From Our Readers
May 11, 2016 10:55 am
Getty / lechatnoir

Many of us spend more time at our desk than anywhere else, including our beds and our kitchens. Depending on the day and depending on the work, our desk can be a stressful place sometimes. While sitting down to work at your desk may never give you the peace and relaxation of walking into a yoga studio or cuddling up on your couch for some Netflix, you can bring some zen to your workspace. Here are a few ideas to make your work day less about hustle and more about flow:

Declutter your space.

Sitting down to a desk with papers everywhere, trash, and Post-it to-do lists is enough to stress anyone out. Make it a point to tidy your desk before you sit down for the day, that way you can hit the ground running for a productive day.

Create tomorrow’s to-do list today.

Anxiety is the feeling that is most likely to stress me out at my desk. I’ve been preventing this by constantly planning my three most important tasks for the next day before finishing work. This way when I sit down at my desk I’m able to concentrate on completing those before I even open my email inbox and start responding to the (often non-urgent) tasks from others before completing my own.

Make the first task a creative one.

It’s so easy to launch right into my inbox, but lately before I open email I will accomplish something I have on my list first. Since I feel most energized in the morning, I’ll tackle something creative first (like writing) and save the mindless tasks like scheduling and email correspondence until I’ve completed the most important things. This way, I actually feel more accomplished, rather than like I just wandered around in circles.

Keep a candle on your desk.

Keeping a candle on your desk actually has a more practical purpose than simply making your space smell amazing. Staring at a flame for about 30 seconds to a minute can actually recalibrate your eyes. After staring at a screen, our eyes actually need to refocus — so simply breathing and staring at the flickering flame of the burning candle for as little as 30 seconds will allow your eyes to recalibrate, and you can go back to your work feeling refreshed.

Hydrate.

Keeping a huge bottle of water at your desk is key. Not only will it encourage you to stay hydrated, which will automatically contribute to your productivity and stress levels, but drinking an abundance of water will also force you to stand up on a regular basis, because let’s be honest — you’ll need to get up and walk to the bathroom a lot. Drinking water kills two birds with one stone, as it balances out any dehydrating caffeine intake while also ensuring you’ll get up from your desk to stretch even when you’re engrossed in a task.

Keep a plant on your desk.

I recently added a bunch of plants to my space, and it’s crazy how much life they brought to my desk. Just a little greenery can go a long way, and having to water and keep your plant alive can remind you that at the end of the day, no matter what gets tossed your way during the work day, you’re a part of nature and everything will be okay.

Stay stocked with snacks.

There are few things that stress me out more than having to be anywhere for a long period of time without good snack options. I immediately get hangry, and no co-worker deserves my irritability simply because I’m not snack-stocked. As mundane as it sounds, keeping a variety of snack options on hand (healthy carbs, proteins, fats as well as both sweet and savory) will allow you to intuitively make a choice anytime a craving strikes throughout the day.

Do spinal twists in your chair.

Sitting for long periods of time is not the healthiest thing you can do for your body. We were not built to sit and stare at screens all day, so it’s no wonder we can get physical ailments from too much desk work. Trying to get up and stretch as much as possible is ideal, but for times when you can’t be pulled away from your chair, try a spinal twist right in your chair by taking your hand and reaching around to the back of the chair and gazing over your back shoulder. Simply take a few deep breaths here and then do the same thing on the other side. You may recall from yoga that spinal twisting is cleansing, detoxifying, and can be like a massage for your inner organs.   

Breathe.

I realized when I was concentrating and super in the zone that I was holding my breath or barely breathing at all. Throughout the day simply check your breath, and if you’re breathing shallow see if you can take a couple slow, full, and deep breaths that fill your belly up with fresh air and release old, stagnant air out of your lungs. Again, this tip seems super simple, but noticing your breath can help to relax your entire body.

Use tea and layers to stay warm.

There are few worse things than having to work in a space where the temperature is hotter or colder than you’d prefer. I constantly run cold so keeping a thermos of tea on my desk at all times as well as a couple extra comfy, warm sweaters is key. If you run hot, having some ice tea and wearing layers that you can remove based on temperature will allow you to have some climate control and therefore have one more thing to make work pleasant.

Katie Dalebout is a writer and host of the podcast WWRadio. Her first book Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling was published with Hay House in 2016. Sign up for her weekly newsletter and receive her curated ‘Favorite Things Guide’ here or visit her on her blogInstagramFacebookTwitter, and YouTube where she’s @katiedalebout and a kind of a social media butterfly.

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