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Relax Your Body at Work

"(We are) at a time when companies lose an estimated $200 billion annually in absenteeism, subpar performance, tardiness, and workers' compensation claims related to stress…'If businesses were clever, what they would do is simply put time aside [and have] a quiet room for people to carry out a meditative behavior of their choice,' says Herbert Benson, M.D." Business Week, August 30, 2004

Contact Info

To register for stress management programs and services, contact Rana Chudnofsky at 617.643.6068 or

When we visited workplaces, one of the most common requests was "What can I do to de-stress during a busy day?" Fortunately, there is something you can do for yourself when you need to release tension and stiffness or simply re-focus your mind.

The following body-centered exercises work well in an office setting, as all you need to do is sit forward on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. You may increase the number of repetitions as your body grows stronger and more flexible.

Take a few minutes at the end of your exercise to sit comfortably, noticing your breathing and releasing tension with each exhalation. You'll be ready to return to work feeling more comfortable and refreshed.


Feet and legs
With legs outstretched:

  • Alternate curling and stretching the toes (repeat three times [3X] and relax).
  • Alternate flexing (bending) and extending (stretching) the whole foot at the ankle (3X)
  • Rotate the ankles to the right as if drawing circlese with your toes (3X).
  • Then rotate the ankles to the left (3X)

Arms and hands
With arms extended out in front of you:

  • Move your hands up and down, bending from the wrist (3X)
  • Alternate stretching your fingers, then making a fist (3X)
  • Rotate your wrists first to the right (3X), then to the left (3X), and relax

Take a few minutes to do these worth while exercises:

  • Raise your right shoulder up toward your ear. On the exhale, release your shoulder down (3X)
  • Move your right shoulder forward. On the exhale, return it to the starting position (3X)
  • Move your right shoulder back. On the exhale, return it to the starting position (3X)
  • Repeat the sequence on the left side
  • Bring both shoulders up toward your ears, tense, and then drop your shoulders down as you exhale (3X)

Head and neck
Hold each of these positions, taking three easy breaths and relaxing tension with each exhalation; then return your head to upright center before doing the next movement:

  • Drop your chin to your chest. Feel the weight of your head stretch out the back of your neck (hold)
  • Look as far as you can over your right shoulder (hold)
  • Look as far as you can over your left shoulder (hold)
  • Drop your right ear to your right shoulder (hold)
  • Drop your left ear to your left shoulder (hold)

Progressive muscle relaxation
The body scan and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) are gentle ways to nurture the beleaguered body/mind when the burdens of work take their toll. All you need is 10-15 minutes during your day when you can close the door to your office or take an outdoor break:

  • Sit quietly and scan the body from head to toe, focusing on areas of tension during the in-breath, releasing tension on the out-breath. The "scan" procedure grounds you back into the body, alerting you to areas of contraction that you can relax with a sweeping, gentle awareness.
  • PMR adds a concrete element to the body scan that is quite helpful in releasing deep muscular tensions. During PMR, tighten each area of the body; when you purposely release tension from those areas, the feeling of relief is often more noticeable -- and striking. After a full body PMR, you may experience fewer, less intense headaches, backaches, and shoulder aches.

Read other articles about Managing Stress.

This article was provided by Mind/Body Medical Institute.
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