Americans are not relaxing enough – not even close. A poll conducted by OnePoll in collaboration with Sensodyne found that the average American only feels relaxed for less than one hour a day. And nearly half of the respondents are only able to unwind for even less time than that. But that survey polled a diverse group of respondents and didn’t focus on solely Black individuals. If it had, it would have found the stats to be even drearier, as the American Psychological Association says that Black Americans experience chronic stress at much higher rates than any other group.
It’s no wonder that on the OECD’s work-life balance index, the United States does not fare well. We might be a culture of work-hard-play-harder, but if we don’t take it easier on ourselves, we could pay the price. One professor at UC Merced explained that prioritizing leisure on a regular basis can not only lead to an improved mood, but it can also mean health benefits like a lower heart rate and overall lower stress levels. In case you missed it, National Relaxation Day was yesterday, but it really deserves a full month. National Relaxation Day serves as a reminder of how important it is to incorporate leisure and self-care into every single day. So no matter how busy you are, here are small and simple ways to unwind throughout your work day.
Massage Your Hands
MADAMENOIRE covers some of the many benefits of regular massage here. These range from stress relief to reconnecting with the body to getting a quick energy recharge. However, you probably don’t have time for a visit with a massage therapist in the middle of your work day. But you can experience micro doses of those benefits by giving yourself a quick hand massage at work. Just keep some good moisturizer at your desk and give yourself a two-minute hand massage when tension builds up.
Take A Five-Minute Screen Break
Stepping away from your computer screen (or any screen) for just a few minutes can instantly help you feel more relaxed. The International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics found that short screen breaks can fight mental fatigue. It’s especially important to do this when you feel you’re hitting a wall and struggling to focus. While that short break can feel like a setback, it will actually give you the renewed energy you need to work more efficiently.
Lie Down On The Floor
Your coworkers might look at you funny, but don’t mind them. You’ll be the one feeling better after this exercise. Lying on the floor in this specific way is something relaxation leaders call The Alexander Technique. There’s much more to it than this, but the core idea behind this technique is to change our usual behavior and even position our body in a new way. This can realign the spine, reduce tension in the body and create a moment of focus within the body. People follow this technique by lying on the floor – either on a carpet or a mat – with the knees bent and feet firmly on the ground. Being on the floor feels literally but also figuratively grounding, and because this is so outside the bounds of one’s regular routine, it can instantly change your mood.
Do A Body Scan Meditation
When the stresses and demands of the day feel overwhelming, pause and do a quick body scan. This is a simple meditation that you can do anywhere — and doing it daily, not just for National Relaxation Day, can help tremendously over time. Just close your eyes, and send all of your awareness to your feet. Notice the sensations of the feet, like the feeling of the floor beneath them or their temperature. Then move that attention to your ankles, then knees, and so on, eventually scanning the entire body. It’s a simple way to re-set when thoughts about tasks and responsibilities are consuming you.
Sniff Aromatherapy Oils
Aromatherapy oils, especially lavender, have been proven to provide instant stress relief. You can either put a few drops in a diffuser to fill the room with their scent. Or, if you work in a shared workspace, you can simply put a couple of drops in your palms, rub them together, and hold your palms up to your nose. Take a few deep breaths and you should feel instantly calmer.
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