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5 quick exercises to reduce stress and tension at work

By Marni Henderson

Burnout is real, and the modern worker needs to find ways to reduce stress on the job to ensure career success long term, so here are 5 science-based strategies to help you relax, take a pause and refresh your focus during or after the workday.

5 Exercises to help reduce stress

Perhaps it’s been a productive day at work. In fact, you’ve been so focused you haven’t lifted your gaze from the computer screen since your morning coffee fill up.  Or, maybe it has been a frustrating day and you need to lighten the mood or break the monotony.  Either way, as you push away from the desk, you feel those stiff shoulders, tight jaw and crimped hands.  Even your breathing has become shallow. This is the perfect moment for a break to refresh and relax the body. You don’t have to put a lot of time or thought into stress relievers.

It is important to reduce stress in a variety of ways, focusing on both mind and body. Taking 5-10 minutes and you will find better focus, relieve tension, and bring back calm and peace.   

1. YAWN and SIGH

  • Take a big yawn or two-opening your mouth and throat until the automatic yawn response takes over. 
  • Next, take a deep inhale and exhale while making a long noisy sigh.  Relax your chest, jaw and throat muscles.  Take a couple more sighs until relaxed.   

*Have fun with you staff and make it a contest to see who has the noisiest and most exaggerated sigh.


  • Stand and stretch-arch your back while bringing arms out to the side with wide fingers.  Hold this for 5-10 seconds and then relax your body. 
  • Repeat 2-3 times.


  • Stand with arms hanging at your side.  Shake your fingers, hands, wrists and arms up to the shoulders.  Shake arms until you feel warm and tingly.  (10-20 seconds)
  • Use the same shaking procedure on your legs (one at a time).  Start at the toes, ankles, knees and up to the hips and waist.  (10-20 seconds)
  • Finally, shake your whole body.

* Extra credit: have someone play their favorite music while doing the TRIPLE SHAKE. 


Laughter is a fantastic stress reliever and of course, contagious. Find a work place appropriate source of great jokes and share with the team for a great tension tamer break.  Here are a couple, yes corny and safe, examples:

  • How do koala bears stop a TV show?

They hit the paws button.

  • What kind of tree fits in your hand?

A palm tree.

  • My friend Phillip had his lip removed last week……..Now we just call him Phil     

*Extra credit: have staff members write down their favorite clean corny jokes and put them into a “joke jar”.  Take your tension tamer break as a team and have each person draw a joke to share.  As a grand finale, vote to see what joke was the best at relieving tension!

5. TLT-Tender Loving Touch

  • Rub your hands together briskly until they are warm.
  • As you close your eyes, lightly cup your hands over them.  Place the heels of your hands on cheeks, thumbs along the temple and fingertips resting gently on forehead.
  • Hold this for 2-3 minutes, letting go of all the tension in your face including the eyes and jaw.

And there you have it, 5 ways to relax your body and mind after a long day of work.

In our modern world, we often experience more ongoing stress than our body is really designed to handle and relaxation at work can be tricky. Even when we are productive and focused, we can still incorporate healthy behaviors that support our overall wellbeing and ultimately encourage our efficient work practices.  Taking tension tamer breaks to reduce stress is always a great opportunity to increase productivity, team work and happiness to name a few.  Give yourself a break and try these tension busters throughout the work week.  Better yet, put them on your schedule! Have some fun and start reducing stress today.

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