How to combat stress and tension caused by office work
Just because you are sat in a chair it doesn’t mean your physical health isn’t at risk. Stress and tension in the body are suffered by the majority of office workers.
If you work in an office you probably had someone come round and do a workplace assessment on you. This is done to check you know how to safely sit in your chair and use a computer without the risk of injury. At the time it’s a bit annoying, time consuming and embarrassing. Of course, I know how to sit in a chair and use a computer! I’m a functioning adult, not a child! How many of you remember saying that a few months or years before you ended up having physio for back pains due to bad posture, wrist pains from the wrong positioning of your arm while using a mouse and keyboard and headaches from stress?
Don’t panic if you are one of those people nodding your head right now. There is still hope! Doing a few small changes to the way you sit and work and breaking up your day with regular breaks to do a couple of minutes of exercises can make a huge difference.
Stretching is one of the most important exercises you can perform if you work at a desk for long hours.
Wrist stretches are very quick and simple. Flex your wrist either in an upward or downward position and then gently pull your fingers towards your arm. You should feel slight tension in your forearm as you do this.
Interlocking your fingers and pushing your palms to the sky, out in front or behind will give your arms, back and chest the stretch they need after sitting in a chair all day. If you know you suffer from bad posture then this should be at the top of your to-do list!
How do you sit in the office? Most people will admit to bad posture but I’m sure everyone knows someone who will sit on an office chair with either one or both legs crossed underneath their bum. This is the worst possible position to be sat in, especially if you don’t take regular breaks away from the desk. If you are one of these culprits then stretching your legs is a good idea.
Bend your leg towards your bum and then grab your foot so you can gently pull it towards your body. Give it to the count of five before repeating this on the other leg. Do as many or as little as you feel you need. You can also follow this up by relaxing your core muscle as you fold into yourself and touch the floor with straight legs. Swing your arms gently from side to side as you stay in that position. Gentle restock your core as you lift yourself back up into a standing position.
When work gets really stressful we often don’t realise the effects on our body until we are on our way home. It isn’t until we come away from the situation and our brain starts to engage with other thought processes that we pay attention to the pain in our neck, back, temples or even the jaw. This pain will mainly be caused by our bodies own reaction to the stress and pressure we feel under to complete a task at work. TENSION! You won’t even realise you are doing it, but we tense up our muscles throughout the day when feeling the pressure. Practising the habit of clenching and unclenching our muscles throughout the day will not only help the tension within your body and help you to remember when your muscles need to relax again but will also make you take quick essential breaks throughout the day where you can pull your mind away from the stressful task at work.
All you need to do is squeeze your chosen muscle and hold for a count of five before releasing again. Repeat this process in sets of ten. Working from the toes up or the head down will make sure you hit all areas.
Just like clenches, rolls will help release the tension in parts of the body. It will help in keeping your joints supple and ease the pain you may already have.
The main area people may already use this exercise will be the neck or shoulders, but you can also use this technique on leg and arm joints and even the hips.
With the neck roll, you need to turn your head as far to one side as possible. Do not let your chin go past your shoulder though. Drop your chin towards the shoulder and move around to the other side. Let gravity do all the work and just go with the flow. Repeat the process starting from the other side until you feel the tension melt away.
With shoulders, you will be rolling them backwards for five and then forwards for five. You can then repeat the process individually as well if one shoulder has more tension than the other.
With other joints such as elbows, wrists, and ankles etc. use the circular rolling technique. Roll slowly in one direction for the count of five before rolling in the opposite direction for a count of five. You can support your joint with your hand if needed.
Closing your eyes and practising some mindfulness at the same time as doing any of the above will give you the added benefit of grounding yourself before tackling the task again. As you move your body, think of nothing else but the movement you are making. How does it feel? Is there any pain? Where is the pain? Are your muscles tight? If you start thinking about the mountain of work you are doing, or the piles of washing at home you haven’t had time to do yet, just bat the thought away from your mind and concentrate on the exercise again
As with all exercise, if you feel more pain than you normally would you should seek the advice of a doctor and make sure it isn’t something more serious.
For anyone wanting to take their workplace wellbeing to the next level, recommend us to your Manager or HR department and we can come along to do one of our Workplace Wellbeing Workshops or Stress Down Day sessions. These are perfect at the end of the week to wind down ready for Monday!