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9 Two-Minute Ways to De-Stress During Work

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A cup of coffee next to a pair of glasses.

One of the common misconceptions about the nonprofit sector is that feelings of burnout will magically be pushed in the background simply because you’re doing meaningful work. But the reality is, no matter what job you have, exhaustion is very real.

Building a career that creates lasting social impact is great, but not if you forget to take care of yourself, too. Worried there isn’t enough time for self-care while you’re busy changing lives? You can alleviate stress without leaving your desk! Here are 9 tips to get started today:

  • Breathe Deeply

Sounds too simple to be true, right? Inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly is a great way to calm your nerves, regain focus, and de-stress. When we breathe deeply, we decrease our heart rate, reduce muscle tension, increase oxygen in the brain, and lower blood pressure.

  • Strike a Power Pose

A Harvard University research team found a link between the poses we make and how we feel. In their study, participants who did “power poses” (i.e. positions that are open and relaxed) had higher levels of testosterone - the hormone responsible for confidence - than those who had closed poses. The next time you need a quick pick-me-up, just strike a pose!

  • Look Away From Your Laptop or PC

Staring at electronics all day isn’t just bad for your eyesight – it can stress you out. If you cannot get up and walk around at your workplace, try looking out your office window or at a far away object, preferably something green. Then blink several times and repeat as necessary!

  • Hold Something Warm

According to behavioral psychologist, Susan Weinschenk, people make different decisions based on the sensations they feel from objects they touch. This concept of being behaviorally influenced by our sense of touch is sometimes referred to as “haptic sensation” or “embodied cognition”. The next time you feel exhausted, the simple act of holding a mug of warm coffee may lift your spirits. Aside from warmth, another sensation that’s sure to relax you is softness. I like cuddling a pillow, wrapping myself in a blanket, or petting my dog whenever I need to quickly de-stress. 

  • Drink Milk

Have you ever had a warm cup of milk before bed? Then you’ve already experienced how quickly you can de-stress by drinking milk! Milk contains tryptophan, a substance known to boost the feel-good chemical serotonin in our brain. If you like the kick of caffeine, you can always add milk instead of creamer to your coffee. Don’t worry! Adding it to your coffee will not reduce the effects of antioxidants.

  • Smile

Remember the phrase “grin and bear it”? Well, studies have shown that smiling can temporarily alleviate small stressors and help you get past negative moods. If your nerves are shot just minutes from an important fundraising presentation or you have an uncooperative coworker, try smiling! It takes no time at all and may normalize your heart rate and help you perform better.

  • Laugh

You know what they say: laughter is the best medicine! Laughter stimulates your organs, such as the lungs and heart, and increases your heart rate and blood pressure to both activate and relieve your stress response. It also triggers the release of endorphins in your brain, so you quickly feel uplifted and happy.

  • Put on Your Headphones

Want to listen to music but your workplace doesn’t have an audio system? Do you coworkers prefer peace and quiet? Simply tune everything else out by putting on your headphones! Listen to your favorite music to help soothe your nerves. This trick also works if you’re feeling sleepy but still have a lot of tasks to finish. Try popping in some upbeat dance music and get ready to breeze through that deadline!

  • Do Stretches

If you’re stuck at the office, you may not have the option of a quick 10-minute jog (unless you’re okay with using your lunch hour for exercises). If you only have two minutes before crunch time, use it effectively and get a bit of workout by doing simple stretches that would help relieve neck and back pain. Try shoulder and upper arm stretches, chin tucks, head turns, and standing thigh stretches.

Every Minute Counts

Never underestimate the power of every second of every day.

Similar to the shore, our life is made up of tiny grains of important moments. If we can work for eight hours, then we should be able to devote a few minutes of our day to de-stress and improve our performance overall. After all, many things can happen in just ONE minute: you could receive good news, meet the love of your life, or have a moment of clarity. Use your time wisely and try these tips today!

About the Author: Cris Antonio is the Chief Editor of She’s currently focused on helping healthcare workers find better career opportunities through Locum Tenens. Aside from writing, Cris also enjoys painting, collecting toys, and reading German novels.

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