It’s Wednesday afternoon and you’re sitting at your desk with a pile of work six inches high and eight more phone calls to make before you leave at 5 to pick up the kids from soccer practice. You have a Friday deadline looming for a work project, but don’t know when you’ll get it done because you have parent teacher conferences Thursday night. So, you should be making the most of your time today, but you can’t seem to focus…the market’s down 300 points today?!...why did I promise to car pool tomorrow morning?...I wish I had a standing desk…maybe another cup of coffee will help (your third today) and you have a glass (or two) of wine to look forward after you put the kids to bed.
Stress is a fact of life and comes in many forms: work, family, illness, finances, etc. can all trigger a sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses, which evolved to keep us alive in the face of lions, starvation and hostile tribes thousands of years ago. Today, the same instantaneous response occurs in reaction to other stimuli such as traffic, fast food, sleep deprivation and angry clients. The immediate threat to your life might be less, but the consequences of a chronic “fight-or-flight” response are just as dire.
Moreover, long-term chronic stress is even more harmful than short-lived stressors such a talking in front of a crowd or arguing with your spouse. Long-term stress reduces your ability to heal, leads to inflammation in your joints, skin and vascular system, makes you more vulnerable to infection and reduces thyroid function. Impaired cognition (that’s why you can’t focus) and an accumulation of abdominal fat (the most dangerous kind) are other negative outcomes of day-to-day stress.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE STRESS
The good news is you can do something to reduce your body’s response to the stress in your life. Yoga is thousands of years old, but may be new to you. It incorporates breathing and postures to quiet the mind and bring awareness of the body. Importantly, the science linking yoga and stress reduction is promising as it has been shown to elicit the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes muscles, slows breathing, lowers blood pressure and calms the heart rate. Wouldn’t it feel good to de-stress and return to work with a calm body and mind?
YOGA POSES FOR STRESS REDUCTION
The following poses are modified for use in an office setting and may be followed in order and used based on your individual abilities. Try to hold each pose for five full breathes. However, remember respecting your personal capabilities is the first step to stress reduction.
Please note: While yoga is generally considered safe for most healthy people when practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor, please consult your health care provider before beginning any program of physical activity. This is especially true if you suffer from herniated disks, blood clots, are in a physically deconditioned state, have eye conditions, are pregnant or may become pregnant, suffer from balance problems, severe osteoporosis or uncontrolled blood pressure. Yoga is a physical practice with all of the inherent risks of such.
Seated comfortably in a chair with your feet on the ground and your hands resting on your thighs, close your eyes and focus on 5 inhalations and exhalations.
SEATED MOUNTAIN POSE
Seated comfortably in chair with your feet on the ground or legs crossed (as shown above) raise your arms above your head and hold your palms together. Take 5 deep and slow breaths.
Place your left elbow in the crease of your right elbow and bring your palms to touch, if this range of motion is available to you. You can push your elbows toward the floor or raise your fingertips toward the ceiling and breathe.
While in a seated position, simply roll your shoulders back and down while slowly looking upward for cat pose. Now carefully reverse the movement while supporting yourself with your hands on your thighs.
Place your right ankle on your left knee and allow your right knee to fall toward the floor. Hold this side for 5 breathes and repeat on the left side.