NEW YORK (MainStreet) For most workers, the office is a place for stress, not relaxation, but there are ways decompress and chill out in your cubicle, in an empty conference room or even in the bathroom. Experts weigh in on the best ways to get away from it all in the middle of a busy workday:
1. Go for a walk in the building
Even a quick walk down the hallway at work can be calming, says Loretta LaRoche, stress management consultant and author of Relax You May Only Have a Few Minutes Left.
"Just removing yourself from your desk and strolling up and down the hallway for a few minutes helps you decompress," LaRoche says. "Some people can't sit and meditate they have to walk."
Many workers have the mindset of, "I'm going to sit here at my desk and not get up until I tackle this problem," but that's the worst way to approach things.
"Don't sit there all day and agonize over what you're doing. You've got to give your brain a respite," she says.
Walking around your office hallways even up and down a stairwell is a great way to relax during any season, says Jordan Friedman, stress management trainer and founder of The Stress Coach.
"In the dead of winter or heat of summer, walking to a destination somewhere in the building may be all that's available to you, and that's OK. Just a quick stroll will get you more focused, reenergized," he says.
2. Get out in the sun
Anytime you can leave the source of your problem behind for a few minutes, you're physically putting something between you and your stress, LaRoche says.
"Leave the building. You don't have to go far. Just go outside and take a few deep breaths and look up at the sky," she says.
If you're able, a drive around the block with the windows down can also combat tension.
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"Driving can be very meditative. Listen to your favorite song or just drive and think in the quiet. The important thing is that you're out in the world beyond the confines of your desk."
3. Retreat to the bathroom
"There's no shame going in the bathroom and sitting on the toilet if that's the only place you can go to close your eyes for a few minutes and breathe," LaRoche says. "Flush the toilet two or three times and imagine some of your stress being flushed away."
In some offices, the only place workers have an opportunity to be alone is in a bathroom stall, Friedman explains.
"Who cares if you're in a bathroom? If that's the place where you know you can get some privacy, then go there," he says.
If you do use the bathroom as your private retreat, Eli Bay, president of The Relaxation Response Institute, advises being discreet.
"I recommend discretion when doing breathing exercises in the washroom for obvious reasons but a quiet space is a quiet space. I have led people into profoundly deep relaxation in the most inhospitable circumstances," Bay says.
"I tell people to twirl, to spin around like a kid," LaRoche says. "It's hard to be stressed out or aggravated when you do something fun and frivolous like that."
In her stress management classes, LaRoche asks her students say aloud what's bothering them while they spin around. The incongruity of twirling while saying something negative always lightens the moment.
"People just crack up," she says.
As for when and where to do your twirling at the office, LaRoche says an empty conference room or break room is fine, but don't be afraid to do it anywhere you please.
"Who cares what people think? Let them watch. Let them take a video and put it on Facebook. It's not their life, it's yours. Tell them you're relaxing so that you can live longer," she says.
5. Sit under your desk or anywhere you can grab some solitude
"One of my clients reported climbing under his desk with his legs sticking out to do some stress control exercises," Bay says. "He didn't care what others thought because he became so much more productive as a result. Most people, however, have neither the chutzpah nor the luxury to do that and have to be more circumspect."
Your ability to do this certainly depends on your organization and its culture, Bay cautions. But if you have a large office where you can be undisturbed, any type of relaxation tool is fair game.
"Some people go to the washroom, the stairwell, the company library, their car in the parking lot, a nearby church, a park or an unused meeting room," Bay says. "The where doesn't matter. It's the results that count."
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6. Do some deep breathing exercises
Mindful breathing can increase focus and lower your heart rate, says Rita Schiano, stress management trainer and founder of Live A Flourishing Life.
"It takes as little as 10 conscious breaths, less than 60 seconds, to ease oneself out of a stressful state. And mindful breathing can be done anywhere even in an elevator," she says.
If you can, close your eyes for 10 slow breaths, says Darrin Zeer, relaxation expert and founder of OfficeYoga.org.
"Focus on your entire body, relaxing with each exhale," Zeer says.
7. Do some subtle yoga moves or stretches
You don't have to bring a yoga mat to work or take an entire hourlong class to get the benefits from a little light yoga, Zeer says.
"Carve out moments of zen sitting at your desk, in a meeting or in the break room. A simple stretch, a conscious breath, it all adds up. By the time you get home, you will not feel as frazzled," he says.
If you have the time and space, try to find an empty conference room and lie down.
"Cozy up to a wall, lie on your back and rest your legs up the wall," he says. "Just breathe and relax. Workmates think you are weird? Who cares?"
8. Phone a friend
Just calling someone you love and talking to them for a few minutes can make all the difference in a stressful day, Friedman says.
"Call your mom, a friend, a sibling anyone. You're taking your mind off work for a few minutes and connecting with someone important in your life that's definitely going to reduce your stress, especially if you can share a laugh or two."
If your workplace doesn't allow personal calls, Friedman recommends making that call on your lunch break on your personal phone, or talking to a colleague in the break room at work.
"Those few minutes of conversation will take you out of the work space, even if you're still at the office," he says.
By Kathryn Tuggle