• Sophie H. Janicke, Ph.D.

3 Simple Tricks to De-Stress at Work

Do you sometimes catch yourself hunched over your computer, your eyes trying to literally become one with the computer screen and your breath and heartbeat actually stopped for a second? If it is easy for you to recall such moments you may like some of these 3 simple tips on how to get your heart back to life and actually de-stress while being at work. Don’t worry, it is all based on science.

1. Take a Deep Breath

Did you know hat just taking a couple of deep breaths can immediately relax and de-stress you?

When we are stressed out we tend to breath very shallow. That is, our body gets into a fight-flight type of mode, which is great if there would actually something we would need to fight against or run away from. But even though the stacks of papers that need to be graded certainly make us want to run away, we tend to keep sitting in our chairs. Thus, the stress hormones and the activation of our sympathetic nervous system don’t have any release for their activation which, over time, leads to chronic stress symptoms such as high blood pressure, ear ringing, headaches, muscle tension, back problems, and even heart attacks.

To release some of that stress energy that our body built up, we can simply take a couple of deep and slow breaths. Doing so provides much needed oxygen to our already fried brain (yes, I really do like the word "fried":). Breathing deeply also activates the parasympathetic nervous system of our body, which is the antithesis to the sympathetic, fight/flight system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps us to relax, sleep and digest food and go to the bathroom (among other things). Deep breathing promotes relaxation, awareness and emotional release. Simple and impactful.

2. Take a #RealBreak

Did you know that we are actually more productive when we take breaks?

We think we are so much more productive if we pretend to be stronger than our bodies and fight through the day with as little breaks as possible. We go into “machine” mode. Maybe even in a delirious self-punishing mode because, yet again, we waited until the last minute to start writing this paper that we knew needed to be done by tomorrow already 6 month ago. So we just crunch away. However, research shows we are far away (luckily) from being machines that work in a linear way and only need a battery recharge once every 12 hours. We are actually organisms that move cyclically. That is, according to the ultradian rhythm to be exact.

To be most productive and creative we work best within a cycle of 90-120 minutes. After that, our brain needs a break. The researcher Nathan Kleitman has discovered this rhythm to describe our sleep but it similarly affects our alertness during the day. Obviously, we are all a little bit different and some of us may work very well in a 90 minute work 30 minute break cycle and others may be most productive in a 52 minute work, 17 minute break cycle. I personally prefer a 5-minute work and 55 minute break cycle☺. Independent of our individual differences, what the research is telling us is that:

  1. The paper does not write itself faster the less breaks we take (aka we are not more productive)

  2. We are NOT a robot or machine. So, when your body tells you “You have to “go””, maybe you should…well..”go”.. AND: most importantly, don’t do anything else. Checking your FB in your “break” is not a break. Only checking out the #RealBreak group on FB would be ok :)

3. Avoid Multitasking

Single Tasking is the New Hip Thing To Do! Did you know that when you multitask (jumping from one browser to the next, from grading to answering emails, to reading an article) you actually remember less information, are less efficient and actually slower in finishing your tasks at hand then when you single task? Research has shown that when you multitask you have less attention available to store information and consequently to retrieve it. Research also has shown that heavy multitaskers have a hard time tuning out irrelevant information and are actually much slower in finishing a task. When in a constant mode of multitasking we have a hard time finishing tasks, which contributes to our overall stress level and feeling of overwhelm.

So if you really want to get this proposal written until the deadline without taking a toll on your health, just do one task at a time. It is as simple as that.


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#productivity #mindfulness #work #breath #RealBreak

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