Home Mental Health & Well-Being From Desk to Zen: Simple Techniques to De-Stress at Work

From Desk to Zen: Simple Techniques to De-Stress at Work

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For many of us, our work environment revolves around deadlines, meetings, and emails. While the need to achieve career goals is understandable, climbing the career ladder can be physically and mentally exhausting. It is very easy to get caught in the daily rat race and neglect something very important: our health and well-being. Chronic work stress can have a big impact on our physical and mental health, leading to burnout, anxiety, and even diseases. 

But what if there was an easy way to manage stress right at our desks? Don’t worry; you don’t need to suddenly roll out your yoga mat or do Tai Chi exercises at the office. What we have are simple techniques that you can do while working to find your inner zen, without leaving your office chair.

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises are powerful tools that you can use to manage stress and anxiety. When you are feeling overwhelmed at work, mindful breathing can help you relax and refocus. Best of all, it only takes a few minutes to achieve this.

Sit comfortably on your chair with your eyes closed (if you want) and focus on your breath. Draw a breath inward, slowly through your nose, and count to 4. Hold for 2 counts, and exhale slowly through pursed lips for 6 counts. Repeat this breathing exercise for a few minutes while focusing on your breath leaving and entering your body. 

Progressive muscle relaxation

One of the downsides to working in an office is being stuck to a desk 8 hours a day. This can leave you with tense muscles in different parts of your body. All you need to relax those tense muscles is to tense your toes for a few seconds, then release them completely. Next, move to your calves and thighs, and progressively work your way up to your arms, neck, and face. Feel the difference in tension as you flex and relax each muscle group. Repeat this exercise a few times until you feel relaxation spreading through your body.

Guided meditation

There are many short guided meditation techniques that you can do while sitting down at the office. You can search for guided meditation on your phone and take a few minutes to follow the instructions through your earphones. You can choose guided meditation that takes you through a tranquil forest or imagine that you’re sitting on the beach listening to the waves. Immerse yourself in imagery for a few minutes, and allow your stress to melt away.


Aromatherapy has been proven to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Certain essential oils prove to be effective when it comes to promoting wellness. Invest in a diffuser for your workspace and add a few drops of essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, and bergamot. Alternatively, you can dab a diluted essential oil blend on your wrists or a handkerchief and inhale the scent while at work.

Gentle stretching

Take a short break for some gentle stretches. Start by rolling your shoulders and then raising your arms towards the ceiling or you can twist your torso or bend your body to the left and right. You can also opt to stand up and do a few laps around the office. While doing these small forms of movement, remember to focus on the way your body is moving and the sensation of your feet touching the ground. This allows you to refocus your mind, and give it time to relax.

Nature therapy

Get out of the office for your lunch or during breaks. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, go out and take a quick walk outside of your building. Allow yourself to think about the world outside, take note of the weather, and how the city looks and just take time to admire nature. Immersing yourself in nature can improve your mood and reduce stress. Pay attention to the sights and sounds, while breathing in deeply and appreciating the fresh air.

TENS machine

A TENS machine is a small device that uses electric currents to block pain and prevent it from travelling from your nerves to your brain. They are portable and discreet so you can use them conveniently from your chair. They are very good at targeting specific areas, such as your lower back, making them a perfect choice for those who sit with poor posture.


Humans are naturally social animals and being social is an important part of our well-being. Take time to connect with your coworkers, even for a few minutes. Share a laugh and discuss non-work related topics or simply lend a listening ear. Strong social connections can help us feel supported and less stressed in challenging situations.

Listen to your body

Your body is a very good communicator. Pay attention to signs of stress, such as headaches, muscle tension, and difficulty concentrating. When experiencing any of these symptoms, take a break and do some stretches or practice one of the techniques mentioned above. 

Ignoring these signals can only lead to more stress and potential health problems. 

Create a calming workspace

A cluttered and dirty workspace can overwhelm your mind and lead to more stress and anxiety. Your workspace should be organised and neat so make it a habit to tidy up before leaving work every day.

Personalise your space by adding your favourite decorations and themes. Add your favourite Funko Pop figurine, photos of your family, or bring a small plant to comfort you. Bring or request an ergonomic or comfortable chair that promotes good posture for better pain management and to prevent fatigue.

Wrap up

Stress management is a continuous practice, not a one-time fix. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find a combination of techniques that work for you. Adding them to your daily routine can greatly increase your wellbeing and help you find your inner zen, even during the busiest workday.

David Radar, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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