Where do most Americans spend the bulk of their workdays? (Psst! The clue is in the title.)
You guessed it. Eighty-six percent (86%) of American workers have desk jobs, and with a huge percentage of us reporting that we regularly experience the physical (77%) and psychological (73%) symptoms of stress, it goes to follow that much of our collective stress is experienced at a desk.
Stress: A Summary
In small doses, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It is meant to protect you. “Fight-or-flight” is a stress response that releases hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) that help you react in emergency situations. Your heart rate increases, like your breathing, and highly oxygenated blood is rushed to your important organs, enabling faster response times, improved cognitive function in some cases, and an immune system boost.
But these same hormones, and the responses they trigger, will lead to serious health problems and side effects if left untreated. Chronic stress contributes to higher instances of:
- tension headaches
- depression and anxiety
- immune system impairment
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- heart attack
- digestive issues
- erectile dysfunction
- reproductive issues
- low libido
What causes chronic stress?
Treating stress isn’t always as simple as walking away from a stressful situation; at least two key stressors are unavoidable: work and money. In a 2017 study conducted by the American Institute of Stress and the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 76% of Americans cited job and money issues as their top two causes of chronic stress. Other stressors include:
- Poor health and nutrition
- Relationship strife
- Over-consumption of media
- Sleep deprivation
3 Low-Cost Coping Mechanisms
Meditation is a common strategy for coping with stress and there are many ways to go about it. For those of us just dipping our toes into the placid waters of meditation, here are three easy, hands-on ways to learn the knack of “letting go.”
Adult Coloring Books
Coloring, the motor-skill activity of our youth, is now being used by adults to combat anxiety, depression, and the simple to complex stresses of daily life. Neuropsychologist Dr. Stan Rodski, an adult coloring book author, states that coloring relaxes the mind in the same way as traditional meditation, allowing us to shut off our thoughts momentarily and zero in on the present.
Tasks with predictable results, says Rodski, are calming because of the requirement for repetition and attention to patterns and detail. Knitting and crocheting, like coloring, falls into this category of tasks. In a study conducted by the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of participants reported feelings of happiness after knitting for a period of time.
Perhaps the most tactile of our suggested hands-on meditation techniques, kinetic sand is an ideal, no-mess solution for fidgety, anxious hands. If you’ve ever played with wet beach sand, kinetic sand allows for the same sensations without getting everywhere, letting you take a trip to the shore without leaving the confines of your cubicle.
While these simple meditation techniques are by no means a cure-all for chronic stress, they are wonderful and simple coping mechanisms to incorporate into a healthy self-care routine. Try out each to find a favorite and take at least twenty minutes each day to slow down and let your senses take a breather.