Stress is a familiar experience in our lives, whether in the personal space or at the workplace. Some may turn to mindful practices, while others may follow Elon Musk’s hakini hand mudra to calm themselves down and enhance cognitive function while at work.
“I find happiness in listening to meditation music when work stress overwhelms me. It truly brings me peace,” says Dr Vasha Prabala, co-founder of 365veda, Hyderabad.
For Ajay P, a business development officer from Coimbatore, gratitude journalling is the go-to method. He says it lets him identify and appreciate the things he is thankful for each day. “Gratitude brings positivity in me,” he says.
Ramya Iyengar, a Hyderabad-based yoga therapist from Algorithm of Yoga, lists a few practices that can relieve work stress and tension and help improve productivity.
Bonus: She also tells us how to do them!
If one of these practices does not work well for you, you can choose another one.
1. Bring awareness within
Focusing on the present moment and accepting each passing moment can be a powerful way to de-stress the mind. One of the easiest techniques to achieve this is by cultivating awareness towards your own body. “Whenever the mind wanders, bring it back to the body and the breath,” says Iyengar. This can help to improve your focus and promote a clearer thinking process.
How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position. Try to sit tall. Close your eyes and move your awareness through each body part one after the other, relaxing each part while doing bring awareness to the breath. Slowly start exhaling, relaxing your lower abdomen and deepening your exhale. Keep your inhalation free and relaxed
Practise this for 10 minutes. When done, open your eyes slowly to feel the new calmness. “Deep exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system [promote rest] which is responsible for restoration in the body,” says Iyengar.
2. Silent chants and listening to music
“De-stressing can also be done by repeating a mantra, or by listening to something that can quieten the mind,” says Iyengar. Chanting a holy name or repeating or humming a sound is beneficial. She says each sound is a vibration, which creates a certain energy in the body. This practice can instantly bring calmness, leaving you more centred and capable of handling a task better.
How to do it: An office may not be the best environment to chant a sound like ‘om’ aloud, but you can still experience benefits from a silent mantra or by quietly listening to a piece of calming music. Close your eyes. Choose a mantra that you connect to and continue to chant it for a period of time. Focus on the internal sound and words of the mantra.
3. Pranayama in an office chair
Pranayama or regulated breathing is a simple yet potent practice to shift yourself out of a state of stress. “It is a process in which we expand and regulate the movement of Prana inside our body. Beginners can start with Sheetali/Sheetkari pranayama or cooling breathing and then progress to ujjayi or ocean breath and alternate nostril breathing at your workplace,” says Iyengar. With regular practice, they can bring balance to our nervous system and lower our stress response over time.
How to do alternate nostril breathing:
Bring your palm up in front of your face and let the thumb press the outside of one nostril. Inhale deeply through the other open nostril. At the peak of your inhalation, release the thumb, press the ring finger on the outside of your other nostril and exhale. Repeat this a couple of times. Also, try to do an equal number of inhalations and exhalations through both nostrils.
4. Mudras help us stay calm
Mudras are hand gestures used to direct subtle energy in the body. Dhyana mudra (meditation gesture), prana mudra (life energy seal) and gyana mudra (mudra of knowledge) are some of the common mudras.
“Bringing your hands to a specific mudra can help intensify the focus on the body,” says Iyengar. Mudra practice helps to get the desired level of concentration, memory, receptivity and inner calm.
How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position, shape your hands or fingers to form a mudra of your choice. Direct your focus to the mudra and notice how your body feels.
5. Meditation to sharpen focus
Meditation is a practice of paying attention. This can be practised even in a bustling office or when facing the pressure of impending deadlines. A 2020 study discovered that the practice of yoga makes people more mindful and aware. Its researchers concluded that yoga and meditation positively affect the emotional well-being of a person.
How to do it: The object of meditation has to be carefully chosen depending on individual choice. One of the methods is Trataka. Take a break from your computer screen. Place a small photograph or an object on your desk within a comfortable viewing distance. Gaze at the object, allowing yourself to become fully absorbed. As your eyes begin to moisten, gently close your eyes and focus on the object. Repeat this for 5 to 10 minutes.
6. Gratitude for positive thinking
Our minds cannot focus on both positive and negative thoughts simultaneously. When we perform a gratitude practice, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters that control our emotions. They instil happiness. Practising gratitude trains the brain to focus on positive emotions and reduces anxiety and work stress. The practice enhances our mood immediately, making us feel happy.
How to do it: Set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes and relax. Mentally make note of the things you are grateful for, without judgement or inhibitions. It could be as simple as a good breakfast, or the presence of your cherished family member or friends. After five minutes, jot these thoughts down in your daily journal. This will help you get rid of unnecessary tensions.
A habit without hesitation
Our hesitation and shyness are the main obstacles to practising these simple de-stressing ways. “We fear others’ judgement when we try to improve ourselves. But if you prioritise your well-being, the shyness to practise at the workplace will not hinder you,” advises Iyengar.