Research shows that Londoners on average work an extra 2 hours per week in comparison to the rest of the UK. That’s an additional 100 hours worked over a year, which is the equivalent of working 3 extra weeks. With such a demanding work culture and often the requirement of sitting down for long periods of time to complete work, it’s important that your physical and mental health don’t suffer.
Taking a quick 5-minute breather away from what you’re doing will help to improve your focus and alleviate stress when you return to work. Here’s a list of short exercises you can complete at the comfort of your own desk.
The benefits of deep breathing are often overlooked. It’s an effortless and easy way to instantly feel calmer, alleviate stress and improve blood circulation. Deep breathing can be practised anywhere so it’s a great exercise to do at your desk when you need an instance stress relief buster. Practising deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which slows the heart rate and relaxes sphincter muscles.
How: Place both your arms on top of one another flat on your desk and rest your forehead on your arms. Push your chair back so your spine is fully extended and ensure your feet are flat on the floor. Take five to eight deep breathes and feel your mind begin to clear.
Our lower backs are one of the main areas that take the strain when sitting down for long periods of time. This exercise is targeted at stretching out your back so you sit in comfort.
How: Start by moving to the edge of your chair with your feet firmly placed on the floor. Begin by turning your torso to the right and placing your right hand over the back of your chair, and left hand on your right knee. Lengthen your spine to feel the stretch and take 5 deep breathes. Deepen the stretch as you exhale and repeat this exercise on your left side.
The exercise originates from traditional Chinese medicine and is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and boost energy. Whilst it may sound like a strange exercise to perform at your desk, don’t knock it until you try it.
How: To get the most out of this exercise you need to gentle massage the Shen Men point, which is the middle of the upper third of your ear. If you’re struggling to find the spot, start massaging your earlobes and work your way up to the outer shell of your ear.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Have you ever felt so stressed a sudden wave of intensity hits your body? This exercise focuses on how your muscles feel when tensed and relaxed.
How: Target a specific muscle group, such as your right hand and begin by squeezing the muscles as hard as you can whilst taking in a deep breath for 5 seconds. Focus on feeling the tension in the isolated muscle area, and after 5 seconds let all the tension flow out of your muscles whilst exhaling. Remain relaxed for 15 seconds and then move onto a different muscle group. After completing each of the muscle groups, sit back and embrace the state of relaxation.
Other muscle groups to focus on include: feet, lower legs, hands, buttocks, stomach, chest, neck and shoulders, mouth, eyes.
Working hard can take its toll on your hands and wrists, especially from repetitive tasks such as typing. It can create stiffness and discomfort so this exercise will stretch out your overworked muscles.
How: Whilst standing up, put the palms of your hands together in a praying position and make your elbows touch. From your fingertips down to your elbows should be touching and be level with your face. Slowly extend your elbows apart, whilst lowering your hands at the same time. Continue extending until your hands are waist height and in-line with your belly button. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat.