10 Quick and Easy Ways to Feel More Relaxed At Work Right NowBy: Sarah Zucker, Psy.D.
While you may already be aware of these strategies, how many do you actually utilize? Make it a point to try some of these techniques in the upcoming work week and see which ones work best for you. Merely knowing about stress-relieving strategies will not relieve stress; it requires taking action. All of these strategies are not practical for everyone, so do what best suits you given your office environment and physical limitations.


1. Eat a crunchy or tasty healthy snack. Focus on chewing each bite thoroughly. Eat slowly, and notice the flavor. Bonus if the snack gives you some energy or makes you feel a little more alert. Nuts, fruit, and even a little dark chocolate can fit the bill.

2. Take a 5-minute meditation break. There are different philosophies regarding meditation and different kinds of meditation, but the basics involve sitting still with good posture, closing or narrowing your eyes on one spot, noticing whatever thoughts you are having and letting them pass through you, and focusing on deep, diaphragmatic breaths. This can be nearly anywhere (not while you’re driving, please). Although it may seem like it would make you more tired, and you may feel sleepy mid-meditation, research shows you will feel more relaxed and more alert after your meditation. I can vouch for this… meditation and stretching (#5 on this list) are how I re-energize in between clients during hectic days. Meditation also helps you remain present and mindful. Note: There is no one “right” way to meditate, so do what works for you. It is very challenging to not get attached to thoughts as they arise, so be gentle with yourself. Like anything, it generally gets easier with practice.

3. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This can be done right at your desk. Just squeeze every muscle, working your way from your feet to your head. Squeeze, release, and repeat. You are merely tensing the muscles in one body part at a time to achieve a state of calm. This is also a technique that helps people to fall asleep. It’s helpful (and fun) to squeeze toes and fingers and scrunch your face as you get to those areas. A stress ball is also helpful and can be squeezed just about anywhere.

Take a 5-minute meditation break4. Close Your Eyes. Yep – that’s it. Just close your eyes for thirty seconds or so. You can visualize something you find relaxing, recite a prayer or mantra, or just breathe. It’s best not to do this when you are tired because you probably do not want to fall asleep at work. But this little eyelid break can help to calm and relax the mind.

5. Stretch. Take a minute out of your work day to do your favorite stretches. If you do yoga or exercise regularly, you likely already know where your tight spots are and where you carry the most tension. There is nothing quite like a good Adho mukha śvānāsana (aka Downward-Facing Dog) to ease tension and build a sense of inner strength.

6. Give yourself a little hand massage. Whether you use a relaxing-scented lotion like lavender or not, purposefully massaging your hands can relieve stress.

7. Write it down. Write down whatever thoughts are crowding your mind. Whether it is things to do later, something you’re worried you’ll forget, or something your colleague did that really made you mad, putting it on paper frees up space in your mind and allows you to get it out. It does not matter so much what you write or how well you write… It is the simple process of merely writing something down that is therapeutic.

8. Do 10 push-ups or any other rigorous exercise. If you have an office, close the door and do mountain climbers, jumping jacks, burpees, push-ups, dips, running in place, or anything else that helps you work out that extra frustration. This can be a very short burst of physical activity. Being physical helps you focus and can reduce unwanted anxious energy.

9. Look out the window or stand in the sunlight. The fluorescent lights of the office are no substitute for the sun and being outdoors. Step outside of your office for a five minute walk or just watch the view from your office window (or any window) if you cannot physically get outside. Notice what is going on in the world around you and feel the sun on your face. Reconnecting with the outside world reminds you that there is a lot more going on than what is happening in your office, which can often feel like all there is when you’re stressed in the middle of a busy day.

10. Listen to music. Turn on Pandora. Turn on the radio. Put on your headphones. It is well-documented that just a little music has great influence over our mood. A song can energize and relax us, and give us just the push we need to move forward.

Stress at work is nothing new.

When it happens infrequently and does not impact you in any noticeable way, these little interventions can help get you through. However, if workplace stress is causing you to lose sleep or feel disconnected, you can benefit from seeing a therapist. Work does not need to be inherently stressful or overwhelming, and a psychologist can help you make changes so you can get the most out of work and play. Living in San Diego means working in a city where many come just to vacation, so we want you to be able to enjoy all that America’s Finest City has to offer.