Do you find relaxing and unwinding difficult as a remote worker, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic looming over your head? If so, you’re probably suffering from tension in your muscles and undue stress. But fear not, sore muscles and mental health! With these ways to relax that take less than 15 minutes, you can push out the stress, anxiety, and soreness, and get right back on the job.
Employ the Pomodoro Technique
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is a method of taking breaks from work to provide better concentration, as well as reduce eye strain or posture-related pain. To execute the Pomodoro Technique, use the following instructions:
- Choose which task you need to complete
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Once the timer goes off, take a break for three to five minutes.
- Start the process over
- After taking four of these shorter breaks, take a longer one (15 to 30 minutes)
- Start back at step one
The reason the Pomodoro Technique is one of the best ways to relax as a remote worker is that it breaks up work into tiny, bite-sized pieces. As a result, you won’t feel overwhelmed by a task. In addition, studies have shown that the Pomodoro Technique has a positive effect on productivity, giving you the one-two punch of getting things done and enjoying a good stretch or relaxation.
Throw Some Exercise Into the Mix
You may not think of exercise when it comes to “ways to relax,” but you might be surprised by its effects. Instead of taking a smoke break or watching mindless daytime television during your break, exercise can give you a feeling of accomplishment, as well as send feel-good endorphins to your brain to help you relax. Plus, you can tailor your 15-minute exercise routine to something you love. Options for short bursts of exercise (without becoming too sweaty) include:
- A few sets of pushups
- Dumbbell curls
- Situps or crunches
- Walking around the block
- Taking a short bike ride
Listen to Music
According to a recent study, over 80% of workers enjoy listening to music while they work. However, not every type of remote work and not every type of music is conducive to productivity and relaxation. If you’re trying to write a blog while you’re jamming to Ozzy Osbourne, you might have a tough time formulating a sentence. The same idea goes for coding while you’re grooving to Snoop Dogg. But if you’re a bit of an audiophile, you’ll love that certain types of music have been proven to increase productivity and help you relax without the distraction.
A music therapy study from the University of Miami showed that while workers were more productive with music on, certain types of music combined relaxation and even more productivity. So if you’re planning on putting on some tunes to help you relax, try these genres:
- Epic music
- Video game music
- Ambient music
Unfortunately, the same study said certain types of music can detract from productivity, which can cause relaxation to seem further away. If possible, avoid music with these traits:
- Complex musical structures (sorry Frank Zappa, Rush, and Mars Volta fans)
- Music that’s too intense for the nature of your project
Obviously, with a bit of experimentation, you can find a style of music or an artist that works for you. Try Pandora or Spotify with a mixed playlist to listen to similar artists if you find one that works for you.
Step Away From the Computer
Even if you don’t want to employ the Pomodoro Technique, make every effort to step away from the computer at least a few times a day. Computers can cause eye strain that leads to headaches and muscle strain. And once you’ve acquired a headache or soreness, your day of telecommuting is essentially over. So while you might not view a step away from your computer as a way to relax, it actually does the trick.
Try Some Breathing Exercises
According to experts, humans tend to breathe with their chests. While this is somewhat efficient, this type of breathing can cause shortness of breath and a faster heart rate when stressed. Fortunately, you have a great alternative: belly breathing. When you breathe through your belly, not only can you get more oxygen, but you can also lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and even improve digestion. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit in your office chair and lean back
- Place your hands on your belly so you can feel the air going into it instead of your chest
- Breathe in through your nose
- Breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed
While this should help calm you, another way to relax is by following the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. During this exercise, breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. Much like belly breathing, this will help slow your heart rate, and hopefully, help you to relax.
Get Some Water Cooler Chat
Unfortunately, many remote workers suffer from isolation and loneliness. But these aspects are part of the inevitability of virtual employment. In some cases, this can detract from your productivity and add stress to your workday. However, you can overcome this situation and find another way to relax by hopping on your team’s collaborative platform, such as Slack.
Most companies and distributed teams have a “water cooler” or “general” chat that allows workers to throw their random thoughts into the ring. The subject matter isn’t nearly as important as the interactions themselves. So whether you want to talk about sports, discuss a television show, or share a meme, you have a forum to do so. You never know when this chitchat will help you unwind, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Know When to Shut It Down
When your office is in your house, you may find it difficult to shut down work for the day. With endless emails, projects, and other work on your mind, the lure to work long hours becomes tempting. However, taking this approach to remote work destroys the very flexibility and work-life balance that you enjoy as a telecommuter. So if you’re hanging around your computer 24/7, don’t be afraid to turn it off and walk away. Some things can wait until tomorrow.
Remain Productive During Breaks
Do you have some home projects or chores hanging over your head that cause excessive stress? This may play a role in why you can’t find ways to relax. However, you can tackle some of these projects during your daily breaks, provided that they aren’t overly taxing mentally or physically. If you’ve already subscribed to the Pomodoro Technique or you’re taking occasional breaks, use that time to take care of some stuff around the house. Clean the bathroom, prep food for dinner, or sweep off the deck. The idea is that you’re clearing things off your plate while taking a break from the tasks that require more focus and energy.
Switch to a Standing Desk
You might not find standing synonymous with relaxing, but studies point toward a plethora of health benefits from using a standing desk. Research conducted by endocrinologist James Levine of the Mayo Clinic shows that standing can not only improve posture, but also provide:
- Reduced risk of obesity
- Less chance of diabetes
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduced chance of cancer
Hopefully, these topics don’t weigh on your mind constantly (we’re looking at you, inner hypochondriac). But standing just a bit can make you more healthy, and thus, enable you to relax just a bit more.
If you want to feel better all day long, stretching might be your greatest ally. Once an hour (or during one of your Pomodoro breaks), try stretching various parts of your body. When you stretch, you’re giving your body increased flexibility, improved range of motion, better posture, and relief from back pain. In addition, stretching can help calm your mind and provide yet another way to relax. With your extra limberness, you might find that your posture, flexibility, and range of motion make you feel healthier.
For thousands of years, the Eastern world has used meditation to free themselves from the stress of life. Start by turning off your computer and any music you may have on. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in slowly and focus on relaxation and the release of tension from your body. Incorporating visualizations in your mind may also help you meditate even more productively. You may not reach enlightenment or nirvana, but at least you can push away stress and relax for a few minutes a day.
By using these proven methods, you can say goodbye to intermittent soreness, lack of concentration, and other ordeals that may pop up during your workday. You only get one body, so you may as well give it a little boost during the day. With any luck, you can turn these techniques into habits that revolutionize the way you work. So happy stretching, breathing, and relaxation. You’ve earned it.
iStock Image: fizkes
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