It’s 3 p.m., you have at least 20 unanswered emails, a long list of deadlines, and meetings that will last you the rest of the day—chances are, you’re stressed out and feeling completely overwhelmed. But don’t throw in the towel just yet! We chatted with Dr. Jim Nicolai, the medical director of the Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, to get some stress management tips that really work, learn easy ways to de-stress at our desks, and figure out what to do when tips and tricks just aren’t enough to lessen anxiety.
For starters, the best and easiest way to de-stress at your desk is something you’re already doing without even thinking about it: breathing. “Simple breathing techniques are simple, efficient, and effective for hijacking the stress response and producing a feeling of calm relaxation,” Dr. Nicolai explains. Dr. Nicolai shared two effective breathing techniques, which he details in his book, Integrative Wellness Rules, that you should try right now!
1. The Wave Breath – Inhaling and exhaling deeply for a count of four in and four out. “There is no start and stop to this breath,” says Dr. Nicolai, “only a rhythmic slowing down as you transition to the next phase.”
Trick yourself into breathing more deeply by starting with an exhale. Get your diaphragm involved in the process by squeezing your stomach muscles in on the final part of the exhale out; this is going to help expand your abdomen on the inhale, helping you achieve a deeper, more controlled breath.
2. 4-7-8 Relaxation Breath – When there’s no time for a short break, the 4-7-8 breath helps “people to interrupt the pattern of stress and anxiety,” according to Dr. Nicolai.
First, exhale completely through your mouth, making a whose sound and allowing your body to relax. Then, close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four and hold that breath for a count of seven. Finally, exhale completely through your mouth, dropping your shoulders and letting go of stress while making another whose sound to a count of eight. “This is a one-breath cycle; repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths,” advises Dr. Nicolai.
Have time for a short break? Take it! “How about building movement into your workday by walking?” asks Dr. Nicolai. Three of the pillars of our Wellness Week pledge (a seven-step pledge that’s applicable year round) are: Choose to Move, Connect with Nature, and Give Myself the Gift of Silence. I firmly believe in utilizing all three, especially as the weather gets warmer, and taking a 15-20 minute break outside for a short walk. It’s amazing the clarity that comes from unplugging for just 15 minutes and taking a moment to reflect. Those emails will still be there in 15 minutes, but your sanity may not—go for a short break!
Keeping emergency help at your desk is also a great way to de-stress at work. “Anything that is quick and accessible is perfect,” says Dr. Nicolai. “Smells can change you state very quickly, hence the power of aromatherapy.” Dr. Nicolai suggests trying an aromatherapy product that you can rub onto trigger points while breathing in the mood-altering scent. Many of us at SpaFinder Wellness have been known to keep lavender oil at our desk, which helps put you at ease during a particularly stressful moment.
“Rescue sprays and other remedies can also be helpful in the moment,” explains Dr. Nicolai. I’ve always been a fan of Bach Original Flower Essence Rescue® Remedy Spray and have kept a bottle with me since high school. It’s perfect for relaxing and releasing tension. Another way to reduce stress is to steep a cup of chamomile tea. Chamomile is notorious to help fight colds, comfort aches and pains, bring on restful sleep, and of course, reduce stress, thanks to its ability to relax muscles in the body and brain.
Ok, so we know now to breathe deeply, take a break, have a cup of tea—all great stress-management tips for an overwhelming workday. But what happens when breathing, breaks, and beverages are not enough? If work stresses become too much to handle, and finding another job is not an option, it may be time to see someone like Dr. Nicolai to do a Comprehensive Integrative Evaluation. At Miraval, guests can enterthe Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrative Wellness Program, which incorporates the principles of integrative medicine, lifestyle diagnostic tools, evidence-based methodologies, and in-depth consultation to plot your optimal lifestyle and wellness path.
If the Miraval program is not an option for you, and you find yourself feeling more and more overwhelmed, be sure to reach out to your physician, as there could be an underlying reason for your stress.
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