Workplace Stretches to Reduce Stress

When was the last time you had a stress headache while working on a major project? Or felt tension in your stomach following an interaction with someone on your team? How do those physical sensations affect the rest of your day? Chances are they don’t support you succeed in your work or have life-giving interactions with colleagues or customers. So what do you find helpful in those circumstances? For many of us, help can come from many sources. Sometimes helping support physical health can reduce stress, or vice versa.

The links between stress and physical health are widely recognized. Support for mental health also supports our physical bodies, just as supporting our physical bodies also supports our mental health. If you’re a longtime reader of Building Bridges Leadership’s blog, you may remember our post on identifying and working with physical manifestations of stress, and we have posted a number of times on the effects of sleep and naps. Taking actions to help your physical health can help you to make clear-headed decisions and mitigate bias.

Whether or not you can nap, meditate, or go for walks throughout your work day – in fact, especially if you can’t and you’re deskbound – physical stretches can help reduce your stress. This could be the perfect thing to practice during breaks between “pomodoros.” Or, if you use a standing desk, you may be able to engage in stretching even while working, depending on your level of focus. Such stretches can help reduce carpal tunnel, lower back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, neck and shoulder pain, and obesity, in addition to physical and mental stress.

So how might you institute a stretching routine this week?

This week’s tip:

If you don’t already have a daytime stretching routine, try instituting one this week:

  1. Find a set of stretches that works for you. There are dozens of workplace/desk stretching routines available online. Choose one that has been medically reviewed, and that offers options for stretching various parts of your body – head and shoulders, upper body, arms, and legs. Healthline offers a medically-reviewed, comprehensive, and useful set of stretches. Depending on your job, you may find a set of stretches tailored for your needs – e.g. graphic designers or construction workers.
  2. Try a simple stretch between each activity, or whenever you’re having trouble focuding. This might be a 15-second stretch getting up to get some water, or a quick state change to help you clear your head and focus on the task at hand.
  3. Print out a display of your stretches to keep visible at your desk. Keeping a printed copy on display is a great reminder, so you won’t need to remember each of the different stretches.
  4. Don’t be shy about others seeing you stretch! Support the creation of a healthy workplace environment for stretching! There’s no need to feel embarrassed if a colleague or team member sees you stretch – you’re working to support your own mental and physical health. Perhaps you might inspire them to do the same.
  5. If you’re a manager, respect and honor your team members’ own work on physical and mental health – and notice if you see any changes in their work and their interactions with others as a result!

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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