uncomfortable, then please don’t use it.
This video is intended for general information only. It shows an example of one person’s experience. Your circumstances may be different so not everything may apply to you. It does not replace the need for personal advice from a medical practitioner.
The way you breathe can affect the way you feel. Through deep breathing techniques this can help you keep calm during difficult or stressful situations.
Sit on a chair or lie down on your back. Get yourself in a comfortable position, loosening your clothing if necessary. Focus on your breathing - feel its rhythm, depth and speed. Put one hand on the upper part of your chest and the other just below your ribs on your abdomen. Slowly exhale. Gently breathe in so that you can feel your abdomen rising under your hand. Exhale for a little longer this time. Feel your abdomen fall under your hand. Pause for a few moments, and then inhale again. Repeat the process.
You'll know that you're following the technique correctly if the hand on your abdomen moves up and down but the hand on your chest remains still.
Not everybody is happy using a deep breathing technique. If you find difficulty focusing in on your breathing, then please stop the exercise.
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Too much pressure from work or other commitments can lead to health problems. Use our stress calculator tool to find out how stressed you are and what you can do to help.
This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.
Publication date: November 2011
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