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The Heart-Healthy Office: De-Stress Your Way to Wellness

Deadlines, high expectations, a heavy workload, chatty co-workers, office politics…it’s no mystery why the very thought of work makes some people feel stressed. Stress is a part of life—and it’s a big part of today’s workplace. But don’t let that stress you out! There are lots of things you can do to de-stress at the office and bring more serenity to your workday.

(Aren’t you feeling better already?)

Some facts about stress and the workplace

Just how big of a challenge is stress for working Americans? The 2012 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association link opens in a new window (APA) reveals:

  • 65% of Americans cite work as a top source of stress, and
  • Only 37% of Americans say they are doing an excellent or very good job managing stress.

What’s more, a 2013 survey by the APA's Center for Organizational Excellence found that more than one-third of working Americans report experiencing chronic work stress. 

There’s a smorgasbord of potential physical and psychological responses to stress, including headache, backache, upset stomach, feeling tired for no good reason, feeling helpless or tense and/or feeling impatient or forgetful.1 And what affects one person might not affect another. It’s enough to send you to the vending machine or out for a smoke break, isn’t it?

For your heart’s sake, just say “Om”

Stress doesn’t directly cause heart disease, but it may affect behaviors that increase the risks. So if your go-to methods of dealing with stress include overeating, smoking or drinking too much alcohol, now is a great time to learn how to manage stress more effectively—in ways that can actually help reduce your risks for heart disease. 2

We can’t eliminate all of the stressors at work, after all. But we can change the way we deal with them. So take a deep breath, smile, and think positive!

Here are some ideas you can take with you to the office:

At your desk…

You’re probably spending a large portion of your day here, so make it a place to combat stress head-on.

  • Refreshing deep breaths go a long way to keep you calm and centered, and you can do them anywhere at anytime. 
  • Stretches, like these from WebMD link opens in a new window, can help you loosen up. Shrug your shoulders or do a torso twist and see if some of your stress doesn’t melt away.
  • Visit your “happy place” by closing your eyes for a few moments and picturing a favorite vacation spot or thinking about a loved one. And if you can swing it, a 15- to 20-power nap can help increase your reaction time, boost critical thinking, and rejuvenate you. 3
  • Feeling uninspired? Learn something new. According to a study in the Journal of Happiness Studies, working hard to master a new skill, though it causes significant momentary stress, leads to greater long-term contentment.3
  • Turn on the tunes, because listening to music--especially slow, quiet classical music—helps slow the pulse and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease levels of stress hormones.4

Around the office…

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get away from that troublesome report or email inbox.

  • Step away and take a walk around the office. Gain some distance from the pile of work on your desk and stretch your legs.
  • Establish work/life boundaries so you leave work “at work.” That might mean unplugging from technology after work, not checking e-mail after a certain time or using your lunchtime to eat (not work!).
  • Speaking of lunchtime, eat healthy foods at lunchtime and break time to keep your mind and body energized. Read all about it in The Heart-Healthy Office: Eating Your Way to Wellness.
  • Tap into social support. If there’s a particular work issue that’s stressing you out, talk to your boss to find out if you can get some help in the form of an extended deadline or some extra hands on deck. You can also engage your office friends in a healthy venting session (just keep it positive!).

Want more heart-healthy ideas?

Stay tuned for more on staying heart-healthy and active in the workplace. In the meantime…enjoy de-stressing your way to wellness!



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