Most of us spend at least 8 hours of our day at work. If you ask many people, they will say they hate their job. Even if you don’t hate your job there are usually many moments every day at work that you would describe as stressful. It’s nice to visit a therapy office for a biofeedback, talk therapy, or relaxation session where you sit in a nice comfortable chair and listen to relaxing music. For a moment your troubles can seem to disappear and you feel totally relaxed. This is helpful. It can break the chronic stress condition that many people are stuck in. The problem can be that after the session you go back out into the real world and have to manage until the next visit that may be a week or two away.

While you are at work what can you do to break the stress response that is being turned on so frequently?

Doing 15-20-minute relaxation exercises may be easy to do at home but they may not be so easy to do at work. You can take part of your lunch break to do a 15-20-minute relaxation exercise so it is possible.

I also make the argument that nonsmokers should get the same amount of time for breaks to do whatever they want including relaxation exercises. They shouldn’t have to work more just because they don’t smoke.

An important and effective quick relaxation exercise you can do is to notice when you are typing at the computer if you are tensing your arms, neck, upper back and shoulders more than necessary. When you are typing it is easy to start tensing muscles more than necessary especially when you are feeling stressed. Sometimes when you are under pressure to get a project done quickly you tense up more while you are typing, which of course does not help you type any faster and can lead to symptoms like neck and upper back pain and headaches. Doing a quick mental scan now and then can limit the amount of time that your muscles are tensed more than they need to be for the task you are working on.

Another thing you can do is just stop and take some deep breaths for two to five minutes. It is surprising how much of a change shifting your breathing even for a short time can make on your physiology and mood. If you are feeling anxious or stressed, those few slow breaths can take the edge off and help to calm you down. If you are using a biofeedback device like the emWave, Inner Balance, or I-Feel, that monitors your heart rate variability you will be able to see the measurable difference it makes in your HRV measures. For several months I used an emWave Desktop HRV device that connected to my work computer USB port to practice biofeedback and relaxation during the day. After a stressful phone call, I would connect the ear clip heart rate sensor to my ear and play one of the 3-10-minute HRV biofeedback games to help to calm my autonomic nervous system. I slowed my breathing down to about 6 breaths per minute and thought about something that helped me to feel positive and relaxed. As I watched the screen, I could tell how I was doing by watching how the game was progressing and noting if a light or bar on the screen was red, blue, or green. Even though I didn’t spend more than 10 minutes doing this, I could feel the difference in my mind and body. I felt a clear, positive difference. Simple tools like this can help to bring your stress level back down when it starts to rise.

There are also many Apps that can be installed on smartphones or tablets that help you to relax by taking quick stress breaks. A couple I know of are CALM and Insight Timer.

Our stress levels vary from very relaxed to very stressed all day. We have the power to affect this based on the decisions we make. If we don’t do anything to turn on the relaxation response during the day then we will be more stressed than we need to be. The effects of these decisions add up over time causing us to be more stressed or more relaxed.

Just because you have to spend much of your time at work doesn’t mean that you have to allow it to affect your health negatively. Taking some simple steps that take only a small amount of time relative to the amount of time you are on the job can do a lot to help to break the chronic stress response many people experience at work. This can help improve health, wellness, and even performance. There are no good reasons not to do it.

Harry L. Campbell

914-762-4646 –

Author of What Stress Can Do, Available on

Biofeedback Resources International Corp.

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Author's Bio: 

Biofeedback/Neurofeedback Training and Seminars are designed to teach clinicians biofeedback fundamentals and cutting-edge applications.