5 Ways to Relax — and Boost Productivity

Why Relaxation Is Good for Your Health

Are you stressed?

If you answered yes, remember, it’s okay to give yourself a break. There are a lot of good reasons to do so, including heart and mood wellness, increased productivity, and possibly even cancer prevention. These relaxing and grounding exercises can give you focus and confidence to make it through a stressful day, and even help you be more productive.

Techniques to Reduce Stress

  • Take a break. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a five-minute break from your desk. Studies show these frequent, short breaks provide a renewed focus upon returning to your desk.
  • Track your stressors throughout the day. Keep a journal to see what impacts your mood. Look for patterns to better deal with these triggers. Incorporate healthy lifestyle changes like increasing your intake of nutritional food and exercise.
  • Clear your head. Whether you prefer yoga or sitting in quiet meditation, practicing mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, improve cognition and reduce distractions.
  • Talk to someone. Enlist a trusted friend to share your feelings with. They can offer advice and provide additional perspective to a situation. Research shows a 10-minute chat can boost executive function.
  • Enlist in self-care practices. Whether you enjoy exercising or prefer a warm bubble bath with scented oils, it’s important to take time for yourself and the activities you love. Not only does it help you manage stress, but it promotes a healthy work-life balance.

Benefits of Relaxation

Regular relaxation delivers many scientifically proven benefits, including:

  • Better mood. Relaxation helps reduce anxiety, which can impact both social and professional aspects of your life. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can negatively impact mood and result in low energy levels.
  • Improved physical wellbeing. Chronic stress has devastating effects not only on your mind but also on your body. According to the American Psychological Association, unaddressed stress can affect many physiological systems. From less muscle tension to improved digestion, your body will have many ways to thank you for relaxing.
  • Enhanced immunity. Stress weakens the immune system by decreasing lymphocytes, which fight off infection.
  • Potential risk reduction for cancer. Several recent studies have shown that cortisol can increase cancer risk and affect response to cancer treatment.

When It’s Time to Seek Help

These techniques can help reduce stress, but aren’t intended to replace medical advice. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician about coping with stress. They can assist with selecting the best options for you or can refer you to mental health professionals.

Take a minute (or five) to stop and smell the roses. Your mind — and body — will thank you.

– Melinda R. Ring, MD, Northwestern Medical Group, Integrative Medicine