Nerves shot? Too stressed to focus? Find an oasis of calm amidst the chaos with these eight quick expert tips that reduce stress and boost focus and energy. Bonus: Each takes just five minutes (or less) and are doable at the office!
Doodle. It may sound silly, but doodling gives your mind a much-needed break. “It taps into the nonverbal, creative and emotional part of our brain and can therefore promote creativity and release negative and stressful emotions,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Erica Curtis, a board-certified art therapist on the board of directors of the American Art Therapy Association. Not sure what to draw? Simply sketch a large circle in the middle of a piece of paper and fill it with patterns, shapes and colors.
Step to it. Anything—even brushing your teeth—done with complete focus and awareness becomes a meditation, says Dr. Nina Smiley, co-author of the Three Minute Meditator, who recommends taking the stairs to your next meeting. “Focus your attention on silently counting each step as you climb a staircase. Count the stairs on your in-breath (in, two, three…) and your out-breath (out, two, three, four…), releasing any thoughts that enter the mind. If you lose count or if thoughts creep in, just let them go and return to counting.”
Pack a snack attack. Instead of the evil vending machine, reach for foods loaded with mood- and energy-boosting B vitamins for that afternoon snack, recommends Melanie Smith, board-certified holistic health and nutrition counselor and founder of Yogaphoria. Almonds (a handful a day is good), milk, cottage cheese, broccoli, sushi (or, even better, just the seaweed) are all chockfull of vitamin B.
Belly laugh. Slap on some headphones (so you don’t annoy your coworkers) and watch something silly on You Tube, suggests certified life coach and hypnotherapist Michele Landers.Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones (like adrenaline), and is a great distraction from negative emotions that can wear you out. Landers suggests breathing in some calming lavender essential oil while you giggle to increase relaxation.
Go for a walkabout. Five minutes of sunshine and air does more to restore a sense of balance and purpose than you might imagine, says Ellen Whitehurst, Feng Shui guru and author of Make This Your Lucky Day. “During this time, balance your nervous system by intoning the vowels of the alphabet (pronounced ah, eh, i, o, ew).” When you get back, spray a mood-booster blend of orange essential oil and spring water around your office.
Do the twist. A seated spinal twist relieves tension in your back, says Ashley Turner, host of the DVD Element: Yoga for Stress Relief and Flexibility. Breathing in, raise arms in front at shoulder height with palms facing each other, and stretch. Breathing out, twist the torso at the waist to the right, lengthening the spine, and look over right shoulder. Gently release and bring arms back to the front. Switch sides, and repeat.
Relax your…tongue! Notice that right now, your tongue is on the roof of your mouth and your mouth is most likely closed. “Those contracted muscles restrict breathing and signal your nervous system that it's under a threat,” says psychotherapist Eddie Reece. Try relaxing your tongue and jaw, allowing your tongue to hang out of your mouth a bit.
Generate some heat. Rub your hands together vigorously and place the palms of your hands over your eyes, suggests life coach and motivational speaker Stephanie Staples. “Be still, breathe and let the warmth and darkness sooth your eyes while you do a little positive mental self-talk. Works every time!”