Office relaxation

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:

  • cope with stress
  • achieve a healthy work-life balance
  • relieve tension
  • improve enjoyment of life

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.

Types of relaxation

Using imagery

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.

Muscle relaxation

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.

  • Neck glide. Sit or stand up straight, glide your head back as far as it will go. Keep your head and ears level. Now glide your head forward. Repeat three times.
  • Shoulder shrugs and circles. Sit or stand up straight, bring your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for a count of three seconds. Relax and repeat twice. Sit or stand up straight, circle your shoulders backwards three times, with your arms relaxed by your sides.
  • Upper back stretches. Cross your arms and raise your hands so that they rest on the front of your shoulders. Now use your arms to push your shoulders back keeping your elbows down. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat three times.

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.

  • Turn off your email for an hour each day, and the phone if possible, to minimise distractions and interruptions.
  • If you’re struggling to focus on a particular task, listen to some music on your headphones to keep out the noise of a busy office.

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.

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  • 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.

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  • Publication date: November 2011

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