Mindfulness & Anxiety

8 Easy ways to reduce workplace stress—without leaving your desk.

By Kathleen Wong
Dylan Gillis/Unsplash

Anxiety is ruthless. It doesn’t care where you are or what you’re doing. It definitely doesn’t care if you’re at your job. You can be grinding away at work when your phone buzzes with an ominous text or your boss informs you about a big assignment. Next thing you know, your anxiety bubbles up and makes it difficult for you to actually tackle your work to-do list.

Not only is being unable to focus on your task totally frustrating but being physically at work while your mind spirals is basically tortuous: You have to put on a friendly face for your co-workers and move from meeting to meeting as if you are totally cool, calm, and collected when you’re actually the exact opposite.

What can you do? Your workday doesn’t end for another couple of hours. It’s not like you can just step out of the office for a yoga class right now. How do you deal?

We have good news. There are several low-maintenance ways to help reduce your anxiety and stop you from spiraling that you can do right there in your cubicle. Check them out below:

Take a walk

Passion Pit was onto something when they sang  “I take a walk.” Getting up from your desk and taking a quick lap around the block or even office can be beneficial to escaping your anxiety. Exercise is known to boost your mood by helping you produce endorphins, or the feel-good hormone, and just a little bit—like 10 minutes—goes a long way, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Put down the caffeine

I know, I know, but seriously, your morning isn’t helping so just gently put the mug aside. Coffee has been found to induce anxiety in both humans and animals by stimulating locomotor activity and at a higher concentration, inducing anxiogenic-like effects, which, as you can probably guess, causes anxiety.

Journal it

When our thoughts are going 100 miles a minute and we feel unfocused, we may want to grab a notebook and pen to write it out. Expressive writing can help us get our overwhelming and confusing emotions out and sorted instead of letting them crowd our mind.

Try CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is used as a wellness “miracle cure” believed to have anxiolytic properties among other things. Although there isn’t a ton of research on how CBD can help with anxiety, scientists have found that it “directly activates serotonin receptors and may also modify endocannabinoid mediated neurotransmission,” Gillian Levy of Humboldt Apothecary says. That serotonin is what affects our mood and can make us feel happier. In a 2004 study, CBD “significantly decreased subjective anxiety and increased mental sedation” in ten healthy adults. Figuring out your dosage and keeping a small tincture or some gummies at your desk might be worth a shot.

Focus on the now

There’s a rule that goes by 3-3-3 or sometimes 5-5-5. While the numerical amount doesn’t matter too much, the rule just challenges you to break out of your anxious thoughts by tricking you into focusing on your present environment. First, name three or five things you see, then sounds you hear. Finally, move three or five parts of your body.

Breathe deeply

Notice how anxious thoughts can make your heartbeat and breathing faster? Well, slow down your body’s fight-or-flight response through deep breathing from the belly—inhale through your nose and exhale out your mouth. Controlling your breathing like this will help you avoid slipping into a total anxiety attack and calm your mind down. You can do this right at your desk.

Chant a mantra

If you’re prone to anxious thoughts then it might be worthwhile to come up with a mantra that will help you diffuse anxiety when you feel it coming on. It can be as classic as, “This too shall pass,” or something more personal like, “I am stronger than this.” Chantelle Doswell, a licensed counselor and lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, told the Huffington Post: “Mantras can be helpful for folks with anxiety in two ways: They can focus the mind, and they can provide counter-narratives to anxiety-provoking automatic thoughts,” Doswell said.

Visualize a sweet memory

Sentiment might just be anxiety’s match when it comes to sucking your time and energy. Stop your spiraling in its tracks by picturing a happy moment that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like when you saw your pet for the first time or an intimate moment with a loved one. Place yourself back in that moment, how your surroundings looked, smelt and felt, and most importantly, how you felt. Before you know it, you’ll forget all about whatever made you anxious and return to conquering your workday.

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