Julie Tucker
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Yoga: How to reduce stress at work

Everyone faces work-related stress at some point: maybe you’re exceptionally busy or you are a boss who worries a lot.

Perhaps your job is changing and you’re trying to learn new skills. Whatever the reason, when work becomes a little stressful, it’s a good idea to have coping mechanisms in place to help ease you through.

Feeling stressed can have a negative impact on our health and consequently on our work. Not only does it cause us to feel continually anxious, sometimes leading to depression, it can also cause a dip in performance and productivity.

What are the effects of stress?

Stress leads to poor employee performance, a loss of organisational performance, a high error rate and poor work quality, according to the 2018 research paper, The Effect of Stress on Employee Performance and Job Satisfaction.

This in turn leads to absenteeism and high staff turnover as a result of health problems including emotional problems like anxiety and depression; and physical issues such as frequent headaches; and ultimately, a greater risk of cardiac arrest.

The most common causes of stress at work are an excessive workload; a lack of administrative support; increasing work demands; problems with co-workers; problematic customer relations; achieving a satisfactory family/work-life balance; and job loss fears.

According to the research paper’s author, Samuel Ajayi (senior HR business advisor for global company Shell), stress significantly reduces performance, with a high stress levels resulting in low productivity.

How can yoga help reduce stress at work?

A lot of people turn to yoga to alleviate stress. Many devotees think of it as requiring a soft mat and a dimly lit studio to get the full effect. However, the practices of yoga are available to people everywhere, at any time – and this includes the workplace!

When feelings of stress start to take over, this can leave you feeling distracted and below par. Some employees might take part in a yoga class at lunchtime to restore feelings of calm. However, after ten minutes back in a stressful situation, it’s back to square one.

Instead of relying just on lunchtime yoga classes to sustain you, begin to subtly weave yoga into your working day. Whenever you notice your stress levels rising, take a moment to simply breathe deeply. You will find you feel calmer right away just by sitting and breathing deeply. You won’t even need to leave your desk.

How can you do yoga at your desk?

Yoga is a great way to help relax and reduce stress, so the fact you can discreetly do it at your desk is a bonus. One simple yoga exercise is a subtle Pranayama, as you should never underestimate the power of a deep, slow breath to lift yourself out of a stressed state.

To promote tranquillity; Dirga Pranayama (or three-part breath) is a simple yet useful practice to reduce stress at your desk, or even in a meeting. Breathe in softly through your nose, filling your chest and ribcage. Exhale slowly through your nose as you empty your breath completely. At the end of the exhale, pause and be aware of the calmness of that moment. Then, begin the next inhalation and repeat the technique several times.

A Mindful Mudra is another yoga exercise you can do discreetly at your desk, without anyone knowing. This is a hand gesture that guides positive energy in your body and supports the feeling of calm.

When you’re feeling under pressure, sit in a comfortable position, either at your desk, or in a rest area. If you work in a coworking space, there will be plenty of communal areas where you can go to recharge your inner batteries. Once you’re sitting comfortably, shape your hands to form a bowl shape in your lap, your palms facing upwards. Then, rest your right hand on top of your left, while allowing the tips of your thumbs to touch. Carry on doing this for any length of time until you feel calmer.

When you need to leave your desk, try walking meditation, which involves paying attention to actions you usually do automatically. Consciously turn your attention to walking to help you drop into your calm centre. As you walk down the corridor or across your office, be aware of one foot lifting, going forward and meeting the ground.

Feel your body’s weight shift onto your forward leg, while lifting your back heel at the same time. Try to keep your attention on the movement of your feet. If a co-worker passes by the other way and says hello, try to just give them a smile and keep walking, so you don’t break your meditation. Practice this while walking to the kitchen, toilet, or out of the building.

Yoga as a hobby

The impact of workplace stress can continue long after you leave the office for the day, so taking up yoga as a hobby is a great way to help with your physical and mental health 24/7. Of the people who experience stress at work, 55% say it continues when they get home, making them feel continually anxious.

According to the 2020 UK Workplace Stress Survey, workers are starting to recognise how damaging stress can be to their job and life in general. In fact, a massive 88% of employees suffering stress say they are taking steps to manage it themselves. This figure has risen from 83% in 2018, showing an increasing awareness among employees of the importance of wellbeing.

As well as opening up to colleagues, friends and families about how they are feeling, people are trying other methods to reduce stress, with 42% turning to exercise, yoga and meditation to improve their mental wellbeing.

Of the employees who feel stressed, 95% say it has negatively impacted their performance. However, only 16% of employees said they had considered leaving their job due to stress, with the vast majority preferring to work their way through their emotions in order to return to peak fitness and performance.



© GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

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