Whether your home office is a permanent or temporary setup, these office stretches are great for reducing both stress and anxiety. The best part is, even just two to three minutes of stretching is enough to help your nervous system reset, reduce stress, and give you the energy to tackle whatever is thrown at you next.
Tip #1: Gentle Inversions
The goal of inversion is to have your hips higher than your head – and this can be accomplished without being a yoga master or a dedicated yogi. Scientifically, inversions increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which increases the production of chemicals and hormones that boost mood.
What does that mean for you? Practicing inversions can quickly reduce stress, boost your mood, and improve your energy! Gentle inversions are also excellent home exercises to release pent-up tension in the upper back and shoulders.
Here are a few of my favorite inversions:
Start on your hands and knees. Walk your hands about 6 inches in front of you. Push your hips up and back so your body forms a V. Your legs can be straight or slightly bent, hip-width distance apart. As best you can, relax your neck and let your head hang heavy.
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet touching the floor. Have a book, pillow, or yoga block close by. Leaving your upper back on the floor, push your hips in the air, and slide your support (book/block) at the base of your tailbone. Release your hips. Hold for ten deep breaths.
Legs up the wall
Lie on your back close to a wall. Prop your legs up on the wall and scoot your hips as close to the wall as you can. It is not necessary to be right up against the wall – the goal is to have your legs higher than your head. Hold for ten deep breaths.
Try one or two of these to find which feels best in your body. While you’re holding the stretch, do your best to tune in to your breath – giving yourself those ten breaths to not worry about what just happened, what might happen, or what else is on your to-do list.
Just be for ten breaths, giving your mind and body a real opportunity to reset.
Tip #2: Grounding Stretches
Very few things reduce stress and anxiety better than being out in nature. But, let’s be honest, as a working mom, getting outdoors during the workday is not always an option.
What’s the next best thing? Grounding stretches that can be done right in your home office, living room, or even your bed. Grounding stretches are just that – stretches done close to or on the ground.
Being close to the earth, even indoors, helps calm the nervous system and reduce stress. Many of these grounding stretches, like the gentle inversions above, are also a great morning home exercise. They help your back and hips, where many of us secretly carry our stress.
Play around with some of these stretches right in your office, holding for 5 to 10 deep breaths:
Sit with your feet together and knees wide apart, legs tucked underneath you. Gently fold forward until your forehead or chest touches the ground. If the ground is too far, use a pillow or two under your chest to close the space.
Knees to chest
Lie on your back and pull your knees to your chest. Gently rock back and forth, noticing as your back and hips start to release.
Lie flat on your back. Scoot your hips to one side. Shift your ankles and shoulders to the opposite side of your hips, so your body forms a banana. Repeat on the opposite side.
When I’m feeling overly stressed, I love to pair these grounding exercises with breathwork. While you’re holding each stretch, play around with making you exhale longer than your inhale. Another breath practice that helps reduce stress is square breathing – breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, release for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4.
Tuning into our breath and our bodies give our minds a chance to reset. It seems simple, but the breath is a simple touchpoint that works wonders to help our brains shift from the fight-or-flight stress response to a calm, logical place of response.
Tip #3: Shake it Out
Quite literally! If holding stretches and focusing on your breath doesn’t seem like your thing, don’t worry. You can move and shake yourself into a more relaxed state right in your home office.
How does it work?
Research has shown that shaking our bodies for 2-3 minutes every day activates a different part of our nervous system. In moments of stress, shaking can shift our bodies on a biological level from the stress response fight-flight-freeze to a relaxed state of homeostasis, which means a reduction in stress hormones.
It sounds strange, I know. I was the first to think it was crazy when I was introduced to it at training, but after giving it a try, I saw and felt for myself the shift in my mood and body after shaking.
While there is not a right or wrong way to shake, ease yourself into it. I recommend starting with a few deep breaths to notice how your body and mind feel before shaking. Where is there tension? Where are your thoughts? What are you feeling?
Then, start by gently bouncing up and down on your heels for 30 seconds or so. As you start to loosen up, start to let your body shake more naturally – from your heels to your arms, your shoulders, and your head. Play, have fun, do what feels natural in your body.
After 2 to 3 minutes, slow your body back down, return to stillness, and reassess. What has changed? What tension do you notice? What are you saying to yourself? What are you feeling?
Shaking is not only a great home office exercise; it can be a fun way to recenter and reset with your kids when stress starts to run high. I have never been able to practice shaking without finding myself smiling – I dare you and your kids to practice this for 2 minutes without cracking a smile!
Stressful moments happen. Whether at work, at home, or working at home, stress is going to come.
Be kind to yourself. Instead of letting the stress continue to pile up, blaming yourself for feeling stressed, or just trying to push through, give yourself permission to take 2 to 3 minutes, or more, for an office stretch or shake. And if you find yourself having to take more than one stretch break throughout the day, that is more than okay, too.
You’re doing a lot – take the time you need to stretch it out!