Work can be stressful. Regardless of your profession, there are always stressors of some kind or another…deadlines, bosses, customers, co-workers, meetings, budgets, technology… there’s never a shortage of things to make us feel overwhelmed. And being on edge is taking its toll on workers…short tempers and sore shoulders abound.
For experts in the occupational therapy field, including those at Baker College, a current focus is on more preventive measures…helping individuals improve their wellness and better manage their stress, and resulting aches and pains, before they become more serious conditions.
Some OTs are embracing yoga practices to assist with on-the-spot stress management. This quickie, three-step exercise can be practiced right at your desk (or anywhere you find yourself feeling frazzled!), and should help you find a touch of Zen in a challenging world. Your mind and body will thank you!
Step #1: Find a Visual Focus
It can be anything. Ideally, the object is something calming or meaningful to you, like a special keepsake, but any ordinary object, from a paperclip to a coffee mug, will do. Once you select your object, concentrate on it by softening your gaze…let your eyelids lower slightly, but keep your eyes open and your focus on the object (the yoga terms for this focused gaze is drishti).
Step #2: Breathe Through Your Nose
Slow and even nostril breathing – inhaling and exhaling through the nose only – helps to temper the body’s natural fight-or-flight response, which is heightened in stressful situations. Counting to four on each inhale, and again on each exhale, will help settle your mental chatter and allow you to address your remaining challenges less reactively (the yoga term for controlling your breath is pranayama).
Step #3: Find Your Tension; Let it Melt
While maintaining your softened, focused gaze and four-count nostril breathing, do a mental scan to identify where your body is holding tension…common areas include neck, shoulders, jaw, forehead and lower back. Once you find your tension spot(s), visualize the area(s) softening, melting and falling away into the floor. You might find it helpful to close your eyes for this step.
After about 30 to 60 seconds of practicing this three-step exercise, you should find yourself feeling less tense and more centered. And remember that practice makes perfect, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t reap results on your first attempt. Be consistent in your commitment to your wellness!