5 Exercises You Can Do To Keep Calm Under Pressure
Your heart races as your sweaty palms clinch into fists. You try to breathe, but the air slips through your lungs, and the world grows hazy around you as you’re overwhelmed by anxiety. It feels like you’ve stepped into the ring with the heavyweight champ, but no. It’s just another day at the office.
High-pressure situations are an inescapable part of most jobs, and daily doses of pressure can be a root cause of stress. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can lead to several physiological issues, including fatigue, irritability, a lack of concentration, and an increased risk of coronary and cardiovascular diseases. Even bouts of short, yet acute, stress can cause headaches and trigger of underlining issues, such as heart diseases suddenly manifesting as heart attacks.
If you don’t want to fall victim to stress, you’ll need to discover ways to release pressure at the office, and we’ve collected five easy exercises to get you started.
The American Stress Institute lists breathing as the most important technique to reduce stress. Deep, concentrated breaths slow the heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and increase nitric oxide in the blood to relax muscles.
There are a bevy of breathing techniques out there, but beginners can enjoy this simple exercise: inhale for a six-second count and then exhale for the same count. Breathe through the nose and extend the diaphragm so that it pushes out your belly, not your chest. A single rep can be managed between phone calls, or you can sneak an entire set in a minute.
2. Muscle Relaxation
Stress causes muscle tension, which is painful, which makes more stress. You see where this is headed, right? To ease the tension, tighten the offending muscle as you take a deep, five-second breath. Then release the muscle quickly as you exhale. You can do this exercise at your desk and focus on a single muscle, but if you can spare the time, consider this routine from AnxietyBC that targets several different muscle groups.
There are many different meditation exercises, but here’s a basic one: Find a quiet spot and sit upright. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When your mind starts to wander, gently return focus to your breathing. Do this for ten minutes and see how you feel. In addition to reducing stress, meditation bestows a plethora of other benefits, all achievable without gaining enlightenment.
During your fifteen-minute break, be sure to stretch even if you’re stuck at your desk. WebMD lists twelve desk-bound stretches that include air circles to loosen the hands and wrists, torso twists to target the abs and lower back, and leg extensions to get blood back to those limbs. Oh, and don’t forget to breathe.
Walking gets you breathing, reduces tension, increases blood flow, and snags you fresh air and sunshine. A good walking routine is a stress serial killer. Go for a 20- to 30-minute walk during your lunch break, and think about anything but work. Need help banishing those workday worries? Listen to music or an audiobook as you go.
Don’t fret if you can’t get outside. Research has shown that walking around the office for five minutes every hour will increase vigor and lower fatigue compared to staying stationary.
Training for Success
To combat work-related pressure, you need to be stress conscious outside the office, too. Get the proper amount of sleep each night (typically between six and eight hours). Exercise each week with 150 minutes of moderate aerobics and some strength training. And do you need another article reminding you to eat healthy? Neither do we.
With these five exercises and some life-style switch ups, your nine-to-five should no longer feel like finishing twelve brutal rounds with the champ, but a first-round knockout in which you claim the title.