5 Self-Care Interventions To Try At Your Desk

These simple techniques can help you relieve stress and anxiety.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Try one of the following to bring a little peace to your day.

Scalp Massage: This quick self-massage can help relax you, and release the tension that can lead to headaches.

Spread all 10 fingers around your scalp, and using your finger pads, maintain a firm pressure while making small circles.

Next, place your index and middle fingers together and find your temples (just on either side of your eyes). Press into the tight spots (believe me, you’ll find them) and again, make small circles.

Finally, take hold of your earlobes, and pull down gently. Work your way up your ear, pinching the cartilage between your thumb and first finger. One branch of acupuncture maps the entire body onto the ear, so attention here may bring benefits to your entire system.

Breathe: When we’re anxious or scared our respiration rate speeds up as the sympathetic nervous system prepares for action. This is helpful if you’re being chased by a lion, but unnecessary for most work and life stress. Fortunately, bringing your awareness to your breath can reduce this fight-or-flight response.

Lengthen Your Exhale: While breathing in and out through the nose, try exhaling for twice as long as you inhale. It’s simple, but it works: A recent study found this 2:1 breathing practice, when done twice a day for 5–7 minutes, lowered the heart rate and diastolic blood pressure of patients with hypertension.

Three-Part Breath: This is based on a yogic breath called Deerga Swasam. From a seated position, lengthen your spine long. Place one hand on your chest, and the other on your abdomen. (Make sure your abdominal muscles are relaxed.) On the inhale, first feel your belly expand and fill up with air, then feel your rib cage expand, and finally feel your collarbones lift up towards the sky. On the exhale, feel your collarbones lower, your rib cage relax, and your belly draw in. Once you’re comfortable with breathing into all three parts of your torso, try lengthening your exhale, and repeat at least 5 times.

Note: Stop immediately if any of these breathing practices make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Chair Yoga: By linking the body to the breath, gentle yoga can help trigger the relaxation response of your nervous system.

Forward Bend: Forward bends help to bring your focus inward and calm your mind.

Push your chair a little away from your desk. Sit on the edge of the chair so that your spine can lengthen, and widen your legs about hip distance apart. Place your hands or forearms on the edge of your desk, and hinge forward from the waist. When the spine begins to round, drop your head, close your eyes, and breathe gently in and out through your nose. If you’re flexible, you can let your elbows fall into your lap.

Cat/Cow: Cat/Cow actively combines breath and movement, promoting the relaxation response, and helps relieve back tension all the way from the base of your spine to your neck.

Find the same starting position as for the forward bend. This time, place your palms on your thighs, just above your knees. On the exhale, round your back and drop your head towards your lap. This is “cat.” On the inhale, arch your back, and look up towards the sky, coming into “cow.”

Try an Acupressure Point: Acupressure is a form of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) based on the same meridians used in acupuncture. The theory is that energy (or Qi) flows through the body along the meridians. Specific points along these energy pathways can be stimulated to address imbalances in mind, body and spirit.

Pericardium 8, also known as the “Palace of Anxiety” is located in the center of your palm. It will probably be slightly tender to the touch. Using the thumb of your other hand, press into the point and hold, or make small circles. Do this for a couple of minutes on each hand.

Sip Some Tea: It’s not a myth — sipping chamomile tea may actually calm you down. A study in 2009 found that chamomile extract was helpful for people with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder. The tea form may also relax you, although it is not recommended for people with asthma, or pregnant women.