Stress Management for Office Workers
Stress sucks, especially for office workers. Your company probably has a kitchen that has snacks and stuff, and potentially even a keg or a bunch of sugary beverages. You go to meetings, get impossible to follow deadlines from bosses who have zero clue what actually goes into the project they’re demanding you to finish, then walk past the kitchen again on your way to your desk. Before you know it, you’ve put on weight, bit the tips of your finger nails off, lost some of your hair, and just want a drink to make all the pain go away. Yeah stress sucks. Which is why we need a system to handle stress management for office workers.
For the record, I was an office worker for years. I’m a web developer (Drupal & WordPress mostly) by trade, and was one of those workers whose dress attire quickly went from wearing collars to wearing Everlast and Muay Thai T-shirts. I had a system to handle moderate amounts of stress, I never quite figured out a system to handle massive amounts of stress.
Relieve Stress with a Morning Routine
Punch and kick out stress
Twice a week for about 3 quarters I ran a morning wellness program for anyone in my office who was interested. Being that I had the words “non contact boxing” in the title I only attracted people who enjoyed punching and kicking things. If I had 1 person in class I’d hold pads for them, if there was more than 1 person in class we’d knee, punch, and elbow the air. Cardio kickboxing, shadow muay thai, whatever you want to call it, punching and kicking gets out aggression and can be a very helpful routine to establish in the morning.
The concept here is this – get your heart rate elevated and get your aggression out before going to any meetings. Your level of aggression may vary from that of someone else so this may or may not work for you, but hey, you won’t know until you try. I myself was attending Tuesday morning kickboxing classes during this same time period so I could also punch and kick things to feel good about myself while also losing weight and getting out aggression.
The caveat here is if I was really stressed (or had a deadline) I most likely didn’t get to show up to work late or was too stressed out to get myself off the couch and into class, which is why I said this is probably good for low to mid level stress at the start of the article.
General Workouts for Stress Relief
Wednesday mornings for roughly 2 years I would go work out with a personal trainer before work. The original intention was to get really good at kettlebells so I could be better at Muay Thai / Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The kettlebells strengthened up my core / improved my balance which in turn made it harder to flip me in BJJ. I’d wake up at 5:30 in the morning, eat, get dressed, run to the bus stop (I didn’t have a car at the time), then show up to throw around heavy bells at 7:00am. Doing intense ballistic and grind exercises (like swings and get ups) do wonders for eliminating stress from the mind.
By the time you get to work you’re so damn exhausted from tossing around bells that nothing else really matters. Although my favorite part of the whole experience were the callouses that would tear open on my hands while I was trying to learn the kettlebell snatch. I bought white gloves and Rip Fix to try and repair my hands before the next training session. Oddly, wearing gloves and telling everyone in your office your training to become a StrongFirst Level 1 instructor (then showing them the video of the requirements) makes people talk to you differently.
And when they talk to you differently, it reduces the amount of stress others place on you throughout the work day.
I did mellow this routine back about a year and a half in, spending the remaining 6 months learning about the importance of stretching. My “Fit Pole” concept is a joke around some other products currently on the market I was using to learn how to stretch and mobilize better.
Meditation and Yoga
I used the HeadSpace app for at least a year (my subscription was for 2 years), and am currently looking for a new app. For a bit I meditated before getting onto the bus, then swapped that over to meditating while on the bus ride into work. As long as I got a seat my plan worked flawlessly.
My problem with Headspace was every track seemed the same. Problems with sleep? Breathe and visualize. Depression? Breathe and visualize. It just seemed very repetitive. But maybe that’s because I used it for so long. I learned how to breathe, I learned how to visualize, I learned how to clear my mind and focus. I learned how to get the junk out of my brain so I could start my work day primed and ready.
Pick a meditation app and give it a try. Headspace is fine if you’ve never used it before. Like I said, my biggest complaint was it became repetitive after a year. Just start meditating in the morning.
Yoga is also helpful / good. We did a follow along Yoga For BJJ routine in my morning wellness classes as a cool down. I had co-workers who did yoga in the morning to settle their minds. Yoga, like meditation, is all about breathing and focusing the mind, it just has more of a physical element to it than meditation.
Lunch Routines for Stress Relief in Office Workers
At one point I had some co-workers taking part in an afternoon exercise routine (pre the morning one.) We’d gather at lunch time and go do some jump rope (I sucked at jumping rope at the time and used a ropeless jump rope) , push ups, pull ups, sit ups, and squats. We probably did some other things, but regardless, we’d go bust out a quick-ish lunch time bodyweight routine.
Same concept applies here as the early morning workout, only this one will remove the blah’s associated with the afternoon crash and instead give you energy to power through your day. You’ll be too damn tired from working out to really care about any office related stress, so most of the nonsense will just roll right off you.
Running for office stress relief
Do you know why going outside is good for you? It makes you focus on the outside world instead of the nonsense going on inside your brain. Looking at things outside makes you less aware of what’s on the inside and more aware of what’s on the outside (which is very good for stress relief.) Add in walking / power walking / jogging / running and you’re now both burning off stress while also getting a good view of the outside world.
I don’t really want to get into how destructive running can be on your joints – if you like to run go run. If running hurts your joints then either go run on something soft (like grass) or walk / power walk. The main purpose here is to get you out of your head so you’re not thinking about that nonsense deadline for a second and instead are focusing on making you the best you you can possibly be.
You don’t even need to go to a track or park. Just walking with co-workers to a lunch spot that’s half a mile / one mile away will give you both an outside experience and an escape from work. My favorite place to go on days where I was supposed to train at night (I didn’t always make it) was half a mile from work. Get up from the desk, go chat with coworker for 10+ minutes walking, eat good food, then walk another 10+ minutes outside back to work.
Sadly the bonus of choosing a place to go that’s half a mile from the office means you’ll more than likely not run into anyone else from work (because half a mile is viewed as “far” to many people.)
Breaks Throughout the Day to avoid STRESS
I previously wrote an article about drinking water and getting up from your desk throughout the day. Do that. Get a cup, put water in it, drink the water, refill the water, go to your desk, go to the bathroom, go to your desk, rinse and repeat. Your brain will be able to solve problems when it’s not stuck staring at a computer screen all day, and you’ll get some healthy exercise in the process. Drink more water.
Exercise After Work
I had 2 options here – a 7pm class (I got off work around 5) and going to the gym immediately after work on Fridays. The version where I went right after work meant I didn’t have to go home to chat with my spouse about how terrible my day was, or how I hate coworker X, or how dumb project Y was. Instead, I’d toss in my headphones, warm up, and go throw around heavy kettlebells.
With the 7pm option, if the day was stressful, I would either A) not go, or B) sit and stew (and potentially spout) about how terrible X, Y, and Z were. Going directly after work is the best option if you can do it. Signing up for group classes can make this one difficult, so you may want to head to the office gym, pick up a gym membership, or build your own gym to accomplish this.
I hope at least one of these suggestions you found helpful. I’ve since transitioned from being a full time web developer to a full time online personal trainer. If you need any help at all with your fitness journey please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to get you going on the life of your dreams.