Practical Advice For Stressful Days



You’re having one of those days. Everyone wants a piece of you right now. No matter what you do, or how fast you do it, you feel like you’re rearranging furniture on the Titanic.

What to do? This, do this:

Inhaaale, exhaaale

Breathing is an underrated activity. In general we don’t excel at breathing as deeply and as thoroughly as we should. Our oxygen situation is even more depressed when we’re stressed.

This is ridiculous. Not least because you can carry on with whatever has to be done right away while simultaneously finding respite. 

If you Google ‘pranayama’ you’ll find myriad effective breathing techniques but for right now, the good old ‘inhale as deeply into your belly as you can, hold, exhale completely, repeat’ works a charm. Go on, then.

Under pressure

What does K-27 mean to you? Nothing? Good – you’re about to learn something. It is the name of the pressure points related to the kidneys (which, if Eastern philosophy flies with you, or even if it doesn’t, are related to fear/stress/anxiety).

Massaging these two points can be painful (an indication of just how wound up you are) but also very calming.

Take your thumb and pointer finger. Place them on your chest plate about 10cm below your throat and 10cm apart. Feel for two indentations – they’ll be sensitive to touch. Found them? Good. Now gently massage them for a few minutes (While breathing. Properly. See above.) Feels good, hey?

Get low

Desk-bound and stressed is the worst. Especially when the flight part of the body’s fight/flight reaction to stress is preparing you to escape with haste the paws and jaw of a lion. It doesn’t know that these days the lion is usually an unreasonable workload from a horrible boss or nightmare client.

What to do? What to do?

What to do with the adrenalin sprinting through your veins like Usain Bolt at the Olympics?

Move, fool!

Stand up. Close the door or go to the office bathroom and use your body. My preference is to do what feels best at the time. Sometimes it involves lunges, sometimes it means shaking out my body limb by limb, or jogging on the spot. On the rare occasion it means banging your head against the wall (don’t judge, just go with it).

Another stellar option is a quick self massage. Start at one hand and work your way around your body using a squeeze-and-release action. This releases endorphins. Delicious.


Many people are opposed to listening to anything while trying to work. This is a mistake. The right piece of music will soothe your frayed nerves and increase productivity.

Classical pieces, Vedic chants and ambient sounds (rain, the ocean, wind) are fodder for the kind of brain waves you want wooshing in your head when you’re strained. It takes a moment to find your aural sweet spot but it’s a worthy search.

Be upstanding

If you don’t have a private office to get physical in and you’re questioning the above bathroom antics (your loss) then go for a walk. Don’t even think you don’t have the time – you do. I’m not talking 1000-miles-to-fall-down-at-your-door-ta-la-data. No. Go put the kettle on and stroll around while you wait for it to boil. Or walk around the block. Fast.

You’ll return to your desk a better person. Mentally, at least. Promise.  (If you don’t you didn’t walk long or fast enough. Simple.) 

Boundaries are beautiful

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead.” Oh, Mark Twain, you clever beast.

Stop it with all the waffling and white noise replies that make you seem weak and slap a “I am your slave. Use me.” sign on your forehead.

Say no when saying no means putting yourself and your best interests first. Mean it. Feel no guilt.

It’s hard. It takes practice. Do it.

The straight and narrow

What are you doing over there? Slouching in your chair like a Neanderthal inspecting their navel for tiny treats. Read this sitting up straight like the dignified human you want to be. Work that way too.

Your posture affects your entire physiology. This means that if you sit like an ape, you will feel like an ape and think you are an ape.

This is not conducive to feeling capable of even elementary work performance, is it?

Stomach engaged. Shoulders back. Be proud. You’ve got this.

Things don’t always work out

Look. I’m a realist. If all else fails, stop at your favourite shop for a binge-purchase of your most comforting food group. Get into bed with your fat pants on and watch your guilty-pleasure series for the fourth time. Just be sure to close the curtains – no one needs to see you like this.