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Office Work: How to Relax, Detach, and Exercise at Your Desk; Stay Healthy at a Sit-Down Job

Punkmarkgirl is a freelance writer with a passion for DIY projects, natural health, and makeup featuring the best products for oily skin.

Raise your hand if you’re tired of sitting at a desk all day! Many of us are stuck in jobs where we can rarely break free. When physical movement is severely limited, it produces negative effects on our bodies and minds - but we’re often powerless to change the situation. Here are a few simple solutions to bring some semblance of order, relaxation, movement, and brain stimulation to a hum-drum day.

1) How to Exercise at Your Desk - in Secret!

One of the biggest challenges of office work is keeping circulation going, since you're sitting in basically the same position for 8+ hours. It's already been proven that staying stagnant has a severe impact on health, yet most offices do nothing to address the issue.

If you work in a basic office, chances are you won’t be able to do any visible exercise, lest you be accused of wasting company time. Here are 6 exercises to strengthen your core and improve leg circulation, which you can do while seated.

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Hidden Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

  • Leg Lifts: Sitting normally in your chair, lift one leg until it touches the underside of your desk. Hold for 3 seconds, and place foot back on the floor. Repeat with other leg. Repeat 10x for each leg.
  • Glute Squeezes: Clench your buttocks and hold for 10 seconds. Alternate between each glute muscle, then clench both at the same time.
  • Calf Stretch & Strengthening: Anchoring your arms on your desk (as you would do when typing), lean back very slightly and lift both legs about 10 inches in the air. While legs are lifted, point toes forward and hold for 5 seconds before relaxing.
  • Ankle Rotations: With one leg extended and raised about 10 inches off the ground, rotate ankle to the right, then to the left. Point toes forward and hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat with other ankle.
  • Neck Stretches: Gently lower chin toward chest and hold for 5 seconds before returning to its normal position. Tilt head up and back, until the base of skull begins to touch your upper back. Hold for 5 seconds & return to its normal position.
  • Shoulder Rolls: Immediately after doing the neck exercises, raise both shoulders about 3 inches, and rotate backwards. You may hear some crackling sounds as pressure is released. Lift and rotate 1 shoulder, then the other. Finish by raising both shoulders again, with 1 final rotation.

Qubii Elliptical for Under Desk Exercise

  • Under desk elliptical: If you really want to take your physical health up a notch while seated at the office, you may want to invest in an under-desk elliptical machine. You're especially lucky if you have a wrap-around desk where people can't see your legs! This small device is just slightly larger than your average foot rest. Try Qubii Jr. which allows you to keep your legs moving while seated. It retails for around $250, has 8 resistance levels, and an LCD monitor to let you know calories burned, time active, and mileage completed.
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2) Use Essential Oil Blends to Relax or Wake Up

Office work has been described by many as repetitive, uninspiring, and soul-sucking. Nonetheless, plenty of people are comparatively happy working in an office (rather than at a hands-on job), while many others have physical limitations holding them to office work. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, unfocused, brain-dead, or just plain exhausted at the office, keep each of these essential oil blends at your desk to revive your spirit.

You can purchase pocket-sized roller bottles in various sizes on Amazon, and fill them with the essential oil mixtures in the recipes below. Use 5 drops of each essential oil, and fill the rest of the bottle with your carrier oil (almond, avocado, or apple seed work well).

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"Chill Out": Essential Oils to Help You Relax & Relieve Anxiety

Use some (or all) of the essential oils below to reduce stress and anxiety. This is also an excellent blend to use at night, to guarantee better quality sleep. Mix 5 drops of each in your roller bottle, with whichever carrier oil you prefer. Apply the blend behind ears, on neck, and on wrists, to envelop yourself in the relaxing aroma.

Chamomile: Calming and uplifting. Reduces sluggishness and improves circulation.

Lavender: Induces full body relaxation, removes mental energy blocks, reduces pain from headaches.

Sandalwood: Reduces anxiety while improving concentration and focus.

Helichrysum: Prevents mental exhaustion, lowers stress level, calms muscle spasms and cramps.

Lemongrass: Soothes feelings of anxiety, reduces agitation, and alleviates stress.

Basil: Prevents and alleviates mental fatigue, boosts mental clarity, calms nerves.

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"The Energizer": Essential Oils to Wake Up Your Brain

Use this energizing recipe behind ears, on the base of neck, on forearms, and on ankles & calves. These essential oils increase circulation to areas of the body that get tense and stay mostly stagnant while sitting down. The scent sends “wake up” signals to your brain and helps you focus.

Rosemary: Rejuvenating, improves memory and concentration.

Ginger: Reduces muscle soreness, detoxifies, and promotes happy feelings.

Black Pepper: Amps up circulation to improve oxygenation and blood flow, which in turn reduces fatigue.

Vetiver: Decreases feelings of exhaustion, improves concentration and focus.

Sandalwood: Prevents attention deficit, improves mental alertness.

Eucalyptus: Acts as a vasodilator to increase circulation, which boosts energy levels. Aids in feeling refreshed and alert.

3) Another Stress Buster? Food Prep Breakfast & Lunch on Days Off

Not only does food prepping save time and prevent stress during your busy work week, it will also help you eat healthier foods while saving money. Try to focus on protein & veggie based meals, while ditching refined carbs and sugars. This keeps your energy levels steady all day, to help you stay mentally sharp. It can also help you shed a few pounds, without feeling hungry! For healthy snacks, use zip-lock bags to pack items like cheese, almonds, and dried cranberries.

Try these recipes for Quiche Lorraine and Meat & Asparagus Caprese Salad. These are easy to make ahead of time, and will make breakfast / lunch for 5 days.

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Indoor Cast-Iron Grill Pan

4) Wardrobe Prep to Save Time

Planning out your wardrobe can also be a huge help when it comes to making your week run more smoothly. On your day off, hang or fold the items you will wear each day of the upcoming week, so they’re ready to jump into. Depending on the amount of storage room in your abode, purchasing a small set of cubbies can help with this, as each one will hold 2 days worth of outfits. At the very least, plan your outfit the night before. You’ll be thankful for the extra effort and time it saves before you need to dash off to work!

When shopping, try to purchase simple mix-and-match clothing in dark poly/knit/rayon blends that don’t wrinkle. Plus, those fabrics are often flowy and comfortable, allowing you to stay in your happy place during work hours.

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5) Turn Your Desk Into Your Own Personal Oasis

Take a moment and think about what causes distractions or stress for you. If you’re in an open office plan, concentration can seem all but impossible. There are a few things you can do to create your own space:

  • Arrange your desk in a manner that mimics a cubicle half-wall. Make use of stackable letter trays, upright document holders, skinny shelving units, picture frames and plants, to form your very own privacy barricade. If you don't mind spending a bit more, you can even purchase Desk Screen Dividers & Privacy Screens, to help reduce visual distractions.
  • As we already know, sitting for hours reduces circulation and can cause edema in ankles and knees. To alleviate leg and foot discomfort, place some comfortable fuzzy slippers under your desk, to switch into while seated. If possible, also purchase an electric foot massager and/or massage chair pad that you can use a few times daily, to get circulation going.
  • Add some personal touches to your desk that help your mind stay zenned - basically anything to remind you of your life outside the office!

*Tip: If you have one of those annoying desks where a 1-foot gap exists at the bottom, use Gorilla Duct Tape to hang a rectangle of fabric that extends down to the floor. This will secure your privacy and help your desk feel more like your own area.


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Letter Trays Make for Great Privacy Screens!

  • Bring in some bluetooth headphones. Blocking out the chatter of the office can up concentration and productivity, and headphones will help you do just that. If they are frowned upon, you can always purchase the single ear-bud style, which fit discreetly inside of 1 ear. Should a manager confront you with questions, let them know headphones help improve your focus and block out distractions, thus having a beneficial effect on your work.
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*Tip: When steady focus is a must, try an all-classical or piano based selection. Several studies have shown that instrumental music helps improve focus, boosts memory, and decreases anxiety.

Have some down time and need a mental boost upon completing repetitive mind-numbing work? Try podcasts or YouTube narrations on whichever topic you like best. There are even meditation videos to help your brain take a much needed escape. It never hurts to give your imagination some food, as this will enhance your overall creativity levels.

6) Take Breaks Away from Your Desk & Get Outside!

Your body and mind will thank you for taking a brief walk and getting some fresh air. Studies in Japan have actually shown that breathing in the natural aromas from trees helps boost immunity, while reducing stress. This process called Shinrinyoku, or “Forest Bathing” restores your overall mood and sense of vitality when you’re stuck in a suffocating office job. Even if you aren’t able to do this on a weekday, set aside some time on a day off to reconnect with nature, as the benefits can last for up to 30 days.

How to Escape the Soul-Sucking Emptiness of an Office Job

© 2021 Ashley Bergin